Published December 18, 2018 • By Karen Walsh

While external and internal audits enable better insight into your data security, most employees run from the process. It’s cumbersome, time-consuming, and often feels peripheral to most people’s daily workload. While it won’t make audits fun, effective workflow for your audit management process can create a rapid turnaround that lets you save money and employee time.

Audit Workflow Management

What makes the audit process time-consuming?

Whether you’re working with your internal auditors or an external audit firm, documentation and communication drive the audit process. Before the audit begins, your auditor requests documentation. During the audit, your auditor needs to communicate with your staff. After the audit, your auditor needs a follow-up meeting with senior management to provide the audit report and discuss findings.

Scheduling meetings, finding responsible parties, and tracking documentation all take more time than you realize. If people have scheduling conflicts, then meetings get postponed. If responsible parties don’t respond to audit requests, the audit can’t begin.

Why does streamlining the audit process matter?

One word: money.

Whether you’re engaging an outside firm or using internal staff, you’re paying for the audit.

An external audit firm bills hourly. Therefore, time spent tracking down your employees costs you money. Moreover, the longer it takes employees to respond to requests, the more time your auditor needs to spend reviewing the reason for the request. Again, they’re going to bill you, increasing the overall audit cost.

If you have an internal audit department, communication lags still cost you money. Your internal audit department does more than check boxes on lists. They also continually review the legal and compliance landscape for updates. If your audit department isn’t completing audits efficiently, then they’re not able to do all the work they need to do. This drives up the cost of the audit itself.

Moreover, some regulatory requirements specify a period during which you must complete an audit. If your audit takes longer than expected, you may be noncompliant with the timing.

What is the internal audit process?

The internal audit process consists of eleven stages. Each stage requires communication between all the relevant parties including auditor, senior management, IT department, and other relevant stakeholders.

Stage One: Planning

Audit planning requires the internal auditor to set the scope and objectives, then establish an initial time frame. Additionally, this stage can include scheduling an initial meeting or requesting documentation.

Stage Two: Document Review

Next, your internal auditor will review policies, procedures, and established controls. The goal of document review is to ensure that your written plans align to standards and regulations. For example, if you need to be HIPAA compliant, you need to have role-based access rights as a security measure. If you have not established these as part of the written program, you are not compliant.

Stage 3: Field Work

During this stage, the auditor comes to your place of business to see if your actions align with your written policies and procedures. To follow the access rights example, you need to be following your internal policies. If an employee changes role within your organization, you need to be adjusting the access rights appropriately.

Fieldwork also incorporates meeting with staff and engaging with the day-to-day business activities to ensure appropriate compliance with standards, regulations, and organizational documents.

Stage 4: Follow-Up

Often, your auditor will find missing documentation or have follow-up questions before finalizing a report. For example, if they were missing an access rights review report, they will request it at this time. If they didn’t understand an employee answer when comparing it to the internal procedures, they might also request clarification. Most auditors will clear up confusion before submitting findings.

Stage 5: Reporting

This is the stage most people dread. Once your auditor reviews all the information presented and completes the testing, they will issue their draft report. The draft report incorporates both their independent evaluation over your program’s strength as well as a detailed listing of weaknesses.

The internal auditor will send the draft report, allow you to review it, give management time to respond to any findings, and then issue a final report. At this point, you might send additional documentation to remove findings before the auditor issues the final report.

Stage 6: Issue Tracking

If your audit report issued findings, you need to track the issues listed and prove remediation. For example, if you missed an access rights review, you need to show that you have a process in place to ensure timely and accurate reviews.

How creating an audit workflow eases communications

Creating audit workflows can enhance communications and shorten the audit’s length. Workflows allow you to assign roles and monitor progress through each stage of the audit process.

Once everyone involved has an assigned role, you can more easily communicate with one another to obtain documentation and keep the audit on track.

How automating audit workflows streamlines the process

Increasingly, organizations are using workflow automation tools to streamline communications and task management. The most time-consuming part of the audit process is connecting with your team and managing documentation sharing.

With a workflow management tool, you can delegate work to the responsible parties and track their progress. A powerful compliance dashboard will give you visibility into the work completed and what remains outstanding.

Emails often get lost in overflowing inboxes. Calendar alerts can be ignored. If a team member misses a deadline, you have to remember to send emails reminding them. Automating these tasks with a workflow tool saves time by organizing the tracking for you.

How ZenGRC Enables Audit Workflows

ZenGRC offers workflow tagging so that you can delegate audit tasks and monitor their progress and completion. Moreover, it allows you to prioritize tasks so that your team members know how to plan their activities.

ZenGRC’s workflow management capabilities include a centralized dashboard that continuously documents your control effectiveness making audit documentation easier.

Additionally, it helps you create an audit trail by documenting and remediation activities to support your responses to auditor questions.

For more information on how ZenGRC’s audit management workflows can streamline your process, contact us for a demo.