What is Agile Auditing?
The term ‘Agile’ stems from a concept which originated to create more productivity within software development. Designed to drive an efficient and effective way of working, it has been picked up more widely across the business world, including within audit. In adopting an ‘Agile’ approach, Internal Audit teams can elevate their impact by generating insights and feedback at a much faster rate.
Framed around rapid planning processes, task prioritisation and consolidating projects into ‘sprints’ of typically 2-4 weeks with well-defined objectives and goals; ‘Agile’ auditing is the antithesis of its tried and trusted counterpart, the ‘Waterfall’ method. Unlike the structured, linear and rigid processes of Waterfall, those working in Internal Audit are beginning to recognise the value in ‘Agile’s’ more collaborative, dynamic and creative approach to audit.
Regular ‘scrum’ meetings enable the entire team to stay updated as to the progress of the engagement and work together to tackle any issues that arise. ‘Agile’ allows for more clarity around who is responsible for what throughout the audit process. In addition to that definition around people’s roles, there is also a highly visual approach to the work itself which is manifested on scrum boards. With the whole process clearly structured into key events that cover the planning, review and retrospective, the entire team plus the audit client are fully engaged and involved from start to finish.
This new way of working certainly presents a challenge for Internal Audit functions, but it also represents an opportunity to do away with the bulky and inefficient ways of the past. Fostering a better audit experience for all involved, ‘Agile’ auditing sees audit teams complete the majority of their audits together in what are called ‘Huddles’, something that is particularly beneficial to the junior members of the team who are afforded more involvement in all aspects of the process and thus more opportunity to prove themselves early on in their audit careers.
Unlike the traditional format for conducting audits, the ‘Agile’ approach also favours verbal dialogue and memos over the usual static audit reports used to update the audit committee at the culmination of the engagement. This regular, real-time assurance and tangible feedback is something that improves the audit experience for stakeholders and customers who can utilise the informal updates throughout the audit process to feel fully engaged with it and have opportunities to clarify any areas of confusion. However there is still a place for the traditional reporting as it is useful in giving an oversight and conveying important issues to those high up in the business.
The premise of ‘Agile’ auditing is to improve the speed at which internal auditors can perform compliance-based audits. Though where it also adds value is in audit areas which are shrouded in uncertainty or the audit subject is moving quickly. The sprint planning approach is highly effective at revealing those areas which need attention meaning the Internal Audit team can focus on what’s necessary instead of wasting time and resources on things that aren’t important.
Everything from planning to implementation is projected within a short time frame with the emphasis on people over processes and a constant collaborative and proactive dynamic as opposed to the rigidity and paperwork-heavy processes that have traditionally defined audit.
For ‘Agile’ auditing to really take effect, those in Internal Audit jobs must have an appetite for the behavioural and cultural changes required, not to mention a commitment and investment from executive management. Without that it’s unlikely the approach will work in the long term.