Some auditors perform the same procedures year after year. These individuals know the drill. Their thought is: been there; done that.
Imagine a partner or an in-charge (i.e., project manager) with this attitude. He does little analysis and makes some costly stakeholder mistakes. As the audit team starts the audit, they encounter surprises:
- Changes in the client stakeholders – accounting personnel and management
- Changes in accounting systems and reporting
- Changes in business processes
- Changes in third-party vendors
- Changes in the client’s external stakeholders
Furthermore, imagine the team returning to your office after the initial work is done. The team has every intention of continuing the audit; however, some members are being pulled for urgent work on a different audit.
These changes create audit risks–both the risk that the team will issue an unmodified opinion when it’s not merited and the risk that engagement profit will diminish. Given these unanticipated factors, the audit will likely take longer and cost more than planned. And here’s another potential wrinkle: Powerful, influential stakeholders may insist on new deliverables late in the project.
So how can you mitigate these risks early in your audit?
Perform a stakeholder analysis.
“Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” – Brian Tracy
Who Has a Stake in the Game?
The Project Management Body of Knowledge defines a stakeholder as, “individuals, groups, or organizations who may affect, be affected by, or perceive themselves to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project.” Anyone impacted in a positive or negative way is a stakeholder.
Typical audit stakeholders include:
- CFO or comptroller
- Accounts payable clerk
- Payroll clerk
- Receivables clerk
- Audit engagement partner
- Audit team members
- Related party entities
- Grantor agencies or contributors
- Benefit plan administrators
The Four Killer Ingredients for Stakeholder Analysis
As you conduct your preliminary interviews and surveys, ask each person to help you identify individuals, groups, and organizations that may be impacted by the audit. Ask stakeholders you’ve worked with in previous years to let you know about changes in staff or other stakeholders.
Identify the stakeholders at different levels of the client’s organization. Analyze the following:
- Who will be impacted by the audit?
- What are their interests, including needs and expectations?
- What are their concerns, including limiting factors and constraints?
- What is their level of power and influence?
If there are few changes from the prior audit, the stakeholder analysis will take very little time. If there are significant changes, the analysis will provide information for better estimating the effort, duration, and budget for the audit.
The Most Powerful Time to Perform Stakeholder Analysis
Project managers should perform the initial stakeholder analysis early in the project. Project managers should also review and update the stakeholder analysis periodically.
In the Closing Process, review the Stakeholder Analysis. What did we miss? How might the stakeholders change for next year?
Are You Engaged?
Now that we have identified the stakeholders, we need to determine how we will engage the stakeholders throughout the project life cycle. This action plan should clearly communicate who you will engage, how you will engage them, and the purpose of the interactions. Particular attention should be given to the stakeholders who have high authority/power and high influence.
Reach Out to Your Stakeholders
Save yourself heartburn.
Invest a little time early in the audit and periodically thereafter to identify your stakeholders. Determine ahead of time how you will engage the high power/high influence stakeholders. These simple steps will improve the probability of meeting your client’s needs and completing the engagement on time and under budget.
Question: What are the most costly mistakes auditors make with stakeholders?
For information about project management and managing risks, check out my blog at ProjectRiskCoach.com.
I am the twin brother of Charles Hall, CPA-Scribo’s blogger. Here we are at University of Georgia football game.
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