Writing the Audit Report
Searching for the Right Words to Say
Have you ever agonized over writing an internal audit report? Maybe you aren’t sure how to state a finding that may be arguable or you notice that the draft of audit report is so long no one will read it. Or maybe you have received feedback on previous findings in your report that effectively meant the audit customer didn’t see any value your report. I think it would be difficult to find any auditor who hasn’t found themselves searching for the right words to state a finding at some point in their career, if not multiple times. Here are some simple ideas that will help you reduce the agony of report writing.
Before stating a finding, state the business objective that is impacted by your finding. This will make your audit customer know why he or she should care about your finding as well as minimize any debates as to the finding’s implications.
Review the audit report objectively and remove verbiage regarding specific steps taken to get to the finding. Although these steps will help inform the audit customer of how the audit team spent its time, in most cases, the audit customer doesn’t care. Although this may sound harsh, the audit customers expect the audit team to take appropriate steps to reach their conclusions; they really don’t want to read about it. This is comparable to how most of us don’t really care about the physics behind getting an airplane up in the air, but we do care if the plane will get us safely to our destination – our objective.
Finally, before you issue your report, make sure it’s clear how each recommendation will add value greater than its cost to implement by focusing on how the recommendation will improve the audit customer’s ability to achieve their business objectives. They also want this information timely. Relating this back to our airplane example, besides getting us to our destination, we want the flight to get us there by a specific date and/or time and at a price we can afford. On the rare occasion when the audit customer wants additional information, they will ask you for it.
So the next time you are writing an audit report, keep in mind there is no correlation to the length of your report and its value to the customer. Instead focus on the impact your findings and recommendations will have on a specific business objective. This will make your customers happy, increase your value as a partner to the business, and save yourself time agonizing over the right words to say in reports.
“I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.“
– Robert McCloskey