Overcoming the barriers to adopting data analytics

February 24, 2017

As the Chief Operating Officer for a company that develops data analysis software, I’m frequently approached by auditors who—though deeply interested in using a data analytics tool in their engagements—simply don’t know how where to start. Data analysis is nothing new. It’s been around for decades, after all, but given the intense hunger out there for data analysis skills and champions, it’s clear that it’s still not being used as widely as it should.

Leave old habits behind

So how do you get started? First, you need to let go of old habits. Most auditors understand the functionality of data analytics tools, but they struggle to actually use them. They often feel compelled to abide by an audit plan that doesn’t include the use of these tools. It’s a tough habit to break away from, particularly for external auditors who have a set number of hours to complete an engagement. Any time they spend trying to learn a tool like IDEA has to be made up somewhere, so there’s understandably a reluctance to do this. It’s also challenging because those working within accounting firms who should be designing new procedures aren’t necessarily comfortable doing this. There’s no doubt that changing an established audit plan is a daunting task, but you have to be willing to do it to ensure data analytics is included as a standard part of any audit.

Increase your knowledge

As much as you can, expand your data analytics knowledge. Read the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) magazine, browse the AuditNet website, attend a few webinars, talk to your peers, go to an IIA chapter meeting. This will help you see the benefits of data analytics, which will motivate you to adopt it. It will also help you gain a better understanding of your organization’s pain points that you can then use the tools to help overcome.

Get trained

Although some people don’t like to hear this, the most important thing you can do to get started with data analytics is to invest in training. Unfortunately these skills don’t just fall into our laps: we have to dedicate ourselves to learning them. It doesn’t have to be software training, of course, but it does have to involve integrating analytics into your audit procedures. You can then augment your training with other resources, such as IDEA user groups, YouTube videos, or blogs.

Ask for help

Beyond training, you can also seek out organizations that provide consulting services to get your company going with data analytics. CaseWare Analytics, for example, offers our software in a bundle of services: you can receive in-house training and then have one of our trainers spend time in your office to get you started, help you acquire the necessary data, and use IDEA to score some quick wins. These wins will also pique management’s interest, which will make them more likely to offer buy-in for a data analysis program.

Although many organizations face hurdles that discourage them from using data analytics, once you’ve followed these suggestions for getting started and have gained momentum, the challenges won’t seem as overwhelming. In the long run, the benefits of data analytics are incredibly valuable and worth investing our time and resources into learning.

To find out more about getting started with data analytics, watch our recent webinar, ‘Surefire ways to succeed with data analytics’.

About Bob Cuthbertson:

Bob Cuthbertson brings a wealth of accounting, auditing and technology experience to his role as Chief Operating Officer at CaseWare Analytics. Prior to starting the analytics division of CaseWare in 2000, initially as CaseWare IDEA Inc., Mr. Cuthbertson was Vice President, Professional Services, of The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA). Mr. Cuthbertson is also a CPA (Ontario) with a specialty in Information Technology (CITP), granted by AICPA, and holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Queen’s University School of Business.

Connect:  Bob Cuthbertson

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