How to transition away from a culture of dark data

Published | Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Dark data is created when auditors—and, more specifically, the auditor’s technology toolset—allows primary audit documentation to be captured in files that isolate that information from query-ability and obscure it from audit logging.

Organizations that have problems with dark data need to address their current processes and technologies in order to affect lasting change and eliminate occurrences of dark data. But making changes can be a difficult task, especially if those processes and technologies have been in effect for a long time within the organization.

Dealing with change management

Audit organizations who endeavor to change processes to eliminate dark data face the
challenge of people change management, as well as changes to how documentation is captured in the field. This is most challenging in large audit organizations and is typically more difficult when migrating from an environment that encourages document-embedded data and metadata rather than moving from a system based on documents and spreadsheets (using no audit management technology). However, the transition is well worth the investment.

With insight from hundreds of audit working papers technology implementations, it is easy to see that the critical success factors in overcoming change management challenges are:

  1. A vocal recognition and understanding of the problem at the leadership level.
  2. Identifying methodology champions at the manager level who consistently reinforce the fresh approach and champion oversight of the removal of dark data issues throughout the audit review and sign-off processes.

Why change? Key benefits for internal audit and the organization

Investing in the near-term change management necessary to shift an audit organization away from primarily document-based auditing drives material downstream benefits, including the elimination of dark data.

Key benefits for the audit organization of moving to a properly structured audit management software system that enables interrogation of audit commentary include:

  • Improved productivity of audit fieldwork.Software system user interface puts clear structure around audit procedures to efficiently guide staff and avoid confusion.
  • Much higher consistency of approach and quality between audits.Documents lack structure, risking that teams may follow different approaches across audits. Lifting the work out of documents and into the audit system ensures that’s a structured methodology is followed.
  • Elevated quality of audit insights.Through the ability to report and analyze audit information across projects and teams with advanced tools, the audit organization can identify higher-quality, higher-level and deeper root-cause insights.
  • Easy expansion of the breadth of audit insights.Auditors can instantly answer stakeholder questions and provide expanded insights when data is able to be fully queried.
  • Increased speed of insight delivery.No need to wait until quarterly or bi-annual audit packages are prepared to compile and deliver results.
  • Enhanced ability to present high-impact reporting.Use beautiful, interactive dashboards and visualizations to present insights, rather than manually compiled reports.
  • Easier, less “invasive” audit roll forward.One-click roll forwards that do not require invasive updating of embedded document links.
  • Generally enhanced audit automation.Enables “edit once, updated everywhere” workflow; automated audit report creation; and easy cloning, roll forward, and reuse of audit work.

As a complement to these audit benefits, this same transition is key to relieving administrative and IT-related burdens for the organization as well. Benefits include:

  • Eliminating data integrity risks resulting from using files to store embedded “non-document” metadata.
  • Eliminating the need for PC installations and upgrades of client software and complex browser add-ins, as well as the associated version incompatibility conflicts.
  • Ensuring data exportability and transferability.
  • Enhancing performance and minimizing use of bandwidth.
  • Ensuring all data is accessible on any device, including the ability to work with audit information in native mobile.

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