You’ve successfully planned and executed your audit. Now, it’s time to communicate your findings to the client, board, or committee. Here are six quick tips for writing effective internal audit reports:
Know your audience. When crafting your audit report, it’s important to remember who the end user is. How much does the audience know about the audit and the processes involved? How do they plan on using the information in the report? Are your recommendations in line with their objectives? Playing to your audience is one of the best ways to reach them quickly and effectively.
Consider Tone. Think about how you feel after reading these statements:
“The manager failed to provide the proper documentation to verify compliance with the policy.”
“Documentation was unavailable to verify compliance with the policy.”
While these two statements convey the same information, the tone and connotation of each is different. Avoid using words with negative connotations, as they can come across as aggressive. Stay away from terms like failed or neglected. The more defensive and annoyed the reader feels, the less likely they are to receive the information within the report.
Keep it simple and specific. You don’t have to use big words to express big ideas. Keep language clear and concise without “dumbing down” the report. For example, instead of using timely, be specific. Use terms like daily, monthly or quarterly instead. Readers of audit reports are often busy, so keeping things clear and to the point will allow them to quickly understand ideas without laboring through a lengthy, overdetailed report.
Remember the basics. Proper spelling and grammar go a long way, and can ultimately be more persuasive when trying to get the report reader to consider your recommendations. While this may sound like common sense, simple errors still seem to creep into documents even with the use of spell check and proofreaders. Don’t forget to give your report a triple check for spelling and grammar.
Give and take. It’s common for auditors to be considered the “bearers of bad news.” While more often than not audit reports contain findings and recommendations based on things process owners are doing wrong, it is helpful to consider communicating things they’re doing right. A little “give-and-take” will help keep a positive tone and give an overall view of the area under audit. For example, instead of only communicating that the warehouse doesn’t have proper smoke detectors, consider phrasing your finding as:
“Company ABC has improved safety procedures by installing fire extinguishers at every sector of the warehouse. However, safety procedures need enhancement as smoke detectors were not found within the warehouse."
Visualize. People understand information in different ways. Consider utilizing charts and graphs within your report to deliver findings, recommendations and other information you want the reader to understand. Some readers may absorb information more efficiently using a visual vehicle, as opposed to a lengthy paragraph or standard bullet points.
Getting audiences to receive and truly reflect on the feedback offered in audit reports can be a challenge, but using these tips might get you one step closer to producing an effective report.
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Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.