The value of postmortems: post-audit review of inefficiencies or challenges can lead to successful future audits.

Author:Wickenhofer, Greg
Position:Back to Basics

One definition of postmortem by Merriam-Webster is an analysis or discussion of an event after it is over. In an internal audit context, it generally refers to a final audit of the project that involves identifying lessons learned, or evaluating a recently completed audit, for the purpose of improving future audits. It enables auditors to take a less than ideal situation and turn it into a learning opportunity. In fact, the more challenging the current audit, the more useful the postmortem is during the next audit.

Audit postmortems can be used as a learning tool for auditors who are particularly unseasoned, inefficient, or error prone; after pitfall-laden audits where cheat sheets would have significantly aided the audit team; as a library of materials to train new hires quickly; as transformational tools that convert problems encountered into future improvements; and as tools for continuity of knowledge and continual improvement within the audit function. When conducting a postmortem audit, there are several tools used to document any problems, adverse situations, and successes encountered.

Real-time Data Capture Form

Each challenge encountered can be captured on a prestructured form that can be used during or immediately after the current audit. It should include such topics as: data that is particularly difficult to locate, navigate, or test, and how each was ultimately resolved; people, departments, or audit client reports that require substantial lead time; audit tests that were most and least beneficial, for use in planning future tests; how and where the most significant findings ultimately were discovered; and areas that confused or delayed new auditors.

Audit Program and Report

After the audit report is issued, auditors may be tempted to file it immediately and move on to the next project. However, taking a few minutes to review each section of the completed audit program and audit report can derive benefits. Those details can remind the auditors of inefficient or challenging areas encountered and the techniques they ultimately used to successfully complete the audit. Noting key actions that powered the audit to completion improves efficiency by enabling the team to begin the next audit with those actions.

Team Members' Ideas

Most likely, each audit team member encountered some noteworthy difficulties and successes during the audit. Including each member's suggestions in the postmortem can provide unique perspectives. The fresh...

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