Optimizing processes and tools for greater public sector audit efficiency

Katja Freeman

Even though the goal of “doing more with less” applies to operations throughout an organization, it’s particularly relevant for audit teams. As complex data analyses, performance monitoring and enterprise and operational risks are increasing, time, budgets and personnel struggle to keep up.

Overcoming these obstacles is possible, however. It all starts with strategy — picking up the right tools, applied in the right ways at the right time. Read on to learn best practices for more efficient and effective audit operations, including ways technology can help.

6 steps to more efficient underlying processes

New innovations, especially automation and digital platforms, offer great promise for getting more audit activities done with fewer resources. This means that you don’t need to sacrifice quality, accuracy or the ability to gain sharper insights and smarter decision-making.

Before bringing in any new system or software, however, take a good look at how your audit team currently does its work and where you may want to go. Efficiency starts with people, and solid processes are the bedrock for any successful technology solution.  Even the most cutting-edge tool could fail if the practices it supports are inadequate, incomplete or inefficient.

As Diligent wrote in an earlier white paper on this subject: “Technology is key to success and critical to keeping pace. Yet adopting a modern audit infrastructure often requires a shift in perspective.”

Here’s a brief checklist to see if your audit department is ready to navigate that shift and find success with a technology solution.

  1. How are you managing your data? You’ll need to keep information accessible and organized, so staff aren’t wasting precious time searching for what they need.
  2. How are you managing your policies and standards? You’ll also need to make sure all policies are up to date and clearly connect to the most recent and relevant standards for your organization and industry. This is the foundation upon which efficient, accurate audits are built.
  3. Are activities aligned? The audit team and the process owners they’re working with to get information need to be on the same page, especially for issues and activities that cross functions. Make sure you have channels in place for clear, effective communications.
  4. Do you have processes in place for continuous auditing? This is critical for gathering data consistently across the organization, identifying risks when they first appear, and following up on recommendations.
  5. Do your audit activities yield a detailed audit trail? Thorough documentation is an essential resource, not only for meeting standards but for working together more efficiently to gather, compile, validate and report information.
  6. Do processes vary from activity to activity and department to department? Standardizing your workflows from end to end adds consistency and efficiency to your audit operations. Such standardization is also essential as both the risk landscape and purview of the audit team expands. As Deloitte points out: “Fragmented, siloed risk management creates costs, gaps, and redundancies and can expose organizations to unanticipated risk consequences.”

“Fragmented, siloed risk management creates costs, gaps, and redundancies and can expose organizations to unanticipated risk consequences.”

Bringing technology in to help

Grounded in best practices and a fresh perspective, your organization is now ready for the technological component of your strategy. Here’s how a tool like Diligent’s Audit Management solution helps drive increased process efficiency across multiple areas to help you get more done with less.

Centralizing documentation

With an audit management solution, your team can maintain a centralized library that offers quick, easy access to past activities, reports, workpaper templates, matrices and documentation. A unified “source of truth” also keeps team members on the same page for faster audit processing, greater accuracy and an aggregated view of the organization’s overall risk and control framework.

Streamlining communications

Say goodbye to the frustrations of cumbersome email chains, disconnected text messages and missed phone calls. An audit management solution enables you to set up automated, direct emails and reminders throughout the audit cycle that keep teams up to date and processes on track.

Collaboration features like shared task lists and notes keep everyone working within the same system, thereby decreasing duplication. Solutions with mobile apps and offline modes give employees the ability to conduct fieldwork both offline and onsite, increasing productivity even more.

Simplifying and streamlining reporting

Manual report preparation is another task that keeps audit teams bogged down and away from more value-adding work. An audit management platform helps here as well. A centralized source of data and dashboards enable teams to quickly and easily surface the finding they need to report on.

Meanwhile, standardized templates and workflows, reusable risk and control matrices and one-click reports increase team capacity.

Optimizing quality assurance

Manual work increases both audit processing time and the risk of errors. An automated audit management solution enables teams to work faster and with greater accuracy. Audit teams are also able to automate data analysis, controls testing, scheduled follow-ups and reminders for remediation efforts.

Such a solution also has a built-in history of the audit team’s workpaper updates and modifications, further strengthening audit integrity.

Strengthening compliance and risk management

Some audit management solutions offer the ability to manage a Common Controls Framework. This enables audit departments to map controls between compliance, audit and risk teams where appropriate, thereby reducing overlap, saving time and freeing up leaders and staff alike to work on more value-added analyses.

An audit management platform’s centralized data, automated workflows and standardized templates all support compliance and risk management in many other ways, including:

  • The ability to monitor KPIs and KRIs in real time
  • Visibility into progress on individual audits, overall strategy and any gaps that require remediation
  • The ability to drill down on the highest-priority risks
  • Confidence that audit information is up-to-date, consistent, accurate and aligned with the latest regulations and requirements

As audit responsibilities continue to grow, technology will play an increasingly important role in managing requirements, creating efficiencies, and more.

Diligent’s Audit Management Solution can help public sector audit teams keep up and make an impact when it matters most. Request a demo today.


Embrace Innovation and Raise the Bar
How can auditors adapt their practices, tools and frameworks to be successful and relevant in an ever-changing environment? Our Modern Governance Summit offers some insights.
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