The Most Common Challenges of the Audit Process

Our 2021 Compliance Benchmark Report found that more than 70% of organizations believe limited staff resources and evidence collection are the greatest challenges of their audit process. Learn more about the most common compliance audit challenges, plus potential solutions for each.

“What are the top challenges you see companies face throughout the audit process?” It’s a question often asked by proactive leaders who want to avoid the missteps and oversights made by other organizations.

Anecdotally speaking, it’s not unusual to hear executives and those in charge of corporate compliance programs say there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done, or even to just move things forward in a timely manner. It’s also common for some employees to feel like their organization’s compliance strategy is reactionary, driven by customer requests rather than established as a strategic initiative from the top down. And they’re not wrong.

In our 2021 Compliance Benchmark Report, we asked more than 200 cybersecurity, IT, quality assurance (QA), internal audit, finance, and other professionals about their compliance programs. We learned that lack of time and limited dedicated resources available for compliance projects are very common pain points.

In this blog, we discuss the most prevalent audit challenges hindering organizations today, plus our thoughts on how to solve these issues.

Limited Staff Resources Is a Major Problem

When we asked survey respondents about their concerns related to the audit process, lack of adequate staff resources to dedicate toward compliance was the top answer. A whopping 44% said this is the number one challenge their organization is facing when it comes to preparing for, and undergoing, an audit.

Considering the fact that 85% of our respondents conduct more than one audit every year, yet only 14% consolidate their audits into a single annual event, it’s not surprising that many are in a predicament where the time and resources needed to complete them have ballooned significantly. In fact, 50% of respondents stated they spend one to two months preparing for each audit or assessment, and nearly one in five (17%) said they spend six months or more preparing for each audit.

At A-LIGN, we believe that a Master Audit Plan (MAP) is one of the best tools an organization can use to become more effective in their audit process because it gives teams greater visibility into where they spend their time and why. Additionally, a MAP provides clear direction on where efforts can be combined across audits, decreasing employees’ workload and enabling organizations to complete multiple audits faster.

Endless Evidence Collection Tasks Can Slow the Process

The second most widespread audit challenge according to our survey respondents is manual, repetitive tasks associated with evidence collection; 27% of respondents stated it is the biggest issue plaguing their audit process.

We frequently come across organizations that have siloed teams or departments inadvertently gathering the same evidence over and over again to be used at various points in time. Streamlined visibility via a MAP is one way to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Additionally, when a MAP is coupled with audit and compliance automation solutions, organizations can save time and resources, and ensure that compliance activities are happening year-round instead of right before an audit occurs. Audit automation technology can transform evidence collection from a burden to a breeze by allowing organizations to easily link one piece of evidence to multiple audit requests.

Comprehensive compliance automation software, such as A-SCEND, can also help with:

  • Mapping information to controls
  • Centralizing asset storage
  • Streamlining communications
  • Consolidating audits where possible
  • Accelerating timelines to final certification/reports

Other Factors That Can Negatively Impact the Audit Process

Though the majority of survey respondents identified limited staff capacity and tedious evidence as the most common challenges of the audit process, there are still other concerns organizations face. These include:

  • Budget constraints (9%)
  • Complexity in conducting multiple audits (6%)
  • Multiple auditors with different workflows (5%)
  • Lack of technology solutions to streamline the audit (5%)

All of these interconnected challenges emphasize the fact that it takes time, resources, and a centralized audit strategy — developed in conjunction with an experienced compliance partner — to facilitate a smooth audit experience.

Our survey results seem to support this conclusion, as well. 46% of respondents said they would switch auditor service providers for a more efficient and less time-consuming process, and 23% would be willing to transition to an auditor that has technology capable of streamlining the audit process.

Key Takeaways

With more than 70% of organizations citing tedious evidence collection and limited staff as their top challenges, audits are increasingly reactive.  Organizations conducting these reactive audits in which they are rushing and stressing to gather evidence and organize themselves before an auditor comes onto the scene, has been a common thread across our 2021 Compliance Benchmark Report key findings.

To overcome this reactive behavior, organizations must develop a plan to proactively manage audits as a business-critical initiative. This includes implementing as much centralization, standardization, and consolidation as possible. Doing so will ultimately help eliminate potentially costly oversights and free up more employee hours to pursue other revenue-generating business endeavors.

If you’re looking for a strategic compliance partner that can address every step of your audit, from readiness to report, A-LIGN is here to help.  Our experts will guide you through your assessment across the scope of each major framework while helping you get the most out of the resources at your disposal.

Download the 2021 A-LIGN Compliance Benchmark Report

Ready to refine your compliance program?
Contact an A-LIGN Expert Today