Just-in-time audits

A typical management technique in the audit department is for the audit manager to lock in a schedule of audits to be conducted for the next 12 months. Doing so makes it easier to arrange staffing schedules, budget for department costs, and block out time with the local business unit managers.

A locked-in schedule can also be used as a performance measurement for the audit department, where its manager commits to complete a certain number of projects, and is then measured against that commitment. Completing all scheduled audits might even be a trigger for the payment of bonuses to auditors.

However, a rigid and long-term scheduling system leaves no scheduling space for rush audit requests. A rush request typically arises when there is a control breach or a need for advice regarding a systems change. These requests usually must be addressed in short order, which requires substantial last-minute changes to the department work schedule.

A mid-way measure that accommodates the need for rush projects is to block out a significant part of the full annual schedule well in advance, while deliberately leaving a number of time periods open. This approach allows the audit manager to accommodate a number of priority projects without an undue number of changes to the overall work schedule. The result is a company that has a good impression of the responsiveness of the internal audit department, as well as a work schedule that, by and large, does not require much shifting of priorities.