Back in the 1980s and 1990s, word processing documents and electronic spreadsheets were huge improvements on the prior paperbased audit processes, which generated materials that were difficult to share or collaborate on. Thirty years on, the risks and administrative challenges of document-based audits have themselves become clear, making a strong case for the adoption of modern audit technology.
Here are seven reasons why it’s important to move to audit management software.
1. Important data gets trapped in electronic documents
Data in documents effectively becomes “dark”: impossible to search, reference, analyze, export, report on, or access on mobile devices. Large audit teams need to access data through all these means to deliver valuable insights and support decision-making.
2. Data integrity can’t be assured
In a document-based process, there’s no reliable way to tell who has touched the document or what changes may have been made, eroding confidence in the data. Metadata such as tick marks, review notes, auditor commentary, and inter-document links and references get embedded into document files, making it virtually impossible to enforce referential integrity. With multiple users accessing the data, the accuracy and consistency of that data may change over its life cycle.
3. Maintaining relationships to other information is impossible
Because stand-alone documents are not databases, they cannot create and maintain relationships between data in different files. Hyperlinking and other document-embedded features often break or are otherwise slow or unreliable. Systems that rely on deep document integration are prone to data loss when files are corrupted, are edited by disparate users or are moved, thereby breaking relationships and references.
4. Deep links to external documents are fragile
“Deep linking” — hyperlinking information inside and between documents — relies on metadata embedded in documents, with references stored in the software system. Because links from inside one document to another document depend on this externally stored reference, relationships between documents often break. Moreover, it is also impossible to archive or export an audit project without breaking those links.
5. Rolling audits forward is time consuming
When primary audit documentation is captured in documents, it’s dangerous, if not impossible, to update them programmatically. When you use documents to roll an audit forward, you need to update each document manually to avoid erratic behavior. That’s expensive, time consuming and prone to error.
6. Software updates can break file integration
File integration in audit software tends to break when Microsoft Office or other document-editing applications are updated and file formats change. New versions of Office sometimes force an upgrade of the audit software or change the embedded metadata, causing data integrity risks. Even in the best case, upgrades require rigorous testing, which causes lengthy delays in software implementations.
7. Administration is complex and burdensome
Creating and managing document-embedded metadata requires legacy audit systems that include applications or complex web browser plug-ins to be installed and maintained on every machine. These applications create significant administrative burdens for IT, including compatibility issues and high-maintenance installation rollouts and upgrades.
Ready to move ahead?
If you’ve come across any of these challenges, it’s time to upgrade your working environment. We can show you how to put a stop to the risks of document-based auditing. Download our white paper “The 7 Dangers of Document-Based Auditing” to learn more.