The death of the tick mark: it's time to put an antiquated audit practice to rest once and for all.

Author:Zitting, Dan
Position:Insights/In My Opinion - Column

For several hundred years, auditors have been reviewing business functions. As processes evolved, the Industrial Revolution eventually led to widespread use of the basic audit activities we perform today, and the ubiquitous tick mark has been around ever since. In fact, one might argue that the tick mark is the most common symbol of our profession. But the time has come to let it go. In today's world, where internal audit is often tasked with oversight of an organization's entire risk management process, if you or your directors are concerned about tick marks, you're spending far too much time mired in meaningless details. In fact, if you're allocating more than 1 percent of your time to making tick marks or reviewing others' tick marks, you're doing it wrong.

At first blush this might sound like a severe statement. But considering the breadth of risks that influence the bottom line, it's safe to say that the minute issues explained by tick marks are certainly not keeping the CEO, chief financial officer, or audit committee up at night. For the profession to move forward and for internal audit to play a truly valuable role across the enterprise, practitioners need to remove the blinders and shift attention away from futile tactics.

According to the definition of internal auditing, we are charged with the responsibility to "add value and improve an organization's operations" and "improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes." Nowhere in that definition does it say, "Internal auditing helps an organization foot, sum, agree, tie, and recalculate its financial information to confirm the accuracy of the financial statements." By that standard, the vast majority of tick marking we are doing--and thus by extension, the manual review of...

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