Agile auditing: modernise your auditing practice

By Craig Watson

This week we had the pleasure of presenting at the virtual Audit Summit 2020 event which was created following the cancellation of the Annual Masters conference earlier this year. If you were lucky enough to be a participant, you will have heard me talk about Agile Auditing methodology and demonstrate how it can help modernise and elevate your auditing practice. However, if you were unable to attend we have ensured that you don't miss out and have recreated our event stand online giving you the opportunity to listen to my presentation from the safety of your own home. 

In the meantime please let me provide you with a brief overview of my presentation:

What is agile auditing? 

Agile auditing is basically taking the traditional stages of an audit and breaking them down into smaller parts, delivering through incremental, iterative work stages known as sprints. It’s also about continuous communication and collaboration with the team and the stakeholdersand above all, requires a leap of faith and a change in the auditors mindsetMy presentation addresses traditional internal audits vs agile internal audits, introducing more fluid approaches to the way auditors work.  

The benefits that agile auditing can bring 

The planning, fieldwork and reporting phases of the traditional waterfall approach to auditing tends to lock Audit teams into a long-term, inflexible plan that fails to adapt to emerging risks in a reasonable timeframe. Coupled with that, the pace of change and the subsequent risk is increasing so quicker assurance is required. Workloads are also increasing and therefore the traditional audit approach is becoming slower. A more agile approach would lead to benefits such as:  

How does this work in practice?  

This could involve implementing backlogs into the planning stage, task-based sprints (and reviews), and regular communication with stakeholders. It would require a change in auditors’ mindsets to commit to trying out a new way of working to reap the benefits of an agile audit approach. Like anything new, be prepared to try out different methods until you find what works for your team and, most importantly, your clients. 

There are two agile methods that have their own specific outcomes, these are named ‘Scrum’ and ‘Kanban’. Scrum is focused on efficiency and quality and Kanban looks at communication, collaboration, and accountability. There is, of course, no downside to pursuing a hybrid approach if you’re looking to achieve a combination of these outcomes. 

Realistically, this isn’t going to happen overnight, and it won’t be the perfect ‘textbook’ example of agile audit methodology right awayAt first, most audits will still be undertaken through a traditional approach while you try out new, agile methods and find out what works for you. 

The shift in mindset is the crucial aspect here, especially as many of us have audited for a number of years. We need to take our clients, management, and stakeholders on this journey with us, so buy-in at every level of the organisation is essential. 

Listen to the presentation and learn how to implement agile auditing, different approaches you can take, and the benefits it can bring to your organisation and auditing practice.  

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