An effective audit process entails audit teams collecting and interpreting data and information in a systematic manner. To maximize the value of audit findings, management should: Accept that auditing requires adequate resources, including auditor training, operational and management staff education, and physical and financial funding. If any of these are deficient, the outcome quality will suffer. Recognize that the data gathered and the outcomes produced will have limitations, not least due to the influence of the quality and quantity of resources allocated to the audit activity, but also due to the varying standards of judgment and interpretation applied to the results; Concentrate on trends, take appropriate corrective action on individual issues, but keep an eye out for trends and patterns that indicate underlying, hidden, problems that require attention; Ensure that auditing activities are adaptable and flexible in order to be compatible with the organization’s culture and structure, rather than adopting a rigid, unchanging process that is likely to be ineffective and produce inaccurate results; Contest the findings; the audit process is not infallible and should be questioned on a regular basis to ensure that it is operating effectively; Applying the highest possible standards to data interpretation and decision-making requires training, experience, expertise, awareness of the internal and external environment, an understanding of the impact of proposed changes on staff and manager motivation and morale, as well as the ability to forecast the impact on operational and strategic objectives.
However, certain dangers must be avoided in order to maximize the audit is impact. These include an overabundance of data and information as a result of either too many audits being scheduled in general or the auditing of areas of activity that are clearly performing well. This can be avoided by more thoughtfully targeting audits and schedules; Overloading the organization with improvement recommendations is not a danger in and of itself, but the organization may find it impossible to resource – in terms of budget, time, or human resources – all of the identified improvements. The answer is to prioritize, concentrating on those improvements that will have the greatest impact on the organization’s achievement of its objectives; When results appear to be positive in the majority of areas, there is a danger that management will become complacent. This should be avoided by adopting a kaizen continuous improvement approach to auditing; Excessive reliance on the auditing process, by leaving the identification and correction of poor performance to the audit process, rather than the audit process confirming, at the very least, that positive, continuous improvement activity is occurring; Managers who dismiss the significance of audit findings are the most detrimental response. If managers fail to take the audit findings and recommendations seriously and refuse to implement, or implement only partially, the recommended changes, the audit process’s value is wasted.
While auditing should be scheduled on a regular basis to examine all processes and activities, there is a need to place a greater emphasis on auditing poor performers. These are activities, processes, functions, and systems where issues are visible or suspected, but the underlying causes are unknown and require additional investigation. In these instances, management should arrange for ad hoc audits and/or prioritize these areas during current or upcoming auditing activity. Reliance on a generic auditing approach is not acceptable. Failure to address visible or suspected poor performers immediately allows for immediate and possibly long-term damage. Inevitably, the longer issues go unresolved, the more difficult it will be to correct them.
There is a risk that management will focus exclusively on the audit results and not on making decisions about which improvements to make and how to implement them. However, management must keep in mind that audit results are derived from human activity. Employees, operational staff, managers, specialists, suppliers, customers, and stakeholders all fall under this category. Feedback that is shaped and delivered appropriately for the target group must be viewed as a critical component of effective auditing and change implementation. Without communicating the rationale, the purpose, the results, and the positive impact of auditing, low morale and motivation, dissatisfaction, and possibly conflict will result.
It is critical that the audit-generated improvements strengthen the organization’s competitiveness. To ensure this occurs, management must be aware of the following: Prioritization of improvement actions is frequently necessary. Where this is the case, the improvements that will have the greatest impact on the organization’s competitiveness should be prioritized. This is a management responsibility, and management must be appropriately skilled in this area; the business sector and general external environment are rapidly changing, and even relatively recent results and improvement recommendations may become obsolete as a result of significant external changes. This necessitates management’s awareness of such changes and the ability to interpret how their organization should respond most effectively; Following the implementation of improvement changes, the nature of activities and processes will have changed by default, necessitating monitoring and auditing to ensure that the effect is positive. It is highly likely that the majority of changes will require adjustment, particularly in the early stages following implementation. This must be a critical and visible component of the change process.
Business performance audits are critical to an organization’s success. Performance Audits generate specific functional, process, and activity improvements that must be visible and supported by management. Strategic and operational priorities, on the other hand, will fluctuate constantly. Senior management must also ensure that audit activity contributes to and supports the organization’s strategic direction. Senior management is responsible for continuously monitoring the auditing activity’s effectiveness in light of this requirement and making necessary adjustments.
To maximize the value of Business Performance Audits, management must regard them as a critical component of the business. Appropriate resources must be allocated to the activity, to the interpretation of results, and to the implementation of any generated improvements. Auditing must be integrated into the organization’s continuous improvement strategy. Additionally, the auditing process’s objectives must be to generate improvements that positively impact operational and strategic objectives. If management takes this approach, the organization will greatly benefit from the continuous improvements that an effective auditing process can deliver, enabling it to continue performing at its peak.