ACL & IDEA: Don't Be Afraid

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In the August 2009 issue of the Internal Auditor magazine, the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) cover story focused on Data Gathering, getting to the right data and analyzing it to benefit the Internal Audit process.  

Several data analysis software tools were identified, but the majority of those polled who use them are using four primary tools: ACL (51%), Excel (14%), Access (9%) and IDEA (6%).

Surprisingly, the IIA article suggests that 75% of the respondents have the technical ability and software tools necessary and are incorporating them into their audits.  In my experience, that number is much lower or the use of the audit software tools is not as extensive as it could or should be. 

The benefits are too plentiful to ignore and include greater audit coverage, audit efficiency, focusing on problem areas, testing entire populations and fraud detection just to name a few. 

In addition, it is the future of audit.  In this time of tight budgets and scarce resources, it is a powerful way to do more with less and do it more cost effectively. 

All audit departments should already be using data analysis tools.  If you are behind now, it will only get harder to bring yourself or your department up to speed.

5 Tips to Getting in the Game

Coach Dale wants you to get in the game.

  1. Just the Facts, Ma’am – Which data analysis software tool offers the best product with the best solutions related to your company’s specific situation?  Ask them.  All software providers will go out of their way to inform you of their product capabilities and provide free demonstrations in person or via webcasts.  Talk to other companies in your industry.  What tools are they using?  How as it impacted their audit process?  Get the facts and make an informed decision.
  2. Rock Star Auditor – Is there a person on your audit staff who already has an excellent grasp of the audit process?  Do they already have technical skills using Excel or Access?  Are they interested in data analysis software?  Talk to them.  Give them the opportunity to prove that the benefit outweighs the cost.  Invest in the best training.  Make it a goal on their annual review.  Empower them.
  3. Batman and Robin – If the Rock Star Auditor is Batman, he/she will need a Robin. A Robin in this case will be someone who knows where to get the data within the business and can get it in the most usable format.  This can be an IT person, a technical business person or if you are lucky a current auditor who has business experience and understands the company’s ERP.  Getting the proper data in the right format and in a timely fashion is critical to the success of using data analysis software.
  4. Just Do It – Now that you have chosen your data analysis software, your technical champion and his/her partner in crime, make it happen.  Don’t look, just leap.  It may be a struggle at first, but learn your lessons and improve each time.  Start simple.  Get data, analyze it, summarize it, make decisions from it, and conclude or report on it.  Get feedback from the Audit Director and Management.  Share your findings with the entire audit department and publicize how/why using the software was critical to the success of the audit.
  5. Don’t Stop Believing – Data analysis software, like all technology, is just a tool.  One must understand the principles of the audit process initially, but then should be as creative as possible in determining how the tool is applied.  There are endless possibilities.  Be a constant student.  Always be gathering information and learning.  There are extensive user groups for most software tools.  Keep up to date with them.  Contribute to them.  Believe in their capabilities and prove their worth in your company.

Does your company already use data analysis software? Do you think that data analysis software is a waste of money? Did I miss anything? If so, please leave a comment below to let me know.   I would love to hear from you. To hear more about PBC Global’s use of and abilities related to data analysis software, please contact us HERE.