Your company’s first external audit can be a bit overwhelming. The audit firm itself will be seeking a huge amount of information from your business — and if you want to prepare for that audit in advance, there’s an equally huge amount of information available about how audits should work.
Every company’s audit experience will be different, depending on the scope and the standard against which you will be audited. Here are a few key actions that can help you prepare for your first external audit plan and achieve a favorable outcome.
5 Tips To Prepare For Your External Audit
1. Understand the Standard
An audit is a report that evaluates your organization’s performance against an external standard, so take the time to read and understand the standard you will be compared to. This is critical to understand the approach the external auditors will take. Moreover, it will help you to avoid taking unnecessary actions by touching on topics outside the scope of the audit. Having that general understanding can help you manage the external audit more efficiently.
2. Identify Your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
No one knows your internal processes better than your own SMEs. Based on the standard you need to comply with, determine which of your employees have the best knowledge to help the external auditor understand and evaluate your business and information security processes. Make sure you explain the importance of the upcoming audit to those SMEs, and present your understanding of the standard so the auditor can lend their knowledge and experience to prioritize actions for preparation.
3. Allocate Resources to the Experts
Experts and specialists in every field usually are engaged with their normal day-to-day activities. Auditing requires significant time, energy, and effort from your SMEs. Make sure that all necessary resources are available so your audit team can proceed with ease.
4. Determine Your Internal Procedures
Gather your SMEs and go through internal audit processes relevant to the controls that will be examined during the upcoming audit. The goal is to identify any gaps where processes don’t exist or don’t sufficiently meet the standard you’ll be audited against. In other words, make sure that all the controls required by the standard are in place in your business, and that corrective actions are taken where needed.
5. Gather Documentation for Your Procedures.
Having all internal procedures in place is a great starting point. External auditors, however, will ask for supporting materials as part of the audit process. They’ll want to see policy documents, financial statements, accounting records, and “process artifacts” (that is, evidence that your internal processes are working as intended).
Based on the business processes determined in the previous step, make a list of documents that demonstrate the current internal control structure and review these documents. This is another form of gap analysis to determine whether your documentation is accurate and complete.
What Are the Steps to Conduct an External Audit?
The structure of the external audit process should also factor into your preparation. While every audit will have its own unique qualities, all audits do have some steps in common:
1. Define Your Objectives
Knowing what you want to achieve from your audit is a crucial part of your planning phase and will help you determine what is needed from the audit moving forward.
2.Announce the Audit
Everyone in your company should know that the audit is taking place, including senior management and stakeholders.
3. Conduct an Audit Entrance Meeting
Present your objectives, the process that will follow, and the time frame for completion of the audit.
Once your action plan is in place, the audit procedures can begin. This will include a full investigation into your security system and tests of controls.
5. Review and Communicate the Results
Your audit findings should be analyzed and communicated to your audit committee and staff.
6. Conduct an Audit Exit Meeting
Follow up with your entire team to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
7. Audit Report:
Don’t overlook the reporting phase: recording your results will be instrumental in preparing for your next audit.
Understanding these steps can be instrumental in the success of your external audit, and learning them before you begin will save you both time and money moving forward.
Guarantee Success For Your Next Audit
Audit planning can be challenging, but using risk assessment software can start you on the right path. If you’re searching for solutions for your next external audit, ZenGRC can help.
Our platform provides a single integrated experience that allows you to track your compliance efforts across departments, and to generate audit reports with ease. ZenGRC has every tool you need to ensure that your next audit is a success. Schedule a demo today and learn more about how ZenGRC can work for you.