Have you ever tried to explain to your children or your grandparents how you earn your money as an auditor and what you do at work all day? To make sure you are well prepared for the holiday period, here is an easy-to-follow guide to providing such explanations.
If you start by trying to enter search phrases like: "What does an auditor do" or "Auditing explained in simple terms" into the all-knowing search engine giant, then you quickly stumble across the distinction between "internal audit" or "external audit" or the different types of "system, process or product audit". But how do you explain to a young child what a system audit is? It's easy to get bogged down in the complexities and, when all is said and done, there often end up being more question marks than answers. So apparently it’s not so easy.
Of course, we are not the first to try our hand at this, so I would like to present the first two results of my research to you here.
Mohammed Rashid works as an auditor for a bank and was asked by his eight-year-old son:
"Papa, what do you do at office?"
He felt "caught off-guard", which is a rare situation for auditors. But, after a short period of reflection, he replied:
"My job is to ensure that your dreams are protected by making sure that no one dare to touch that money."
For someone working in a bank, this is certainly not a bad explanation, and Mohammed Rashid continues with his explanation of what he does, putting in the following simple terms:
"We protect the dreams of various stakeholders including our shareholders, our customers, our staff and even the external stakeholders. [...]"
That Audit Guy
That Audit Guy first mentions the different professional backgrounds of auditors: tax consulting, IT, engineering, law or nursing. But this versatility doesn't make it any easier to provide a clear job description to those gathered round the table at Christmas either, so he gave his grandmother the following explanation:
"We determine if organizations (1) make wise use of time and money, (2) follow the "rules" and (3) operate with integrity."
Not bad at all, is it?
In the comments under his article, however, there is a very fitting analogy that describes it quite simply:
"Sometimes I use a "bee" analogy, where I help the business flower by cross-pollenating ideas from one area to another." - Rick Fowler
If you think about it more carefully and let the analogy sink in, then this explanation is actually quite a clever one. If, for example, we take a process audit of purchasing, then, in the classic scenario, an interview is first arranged with the head of the department responsible and various documents are requested in order to ascertain the ACTUAL status. On this basis, problems or potential avenues for improvement can then be identified in order to "pollinate" the purchasing department with the knowledge gained.
"Auditors are the doctors of a company."
They are general practitioners: I ask the departments many questions in order to understand how the departments are doing.
They are dentists: I perform regularly check-ups on departments to see whether you have done your job correctly and properly.
They are radiologists: I have great equipment with which I can make the data and processes of the departments visible and can then see from the resulting images if something is not right with the process.
But sometimes, we are also the company police and interrogate employees who are accused of doing something wrong. But that's pretty rare. And it’s even more rare that we actually have to call in the real police themselves!
By this point, your children’s eyes will probably have lit up with interest, at least that’s what happened in my case!
So, when everyone is sat around the dinner table at Christmas, how do you go about explaining to your family what you do at the office all day? Let us know in the comments!
And, on that note, on behalf of myself and the entire team at zapliance, I would like to wish you a very relaxing and enjoyable Christmas with your family and a Happy New Year.
About the author:
Alexander Rühle, CAI, CISA, is the CEO and CO-founder at zapliance. After 15 years in the finance and auditing world and having met his partner in crime, Prof. Dr. Nick Gehrke, at PWC, they started zapliance together, with the mission to change the way business professionals of the future work with data.