In football (American football, not soccer), good quarterbacks know how to use all the players on the field to execute a great play. When you begin an audit, you’re like the quarterback and the internal audit entrance meeting is your kick-off to a good game.
If you had an opposing team, it wouldn’t be the audit customer – they’re on your team. The team to beat is the team of undefined expectations and fears.
As the audit quarterback, you get to work with the entire team to overcome these fears and crush the meeting (in a good way). Here are some points to consider as you huddle up and plan for a successful audit.
1. Encourage collaboration
At the beginning of the meeting, you’ll go through introductions and administrative items, but then jump quickly into describing the audit process. The entrance meeting shouldn’t be longer than an hour and should state the objective while setting the tone for the audit.
Sometimes your audit customer has never been through an audit before. This meeting is your opportunity to walk on the field together and discuss the game plan. It’s up to you, the auditor (and quarterback), to put the audit customer at ease as you settle into the game.
Joe Langenfeld, VP of Internal Audit at The MENTOR Network, talks about the specifics of creating a solid vibe.
“The entrance meeting and the audit are collaborative. We want people participating. We want to send the message that we’re doing the audit and we want the client to be involved in the process and be collaborative. We want to keep the client fully informed.”
During the entrance meeting, determine solid points of contact. Ask the audit customer who in their group should receive status updates, how often, and through which vehicle (e.g., face-to-face, weekly meetings, PowerPoint). Emphasize that weekly meetings are helpful to stay on the same game plan, resolve issues as they arise, and maintain an on-time report release date.
As both audit team and audit customers perceive that they work together as a unified team, the audit customer will be more willing to engage.
Tip: Be personable without being personal
All along the way, you want to develop rapport with the team. Often, meetings are online. Introduce the audit team members with pictures. Associating an auditor with their picture creates a friendlier atmosphere and helps your audit customer connect to your team.
2. State the objective and be organized
After you’ve established a collaborative approach, show that you really know how the audit game is played and which team members are required on the field. Typically, entrance meetings are presented in PowerPoint. Keep the slides simple so your audit customer knows exactly what to expect.
Marco Loures, VP of Internal Audit at Broadcom, and his team use a straightforward PowerPoint template for their entrance meetings. The template doesn’t deviate much between audits.
“Entrance meetings are very straight forward. You have templates; the auditors come in and have to speak to the slides. The slides are the only thing you tailor for each entrance meeting. You tweak the objectives. The expectations are the same. Processes are the same.”
On setting expectation, Loures is up front with the audit customer.
“We expect the audit customer to be available, answer emails timely and accurately, and when we need dates and reports, we get those.” Letting the customer know what you want up front shows the customer that you’re here to work and execute a winning play.
The more structure, the better, says Loures. Collaboration and organization with the audit customer is key to a winning audit.
3. Be transparent in the process
After you share the audit objectives, share the exact steps of the audit. Clearly take people through the process, be transparent about what the audit steps are, what they entail, and what level of commitment is involved.
To help the audit customer understand better, you could present the audit in “Phases:”
- Phase 1 is the process of understanding and the walkthrough phase
- Phase 2 is the testing of transactions, controls, and data analytics
- Phase 3 is the reporting phase
Share everything. Let there be no surprises during the audit.
4. Define the rating process
If your company rates their audit reports or issues, describe what necessitates each rating. Emphasize that the rating is the final outcome of the audit and be sure to field any questions. Being clear and up front about how issues are found, shared, and rated will help to alleviate misunderstandings later during the reporting phase.
5. Explain the reporting process
The report can be a vulnerable spot for the audit customer. They can feel like their performance is measured and reported to executives and committees and they have little say in it. The report can be intimidating!
Alleviate as much anxiety as possible. Show them exactly what the report will look like and who will receive it.
You can say something like, “This is how the final report looks. We write all of our audit issues in a specific way. We hope that during the audit we can engage in thoughtful discussion on how to resolve findings. You will know beforehand issues long before they go into the report. In this final report, you’ll have a chance to write a short management response and commit to a timeline of resolving the issue. We expect to receive management responses before [XX] date.” Or something like that – you get the idea.
This is where templates come in handy for Loures’ team. They have a template for everything – the way the audit issue is written, the report, and the executive summary. “Having solid structure cuts back on surprises. Standardizing the process is the only way to have efficiency.”
Let the audit customer know how you plan to release the audit report. Langenfeld and his team allow time to share the draft report. “We put the [audit customer] at ease with letting them know that they’ll get to see the audit report draft before it’s finally released.”
The bottom line is, every company has a different size, different culture, and different needs. Just like the quarterback adjusts his plays to match the team, so will you.
Plain and simple, be up front, be honest, and be nice. Assume the best scenario and share your excitement with your audit customer. They are sure to join your team – whether they’re sitting or standing!