Audit is essentially a project. It has a purpose, a time frame, and resources are allocated for its implementation. The project should be skillfully managed so that its result meets the client’s expectations. Project management trendy term is actively used in the work of IT companies, creative and web agencies, international corporations and even government institutions. What is project management, and could its methodologies be used in audit firms work?

What unites a project manager and an audit head

Task

The tasks that the audit firms perform for their clients are nothing more than a project. They provide for the execution of certain procedures within a specified period of time and provide the client with an independent audit report or other document on the work done – the finished product.

Roles

If in the classical project teams, projects are managed by project managers, then in audit firms such a role is performed by the head of audit or another task. For example, he/she manages a company audit as well as a project manager. In particular, he/she develops a plan of an audit, assigns tasks to the auditors – members of the audit team, monitors their implementation, solves problem issues with the client and within the working group, and eventually provides the work results to the client, conducting the audit to the end.

Working process understanding

The project manager work is quite complicated. He/she must understand well the specifics of the project. Without a deep knowledge of the peculiarities of the work, the project manager will not be able to perform his/her functions, plan the work correctly, determine its duration and evaluate the quality of the tasks performed by the project implementers. The same can be said about the audit head. Typically, such functions are performed by the most experienced auditors who are well-versed in the audit methodology, the practical application of International Standards on Auditing and Audit Procedures.

Communication skills and thinking scale

The project manager should have well-developed communication skills. During the project, he/she has to communicate with different people. Everyone needs to be able to bring information so that it is understandable.

Such specialists should have well developed analytical, critical and abstract thinking to accomplish the diverse tasks at the same time. In addition, he/she should learn to think globally to understand the situation inside and out. The same qualities are required from the auditors. The main business areas of the audit head are to clearly plan work without losing any important detail, competently appoint responsible ones for different fronts of works, check the quality of work performed and plan time. In addition, he/she has to solve problem issues and even conflict situations with the team and management of the audit firm, as well as with the client.

Management complexity

The main difficulty of the project manager’s work is that he/she has to manage people who are not de jure subordinate to him/her. For example, there are the so-called project offices in large banks, where project managers work. Project offices have their own management structure. The executors of the projects are employees of individual departments and departments of the bank, which have their own service hierarchy.

Today, working teams consist of auditors as well as they include tax advisers, financial analysts, and accountants, and lawyers. All of them are not subject to the auditor head but are transferred to his/her disposal at the audit time. Therefore, both the audit head and the project manager have similar issues.

Do auditors need PM?

Does the audit firm need a project manager (PM) in pure form? Can his/her knowledge and skills help to carry out the projects, earn more money, and get rid of client complaints and overdue tasks once and for all?

Neither the project manager him/herself nor the methodology of his/her work are capable of creating a miracle. The specifics of the activities of audit firms enable to selectively use best practices in project management and to develop project management skills of managers in certain areas of service provision.

Special courses, seminars and trainings can be useful. There is a lot of high-quality professional literature. In addition, owners and managers of audit firms should remember that the number of projects cannot exceed the number of their performers. The shortage of personnel can adversely affect on the project quality.

Some projects, and especially complex, large and branched, require project managers who can organize the work of a large number of people, control its quality, break down large and fuzzy tasks into a number of small and clear, monitor the compliance with the terms of the project, solve problem issues, keep all the necessary documentation on the project and eventually complete it. Today it is impossible to meet the requirements of the client that are constantly growing without such specialists.

Business in Ukraine becomes increasingly demanding in the work of audit firms. In order to meet the expectations of the client, it is not enough to know only the profession part. Knowledge of related and sometimes non-related branches is required. This is especially true for owners and managers of audit firms. That’s why we have to look for a variety of solutions – from automation of business processes to the application of the principles of project management in their activities. Now the client requires quality services carried out by experts without undue delay. The staff of the audit firm must be professionally head and shoulders above the client. This is the only way to stay in a highly competitive market, and to become its leader if to make greater efforts.