Critical Initiative Delivery
3 minute read
Jan 11, 2019
Written by: Laurent Robert
How an audit begins is just as important as how it ends—in fact, it may be even more important. Investing in thorough audit preparation yields better outcomes, as well as a better experience overall.
Whether financial, regulatory, or something else, audits can be rigorous and stressful. They demand time and energy from your organization on top of everyday work, and the results can sometimes yield discoveries we don’t want to hear.
To streamline the audit process, minimize stress, and promote cultural acceptance and engagement, it’s important to get off to a good start with thorough audit preparation. Have you heard the phrase: “Well begun is half done”? It’s true that a good beginning makes a good ending—and when it comes to audits, it’s essential.
Build messaging around your audit by starting with the end in mind. Explain what the organization is doing and why it’s important to the business. Think through the process and build a complete story to ensure what you say in the beginning will not be contradicted as the audit progresses. Make sure messaging is consistent through interactions with other parts of the business as well as up to the C-suite. It's like putting a puzzle together: You begin by looking at the entire picture, then you work on assembling the pieces to create it.
Executive commitment to audit preparation is key to a successful outcome. Executives set the tone from the top, and should focus on building valuable goodwill throughout the organization—before and during the audit. The audit will have a significant business impact, so leaders should demonstrate that level of importance to the organization from start to finish.
Focus among key performers is a must-do to give your audit preparation the chance to succeed. An audit is not a side-of-the-desk activity, so identify key players early and ensure everyone can make the space to commit to the process. When team members are engaged and focused—not distracted or frustrated by competing priorities—audit preparation will progress more efficiently and effectively.
Mindset can make or break audit preparation. Choose to be positive from the get-go! An audit is not an “us against them” situation. Your auditor is a partner, with the goal of helping you ensure policies, procedures, and financial and operating models are effective and appropriate. In an adversarial relationship, team members hold back and have a wait-and-see attitude toward what comes next. A positive mindset will remove barriers to trust and open dialogue, and break down walls that hinder progress. A positive approach inspires collaboration and creates a spirit of partnership in which both sides value the other’s input, insights, and ideas.
Be proactive during audit preparation. Do your due diligence—and then some! When you go the extra mile during audit preparation, you can anticipate findings as well as issues that may develop as the process evolves. Auditors want to see that you know where gaps and opportunities are, and demonstrating your awareness as well as your ability to address them goes a long way.
Due to an audit’s size and scope, strong project management is essential to ensuring a smooth process. During audit preparation, create a detailed road map from start to finish. Start with a clearly defined scope and timeline from which to build the project plan. Then outline dependencies, determine ownership of tasks and activies, and identify key milestones and decision points. Before you put that key in the ignition, you need to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
Clear roles and responsibilities are a priority. As part of your audit preparation, make sure you have the right people in the right roles, and that each is well defined. The more complex the audit, the more important it becomes to determine who will be responsible for each area or function, and who will own decision making. Establish two distinct groups: (1) Working group, which performs the fundamental tasks of gathering information and doing an initial evaluation of gaps, issues, and areas of strength; and (2) Executive group, which provides direction, reviews progress, resolves issues, and declares when materials are ready.
Ensure everyone involved with audit preparation stays connected through regular meetings and touchpoints. For maximum productivity, establish two sets of meetings, each with their own cadence and purpose: (1) Working group meetings, discussing the audit preparation process; and (2) Executive group meetings, discussing the audit preparation progress.
Make sure the question “How’s the audit preparation going?” is easy to answer. Plan periodic progress reports—weekly at minimum—to keep everyone informed, and to manage and monitor the audit preparation process itself. How is preparation tracking versus the defined timeline? What was achieved since the last report? What is in flight? What’s next? What issues, risks, or concerns need to be tracked or resolved?
The bottom line: The more thorough your audit preparation, the better the audit experience and outcomes will be.
If you need help with an upcoming audit—or you need help with one already in progress—contact Spinnaker’s team of experts today. We’re a hands-on firm built around a team with real-world business experience. We roll up our sleeves and work side by side with you to solve problems and advance your success.
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