Accounting and CPA firms are more than familiar with the process of internal audits and reports and it’s likely you already conduct regular financial, compliance, and other types of audit work that involves some element of IT. However, you may not have the resources or internal expertise in-house to complete an IT audit process consistently and without taking time and labor away from your core business.
Depending on the scope of the audit, it may be more efficient and valuable to rely on a third-party IT services provider with experience evaluating companies in your industry to lead the charge. The end product and audit objective should be a final report with the IT audit’s findings and recommendations. A valuable IT audit report conveys a high-level understanding of your current IT infrastructure, risks, and technology use across your information systems and business operations.
Benefits of an IT Audit for Accounting Firms
A third-party IT audit can provide several benefits for accounting and CPA firms as they can help your business:
Uncover Hidden Risks in Your Accounting Firm’s Technology & Operations
Some IT risks are obvious, such as shared passwords and outdated hardware, but not all. When done right, an IT audit will uncover hidden risks across your organization. The audit findings allow you to prioritize and plan for remediating these risks based on the severity of the issue and its potential impact on your business. However, the audit is about more than risk mitigation. Your IT audit should uncover how you can leverage your technology tools to save money and make money by revealing where and how your employees can do more with less.
Understand What Technology Your Business Uses and How
You need to know what technology your employees are using and how. Without a complete view of the applications and systems that keep things running, it can be easy to overlook potential risks to your business security and operations. The IT audit should provide a breakdown of your IT environment and how your employees work within it.
Outline a Clear IT Strategy That Aligns with Your Accounting Firm’s Goals
If you’re in the middle of tax filing season, your IT team shouldn’t be burdening your staff with IT project initiatives, business downtime, or IT support delays. When your Chief Information Officer (CIO) works with your leadership team to outline an IT roadmap, they should have the industry and business knowledge to build a plan that navigates the ebbs and flows of your business.
Strategic planning will enable your organization to provide a consistent and positive customer experience for the clients you serve while improving your employees’ technology experience across the firm.
Ensure You’re Meeting Compliance Standards and Industry Regulations
Compliance and industry regulations are key to shaping your best-fit IT solution. These standards must be clearly outlined so your IT provider can ensure they are upheld consistently over time and across your entire IT environment. IT initiatives such as data governance and access controls should be centered around your compliance and IT security needs while balancing productivity and functionality.
Enhance IT Security and Protect Your Firm’s Business and Client Financial Data
Data integrity, application controls, risk assessments, and other significant findings can be used as evidence to determine where security holes exist within your organization. This information can help guide you on how to implement internal controls and technology tools for a strong IT security defense and clear expectations for management response and protocols if a security incident occurs.
What Does an IT Audit Look Like?
No, an IT audit is not a list of the technology you use. It should feel less like a list-making expedition, and more like a consultative conversation with someone who understands your business and its technology. A valuable IT audit will take a detailed, but clear approach to painting a clear picture of your current IT infrastructure, as well as when, where, why, and how you use this technology across your organization.
When complete, the audit program should highlight the immediate risks, compliance gaps, and cultural roadblocks that stem from your staff’s perception of IT. Using this information, your Chief Information Officer (CIO) can deliver a full, 12-24-month IT budget and roadmap. This plan should outline a step-by-step process for remediating critical issues and meeting your business goals. Your CIO’s technical expertise, combined with what they learned about your business, should allow them to outline what your ideal IT support solution should look like moving forward.
The executive interview is a key piece of the IT audit as it should facilitate a conversation between your company’s stakeholders and your IT outsourcing company’s executive team. The discussion should be business-centric and serve to help your IT team understand your organization’s unique needs, as well as what you expect IT to contribute to your business, and any industry or compliance standards your business is obligated to uphold.
The technical deep dive covers the physical elements of your IT environment. It should involve a hands-on discovery of the technology that makes up your IT infrastructure, systems, applications, and how the structure of your IT environment is positioned to meet your compliance and industry needs.
How Often Do Accounting Firms Need to Complete an IT Audit?
It’s best practice to complete a regular IT audit of your business. If it has been over a year since your last audit, or if any of the below situations apply to your business, you should work with a third-party to complete an IT audit for your accounting firm.
- Anticipating business growth
- Plans to upgrade or change technology
- There has been a leadership change
- Cybersecurity concerns
- Considering a cloud migration
As your business and your industry evolve, so does technology, how you use it, and the role you expect it to play in your organization. Regular IT audits highlight where your IT is aligned with your business goals, and where it is not. By revealing areas for improvement, your IT team can take proactive steps to maintain a healthy IT environment that supports your organization’s initiatives.
Why Should a Third Party Complete Your Accounting Firm’s IT Audit?
A third-party IT audit completed by a managed services provider is ideal. The right IT outsourcing provider will have the industry knowledge and experience necessary to guide your accounting firm in the right direction. Our team has experience helping firms like yours understand their technology, IT risks, and a strategic approach for delivering the best-fit IT support solution for your business.
We know what it takes to remain competitive in a highly regulated industry with heightened IT security and compliance risks. That is why we take a strategic approach to audit planning and how we provide IT support and consulting for the accounting and CPA firms we serve.
An IT audit is only a stepping stone to building a solid foundation for successful IT. At Aldridge, we structure our IT outsourcing and managed services offerings around the unique needs of your business.
What we learn during the IT audit process enables our team to do more than keep the lights on for your organization, and make proactive, best-fit technology recommendations that align with the direction of your business goals. Learn more about our IT audit services, or schedule time to speak with a member of the Aldridge team to get started with your IT audit today.