When an accountant receives formal training in the auditing process, the topics covered address basic types of audits that are likely to be used in a variety of industries. Though useful, this training is not sufficient in cases where audits delve into areas that require highly specialized knowledge.
Specialized audits arise when a business process has been altered to match the requirements of a specific industry. Process customization happens to some extent in any industry. Thus, a generally-trained auditor might find that the billing process differs markedly when compared to what is used in the insurance industry, or the airline reservation business.
One option is for the auditor to obtain the necessary training in the specialized area to be audited, though this can require a considerable amount of time, and the auditor may not initially be overly efficient. A more efficient and effective alternative is to schedule specialists onto audits to deal with these areas. A specialist is particularly valuable if he or she has long experience with the area in question, or has designed or implemented similar systems.
The use of a specialist is especially recommended when the topic is not simply an audit, but also the delivery of recommendations for improvement. Since the specialist has deep knowledge of the subject area, any recommendations made may result in savings that greatly exceed the cost of the audit.
The specialist does not become a regular member of the audit team. Instead, the specialist is only used as needed, and is then returned to the business unit where he or she is normally employed.