Making a major change in a business process can be overwhelming. The “what-ifs” can drive you absolutely crazy. There comes that point in time when you realize that you need to make that move forward. If you wait for the perfect time then you will be waiting forever.
Key players on our team
As a small audit shop, there are two of us; it was time to add data analytics to our audit toolbox. We took the approach that we would “buy-in” from all of the key players in the organization prior to purchasing any software.
Our IT department was, and still is, our biggest supporter in implementing data analytics. We involved them in the selection of which software we would purchase, new hardware like servers and laptops. IT wanted to make sure that hardware would not impair our use of analytics. They also play a crucial role in accessing data and establishing connections.
Another crucial member of our team was the ACL sales executive who partnered with us while we prepared our proposal. We were able to review the product as many times as needed to gain a comfort level. As we had technical questions, ACL provided access to their subject matter experts. They were able to address technical questions and provide us with contact information for other ACL clients that could help us navigate the implementation process.
Creating a business plan and proposal
One of the keys to our successful purchase and implementation of ACL was creating a solid business plan and proposal. The first step is to define what you want to accomplish. ACL Analytics Exchange is a flexible tool that allows the business owner to structure the data analytics to fit your organization’s needs. It is not just for large audit shops. ACL technology is a powerful tool within a small organization. The trick is to understand what you want to accomplish.
Two key questions to ask when developing your proposal are:
- Where are your risks?
- What is management most concerned about?
Once you can answer these questions, you are ready to successfully implement ACL software. The ACL team will help you achieve your goals.
Our business case
We view ACL as a force multiplier that allows us to analyze large volumes of data with limited resources. ACL software enables your data to tell the story. We are no longer confined to small samples. We can review full data populations to identify outliers. It also allows us to narrow data to the specifics we want to review. ACL also allows us to test data across multiple platforms. We also go beyond financial data to identify information that presents the greatest risk to our organization. This type of data analysis also allows us to fill a need that cannot be filled anywhere else in the organization. This is a value added service that our organization turns to Internal Audit to fill.
As part of our business case, we also looked at future needs. We did not present a stripped down request to purchase ACL. We built a realistic case for a successful implementation. This included training, hardware and ACL consulting services. We consider ACL Consulting as invaluable to keep us moving ahead. We rely on them as a force multiplier. While I am working on the audit plan, ACL is working to move my department ahead to automate analysis we currently have to do manually. They are the experts help us analyze complex data, develop complex scripts and implement continuous auditing.
As with any new process, have a plan and set realistic goals. You will also have to manage the expectations of your business partners. The key to a successful implementation is to ask a lot of questions. It is also okay to not have the answer on your own. When you have someone ask you a question that you cannot answer, use your ACL business partners to get accurate information. They are a resource before and after the purchase. Please remember: “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford
Here are some resources to get you started. Feel free to adapt for use at your organization to help you make your business case:
ACL Analytics Exchange proposal (long version)
We used this version to discuss within the department and IT. The long version gives far more detail than the Capital Committee or Board needs. This document was created to generate discussion within the group to help identify the “why” behind needing data analytics. It gave us a platform to discuss why we thought ACL Analytics Exchange was an important addition to the department.
ACL Analytics Exchange proposal (short version – executive briefing)
The executive version of the proposal is our “bare bones” logic for adding ACL Analytics Exchange. It is short and concise. It is not made to generate a lot of conversation. It is the stripped down justification for investing in a data analytics tool. There needs to be a solid reason to invest the financial and human capital to your organization.
Presentation: Data Requirements Review
This presentation was prepared by my Information Technology department. They reviewed the pre-built analytics and detailed which ones would be easy for our organization to implement. Just as valuable, they identified the analytics that would be difficult or were not applicable for our organization. This analysis will be different for every organization but it is important to note that IT is an important partner in implementing ACL Analytics Exchange.
Written by: Anna Cuson, Senior Internal Auditor at International Capital & Management Company
Anna Cuson is the Senior Internal Auditor at International Capital & Management Company. She is a graduate of Sullivan College in Louisville, KY and has been a practicing auditor since 1998. Her areas of expertise are internal control structure, contract compliance, physician compensation, risk assessment and fraud investigation. She has experience in both the public and not-for-profit sectors, with the majority of her experience concentrated in healthcare internal audit. Ms. Cuson is also a Major in the US Air Force Auxiliary where she works with both Senior Members and Cadets on effective leadership and communication.