Building a Data Analysis Program: Answers to Your Key Questions

Recently CaseWare Analytics was proud to co-host a special webinar presentation with AuditNet, the primary online resource for auditors to share resources, tools and experience. The webinar event, ‘Building a Data Analysis Program’, was presented by special guest speaker Robert Berry. Known as ‘That Audit Guy’, Robert Berry’s 20-year career has been spent working as an auditor within various industries. He is recognized for dedicating his career to improving, processes and profits, and CaseWare Analytics was proud to have him speak to our listeners about building an effective audit program.


Robert’s highly informative presentation elicited several thought-provoking questions from our audience that we’re pleased to share with you. Read on for Robert’s responses!


Q: When should you first consider purchasing data analytics software?


A: The minute you decide you want to begin a data analysis initiative. If you can secure software sooner, you’ll become familiar with the software while completing routine tasks. As you progress in your knowledge of the software, you also progress in the complexity of the queries that you’re operating.


Q: What are the seven qualities of suitable software?


  • Easy to use
  • Minimizes your reliance on IT professionals
  • Reliable and bug-free
  • Able to import a variety of different file types
  • Able to handle large volumes of data
  • Has robust reach, sort and filter features
  • Logs the procedures performed on the data


Q: Can you recommend any good areas to be analyzed in Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable?


A: Yes! Accounts Payable is ripe for analysis, and I find that when you look at travel as it relates to A/P, there’s a treasure trove to be found. Employees double dipping is a good one to start with. In organizations that reimburse for rental cars and/or mileage, you can watch for double dipping where someone might try to claim reimbursement for a rental and then on a subsequent expense report try to claim reimbursement for mileage for the same trip.


Q: What areas did you first tackle when you started using data analysis software?


A: Purchasing cards and accounts payable; it’s extremely easy to get started here. General ledger is another good area because you can test for general ledger postings on weekends and off hours, etc.


Q: In your opinion, how important is data visualization?


A: Next to getting buy in, getting good data, and providing insight, data visualization is the next most important thing. Most people are very visual, especially executive-level management. They want to be able to see what it is that you’re trying to communicate to them—quickly.


Q: How useful is a product like IDEA to a two-man audit shop?


A: It can be an invaluable tool, but you need to have buy in and good data. IDEA is very easy to use, and it can automate tasks you’re performing regularly, whether you’re doing audit planning or you’re in the middle of audit field work.


Q: In your opinion, should all auditors be trained to use data analytics or should there just be a champion?


I don’t like the champion approach; if you have a champion and that person leaves, you run the risk of that knowledge leaving, too. That’s why I also tend to steer away from software that requires technical scripting. I think that IDEA is easy to understand, so you can have multiple people within your department who understand data analysis.


Q: How did you learn to use IDEA? Did you attend training?


A: Initially I learned just by opening it up, pulling data in and playing around. Then I attended training several years ago and as recently as last year.


Q: How do you move from performing data analysis for periodic audits to getting management to perform continuous monitoring?


A: Once you find a partner and they see the value of what you’re doing, it becomes easier. Your query catalogue is also important. As you develop it, you notate the purpose of the query while also talking to your audit client. So they become interested because you’re doing something that benefits them. The query catalogue also helps you transition. You can record the date that you’re going to turn the query over to management; once it’s turned over, they’re now listed as the owner of this particular query in the catalogue so there’s no discussion of who it belongs to or where it should go.


Q: When there’s limited evidence, how do you determine how much to rely on data provided by third parties and process owners?


A: I think that’s a judgment call on a case-by-case basis. You never know the quality of the data you’re receiving. You have to get comfortable with it, and that takes experience. Sometimes it’s just a gut reaction.



About Alain Soublière:

Alain Soublière has many years of experience working with computer audit software. He worked in a senior management role as the IDEA Product Manager for many years before becoming Director of Product strategy for CaseWare Analytics and more recently the Chief Product Strategist.   

Connect:   Alain Soublière