In the age of digital advancements, traditional or personalised audits may seem overshadowed by automated systems and digital tools. However, these audits continue to hold importance, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and non-profit organisations (NPOs). In this article, we will highlight the significance of traditional/personalised audit and how digital audits can complement the former in the context of SMEs/NPOs in this digital era, emphasising the unique value they bring to these organisations.
Understanding the Complex IT Landscape:
With the constant evolving threat landscape, new risks and vulnerabilities emerge regularly. While automated tools excel at detecting known vulnerabilities and patterns, they often lack the human judgment and expertise required for subjective assessments and interpreting complex data. Traditional or personalised IT audits bridge this gap by leveraging the expertise, experience, critical thinking, and contextual understanding of the skilled auditor to identify potential issues that automated tools may overlook. From our experience, SMEs/NPOs often have unique digital system setups which may not be easily audited by automated tools. In many cases, the digital maturity of SMEs/NPOs might not present enough data for an automated audit. Therefore, a customised audit procedure tailored to their specific needs will be better suited for the organisation’s needs. The auditor will be able to design appropriate audit approaches, further emphasising the value of traditional audits.
Soft Controls and how Traditional/Personalised Audit helps an Organisation:
While technology plays a significant role in securing an organisation's IT infrastructure, the human element remains critical. Employees and stakeholders interact with systems and data daily, and their knowledge, commitment to governance and compliance, and the organisation's culture all contribute to effective controls. Traditional or personalised IT audits enable auditors to gather valuable insights beyond the information provided by technology. Through open-ended questions, active listening, and observation of non-verbal cues, auditors can assess soft controls and identify potential issues that require human judgment and understanding.
Assessing Compliance with Regulations & the Human Touch:
Compliance with regulations and standards is essential for SMEs/NPOs, which face increasing regulatory requirements regarding data protection, privacy, and information security. Automated tools may struggle to provide meticulous examinations of an organisation's adherence to these regulations as compared to traditional or personalised IT audits. Skilled auditors with deep regulatory knowledge can evaluate whether IT practices and controls align with the necessary requirements. Additionally, traditional or personalised audits foster personalised interactions, where auditors provide guidance, answer specific questions, and help stakeholders better understand regulatory requirements better. This collaborative atmosphere is particularly valuable in the SMEs/NPOs environment, where teams often operate on a smaller scale.
What Digital Audits Can Offer:
Digital audits offer distinct advantages, leveraging advanced technologies like data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. They are efficient, scalable, and capable of processing large volumes of information in real-time. Digital audits quickly analyse data, identify patterns, detect anomalies, and provide valuable insights that may otherwise take human auditors a significant amount of time to identify.
To maximise the value of an audit, digital audits can be built on top of the traditional/personalised audit. By building upon the baseline established by traditional audits, digital audits focus on specific digital technologies, processes, or areas that require further evaluation or enhancement. This approach enhances an organisation's digital transformation initiatives, ensuring alignment with business objectives, secure implementation of controls, and compliance with relevant regulations. It also helps the business gain customer confidence in the organisation, providing a competitive edge.
In summary, while technology and automation have improved the efficiency of audits, traditional or personalised audits remain essential in the digital era, particularly for SMEs/NPOs. They provide a human-centric approach through interviews, active listening, and personalised interactions, thus enhancing audit reports with qualitative information, cultural assessment, and expert guidance. When combined with digital audits that leverage advanced technologies, SMEs/NPOs can gain a holistic understanding of their IT landscape, enhance operational efficiency, fortifying cybersecurity measures, and ensure compliance while leveraging the benefits of advance technologies.