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How to think like an auditor?
Auditors have a unique perspective which can benefit any manager as they tend to ask a lot of questions from an independent point of view. This is done with the idea to gain an understanding of an organization’s operations. They constantly think about risks and suggestions to management about how to handle the different risks in long term.
Dwelling on the negatives and the “what could go wrong” is the process which helps us challenge the status quo to see what has been missed and whether there might be a better way.
Another important quality of an auditor is the ability to think critically. Looking at the details, trying to make sense based on other information available and asking questions where more clarity is needed. Nevertheless, it is also necessary to understand that not all details are important.
The information an auditor encounters and decides can have the most significant impact and therefore, it requires the most attention. This may also lead to the discovery of an unrelated area which was not originally been observed.
Trust, but also verify. This is the significance of a famous Russian proverb by their President Ronald Reagan that backs the next important quality of an auditor, which is known as professional skepticism. This contributes to challenging one’s thinking, thereby helping in avoiding the trap of thinking that if nothing bad happened in the past does not mean it shouldn’t happen in the future. This also indirectly implies past performance does not guarantee any future results.
This does not necessarily mean an auditor must question every report that is made available or distrust every person with whom they interact. Instead, they should be prepared to verify information that doesn’t quite make sense rather than accept it even if it comes from a trustworthy source. They should periodically test controls, processes, and/or systems to see whether they are operating as intended and should not believe something is true because it was true earlier.
If an organization is to be successful for the long term, it must know how to manage the different risks it might encounter while conducting the business. Fraud, Information Systems, Human Capital and Disruption, all pose risks of various kinds. Therefore, an auditor has to be fully aware of the various kinds of risks an organization might be exposed to at any point in time. For example, a sudden lockdown announced by the government might affect its operation in its entirety.
Change is an ongoing process of an organization’s operations. Change brings the real possibility of something we thought to be accurate but is no longer so. Furthermore, along with the right intellect, an auditor must be curious.
An auditor should be different in crucial ways from that of an accountant, a cop, a lawyer or an administrator since he is the judge and must be impartial, devoted to finding the truth and unafraid to make tough calls. He should have a clear and convincing basis for making and documenting each audit-related decision and action.
The mindset must be governed by principles, rules and integrity and one must work towards developing those traits in order to think like an auditor.