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Here Be Dragons: An Auditor’s Guide to Where They Lurk and How to Evade Them



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According to ancient myth, “Here Be Dragons” was marked on maps identifying uncharted waters where mariners needed to take caution. In quality jargon, this was considered a high-risk area, where seafarers needed to develop plans to mitigate undesirable outcomes.

These mariners shared a common mission; search for new lands to trade with or colonize, then return to their homeland with their findings. These lands were often only rumoured to exist and mariners relied on their instincts to guide them. While the risks were high, the opportunities for the kingdoms were tremendous. But to get the kings or queens to act, the captain of the expedition had to not only identify a new land and return safely but also provide enough evidence to convince the monarch act on these findings.

Auditors, metaphorically speaking, face similar challenges with each audit assignment. The time has long past when it was enough to go through the audit process and produce a report which identified nonconformities. Clients now demand value for these audits. This means the reports now also must provide enough information to encourage top management to act. That information has to be backed up by evidence and written they it’s readily understood and accepted by its intended audience.

To achieve this the auditor has to navigate through areas which, perhaps not dragon infested, contain modern day risks. They need skills in diplomacy, communication, report writing and the ability to sense when the mood in the room changes. If you are just starting out an auditing career, a map could be useful.

The observations and subsequent findings in this presentation are based on my own experience. But after conducting more than 2,000 audits and being confronted — and occasionally devoured—by dragons, it hopefully will provide some guidelines on how to navigate through treacherous waters.

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