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Bad Audit Processes are Delaying Your Audit Projects

Jane groaned as she looked at the piles of paperwork spread out in front of her. She was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with the audit project she had been working on for weeks. Every deadline seemed to come and go without her making any substantial progress.  The project was falling behind, and she felt alone and powerless to do anything about it. But this wasn’t the first time. Most of their audit projects seemed to fall behind schedule.

Jane finally decided that if the problem was going to be solved once and for all, she would need to talk to her supervisor. The entire department constantly complained about the time it took to complete internal auditing projects. But no one knew what to do about it.

Finally, it dawned on Jane. The audit department needed to treat their project problem the same way they would treat a client’s audit issue. She needed to do a root cause analysis. And because everyone was upset, she decided to start with the impact. Poor processes can have a negative impact on internal audit personnel and their performance. Here are five ways poor processes can hurt audit personnel.

5 Ways Your Audit Processes are Killing Your Projects

1. Poor audit processes cause decreased motivation

Poor processes can lead to a lack of clarity and direction, causing confusion and frustration among audit staff. This can lead to decreased motivation and a lack of engagement by audit staff.

I was talking to a friend recently who was extremely frustrated by one of his audit department’s practices. They had recently implemented a new audit management system. It was supposed to solve all of their problems. Isn’t that what they all say.

However, the department did not adequately plan the implementation. The follow up module did not work as they expected. As a result, they still needed to use the old system to follow up on audit issues. This created double work. Obviously this was a waste of time. 

But what audit management did not consider was the impact on auditor motivation. The department was split. Some preferred the old system while others preferred the new. Neither motivated to change their point of view. The benefits was changing simply were not worth it to either party.

These bad processes are killing the motivation in this audit department.

2. Poor audit processes lead to increased workloads

As auditors spend more time on bad internal auditing processes, this leads to increased workload for workers. This can lead to burnout and ultimately decreased productivity.

It’s no secret that auditors often work long hours. 

Often unnecessarily long hours. 

Those long hours lead to burnout.

As a matter of fact, many news outlets are reporting shortages in the accounting and auditing professions. For example, In December, Going Concern highlighted the Wallstreet Journals’ research on the accounting shortage. Many believe the accounting/auditing professions are recession proof. And they suggest a recession might fix the shortage. I’m not too sure about that. We live in a new world where people want to feel like what they are doing matters. Poor processes feel like you are doing useless and thankless work.

Fortune has also chimed in on the accounting shortage, and so has the Washington Post. Unfortunately, none have mentioned the outdated processes (sample methodologies, report writing, etc) that bog auditors down in bad processes, delay projects and cause frustration. Auditors work extremely hard. Poor processes increase workloads, which leads to frustration. 

It is important that auditors reduce unnecessary processes so that they can get down to doing work that really matters. Otherwise, people will continue to be unhappy and will leave the profession to do something that gives them meaning.

3. Poor audit processes lead to decreased communication

Poor processes can lead to a lack of communication among workers, resulting in confusion and a lack of coordination. This leads to mistakes and audit project delays. This bad communication as a negative impact on internal audit department performance.

One of my clients had mundane meetings every Monday morning. I dreaded these meetings. Not only were they too long, but I spent most of the time daydreaming about the many unnecessary things I needed to document. 

For example, we documented every client meeting in a narrative. Written by the auditor. However, we recorded each interaction on Zoom. Writing the separate detailed narrative was duplicative. We spent so much time doing this, we were too tired and distracted to actively attend these Monday morning meetings.

In another example, I was coaching an auditor (we’ll call her Jane) who was frustrated by her department’s communication protocols. The organization used Slack, Microsoft Teams and some in-house platform to communicate with one another and audit clients. The frustrating part was that each audit manager communicated using a different platform.

One day, she received an email from a supervisor asking why her review notes had not been cleared. She was confused. She didn’t know she had outstanding review notes. When she asked about them, her manager chastised her for not checking her messages.

Turns out, she sent the review notes to Jane via Slack. She had never done that before. She normally emailed them. However, Jane’s manager decided to try out Slack. She used the app because she sent her the review notes from her cell phone while in a meeting. It was convenient. But it wasn’t consistent. And now, Jane was in trouble.

Poor audit processes can actually decrease the quality of your communications.

4. Poor audit processes lead to decreased job satisfaction

Most people want to feel like their work is making difference. Auditors are no exception. We’d like to think the work we do has meaning to the organization. That what we do is helping to make the organization a better place. Auditors who are left spinning their wheels doing unnecessary work, may have a decrease in job satisfaction.

And we all know, workers who aren’t satisfied with the work they’re doing will not communicate, will not be motivated and will often procrastinate. Sound like something you’ve heard before? (Hint, look at 1 through 3 above).

For about 6 month last year, I was coaching a junior auditor who we’ll call John. A few years prior, he was excited to start his auditing career. Things started to change when the company he worked for implemented new audit processes that were poorly designed and inefficient.

John found himself spending hours on tasks that were redundant and did not add any value to the audit process. He was constantly frustrated by the lack of organization and the constant need to search for missing information.

John’s job satisfaction decreased rapidly. He no longer felt motivated to do his best work, and his performance began to suffer. He started to dread going to work and found himself counting down the minutes until quitting time each day.

John’s manager noticed the change in his attitude and performance and asked him what was wrong. John explained the issues he was facing with the new audit processes, and his manager promised they would do something about it. 

However, nothing changed, and John’s dissatisfaction continued to grow.

Eventually, John decided that he could no longer work in that environment. He found a new company that had a well-organized and efficient audit process. His job satisfaction was restored.

Poor audit processes can have a significant impact on an auditor’s job satisfaction and motivation. Audit departments must ensure that their audit processes are well-designed and efficient to ensure the best outcomes for the auditor and the organization.

5. Poor audit processes can lead to a decreased quality of work 

This one is a no brainer. So many workers are struggling with increased workloads, poor communication, and bad processes. There is no way the quality of the work performed is any good.

I talk mostly about internal auditing, but from a methodology and execution standpoint, we share so much with our external audit counterparts. If we take a look at the “regulators” for external auditing activity, the PCAOB, we will learn that many external auditing firms are failing to meet quality standards. While there is no equivalent for internal auditors in which the data is freely available, I believe the same quality issues exist in many audit departments.

To prevent poor audit processes from hurting auditor performance, it is essential to have clear, well-defined processes that are followed consistently by team members. Additionally, regular reviews and updates of the processes can help to ensure that they are effective and efficient. Communication and feedback are also important to ensure that employees are able to voice their concerns, and managers are able to make necessary adjustments.

Do you struggle with bad processes in your audit department?

Do you want to know how to fix them?

Join us for our upcoming course teaching you how to identify your bottlenecks.
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Robert Berry (108)

Robert (That Audit Guy) Berry is a risk, compliance and auditing advocate, educator and innovator. He helps good professionals become better by creating articles, web services and training that allow them to expand their knowledge network.

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