I’ve been coaching and consulting clients on how to write more effective audit reports in English since 2005. That’s over 10 years! I’ve seen some great progress over this period. At the same time, there are still areas that can be improved. How do your reports measure up? Have a look through this list of positive trends and points for improvement:
- Quality of English. Overall, the level of English I’m seeing in audit reports has improved significantly. That means that the coaching advice I give today can focus on substance and content. This helps to ensure your messages are communicated more clearly and concisely, rather than on simply having correct prepositions and verb tenses.
- Report structure consistency. The use of the condition-criteria-cause-risk (C-C-C-R*) structure is becoming more widespread. While there aren’t always labels for these in reports, the use of this structure is becoming more obvious in the content of each finding. This helps stakeholders because it provides them with a red line through the finding and creates efficiencies in writing and in reading.
- Uniformity across global teams. There is a push for consistency in audit report writing across global teams. It’s not always easy given distance, culture and a myriad of other factors, but managers are seeing the benefits of establishing a solid foundation for consistent, high-quality report writing across their organizations.
Room for Improvement
- Weak recommendations. Recommendations that contain language such as “Management should consider investigating …” are weak. I can almost guarantee that very little action will result from such language. Choose more action-oriented language.
- Risk statements that don’t go deep enough. It’s true, errors might results from the current process. But what is the inherent risk of those errors to the business? Make it clear to your reader.
- Lack of organization and consistency in presentation of findings. As I mentioned above, the use of a C-C-C-R –type structure is becoming more obvious. However, when one finding includes condition, another condition and cause, and a third all three Cs, your reader might start to wonder what’s up. Go for consistency of content in all findings.
- Addressing risk consistently in audit summaries. Most audit reports contain some form of summary. Consider including a risk assessment for each item, visually or in the text. Why? Because clients tell me the Board reads the summary. And they tell me the Board focuses on risk. So doesn’t it make sense to address risk at this level?
- Clear, concise and consistent language. There is still work to be done to write clear and concise messages in audit reports. A standardized ability in English across your global team may never be achieved. But consistent use of language, tone and style in your audit reports will help your stakeholders understand your messages more easily.
Assessing Your Own Audit Reports
If you haven’t taken a long hard look at your audit reports lately, now may be just the right time to do it. Consider:
- Are your reports getting the response you want from your stakeholders, particularly the Board?
- Are your recommendations written so clearly and precisely that getting your audit clients to act on them is easy-peasy-pie?
- Are you achieving a high level of consistency in language, professionalism, content and presentation globally?
If you can answer a resounding “YES” to these questions, then give yourself, and your audit staff, a pat on the back.
If your answer to one or all of these questions is “NO”, then it may be time to do a more in-depth analysis of how to make your audit reports more effective. Because value-added audits reports have the potential to create positive change in your organization.
Not sure where to begin? Contact me for a free one-hour assessment of your team’s reports. Sometimes an external opinion can help guide the way.
P.S. Along with the free one-hour assessment, get moving in the right direction with instant access to my webinar “5 Quick-Start Techniques to Get the Results You Want From Your Audit Reports.”
* Or similarly named structure.