Go from Unplanned Work to Planned Work with Integrated Auditing 2.0

Picture this... You're starting your work week off just as you do most other weeks. Your first meeting is your team's backlog refinement meeting, where you and your team review your product backlog. During this meeting, your team re-evaluates the priority of items in the backlog, removes irrelevant tasks from the backlog, and determines which items to tackle this week. Once everyone is aligned on the week's priorities, the meeting ends and everyone gets to work. You'll all reconnect daily through the rest of the week to keep everyone aligned and on track. You love working this way because it is clear to you and your team that what you're working on is important for your organization's success. You also appreciate the clarity this way of working brings with regard to your priorities for the week. Team morale and engagement are at an all-time high.

When you get back to your desk, you check you email inbox. Much to your surprise, an audit announcement is waiting for you. In the announcement, your auditors explain that they'll be auditing processes related to your product. The announcement also explains that the auditors will be scheduling meetings with you and your team this week and next week to gain an understanding of key processes as they plan the audit. The team hadn't planned to spend time with the auditors this week and didn't account for that when prioritizing work for the week. You know know important the auditors' work is to the organization, so you willingly accept the additional meetings over the next few days.

In the following Monday's backlog refinement meeting, you and your team try to account for the audit work you're anticipating, but you aren't certain what requests will be coming your way or when they'll arrive. Each of the next few weeks are much of the same--when you know about specific audit work, you prioritize it and plan for it during backlog refinement. But for the most part, requests come in through the week, making the audit tasks unplanned work for your team. Your team is clearly frustrated with the disruption caused by the unplanned audit work. When the audit concludes, you wonder how to turn audit work into planned work next time.

The solution is integrated auditing. I'm not talking about integrated auditing where financial, operational, technology, and compliance audits are all integrated into a single audit. I'm talking about integrating audit work into the audit client's daily work. This type of integrated auditing (Integrated Auditing 2.0) is one of the three core components of Auditing with Agility (the other two are value-driven auditing and adaptable auditing - explore these concepts in greater detail in Beyond Agile Auditing). There are a number of different practices you can use to integrate audit work into the audit client's daily work. Doing so yields outcomes, such as less unplanned work, fewer disruptions to the audit client's daily work, and increased speed and accuracy of responses to audit requests.

Now that I've captured your attention, let's explore how some integrated auditing practices could have helped in the scenario at the beginning of this post. In that scenario, the audit client struggled with the addition of unplanned audit work and requests coming in throughout the week. The desired outcomes here are fewer disruptions due to unplanned work, including unplanned meetings.

When the auditors scheduled meetings on an ad-hoc basis, the audit client had to make room in their schedule to accommodate those meetings in addition to the work they had already prioritized for the week. To reduce disruptions from ad-hoc meetings, the audit client could include their auditors in their daily stand-ups. This provides a regular, planned cadence for auditors to make requests, ask questions and discuss results with the client. And since the stand-ups occur daily, they are generally short--typically 15 minutes in length.

The auditors can also join the client's backlog refinement meetings each week. This way the audit work gets included into the clients prioritized work for the week, which further reduces unplanned work (and keeps everyone's workload balanced).

These are just two of many ways to integrate audit work with the audit client's daily work to achieve the desired outcome of fewer disruptions due to unplanned work. What other ways do you practice Integrated Auditing 2.0?