Have you ever had a client protest that you could not possibly audit their area because you are not an “expert” at “what we do”? This is a very difficult situation to encounter. Oftentimes, we attempt to “prove” to the client that we are qualified to perform the audit. We begin listing our skills and experience to demonstrate our proficiency. The truth is, we are not experts at what our clients do and that’s okay.
Earlier this year, I completed the Six Sigma Greenbelt curriculum. During the training portion, we extensively discussed the Six Sigma methodology. The facilitator also discussed various assignments in multiple industries, some of which he had no knowledge of prior to his engagements. He also commented that he did not need to be the expert in the industry, because he was the expert in the Six Sigma methodology. When applied appropriately, the methodology is instrumental in bringing efficiencies to the work environment.
I believe the same is true with internal auditing. We are experts at executing the audit methodology. This methodology requires that we objectively evaluate risks to determine if management’s risk mitigation techniques reduce the risk of loss to an acceptable level. This means that auditors must effectively utilize soft and technical skills to collaborate with clients, gather relevant information, evaluate information and report to stakeholders. This is where our expertise resides. That is not to say the we should not be familiar with our client’s industry, however, the true value of an auditor is the ability to objectively asses the environment. The longer we are in an industry, the more versed we are. That goes without saying. However, in some instances, a seasoned industry veteran may miss the critical risk directly in front of him/her due to bias.
Overall, auditors must strike the right balance between industry knowledge and auditing proficiency. So the next time a client questions your “expertise”, do not take it to heart. Brush up on both industries…their core business as well as internal auditing. You may not be the quintessential expert in what they do, but you should be the expert in risk identification, evaluation and reporting.
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