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Overcoming the ghosts of data analytics past

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We’ve all heard and read about how data analytics will be a big game changer for almost everything we do. For us “auditors” this is not necessarily a new idea or phenomenon. As early as the 1970’s (and in some circumstances even as far back as the Beatles era), auditors used data analytics to facilitate their engagements and help focus management attention on the key performance indicators needed to manage their business.

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It was not uncommon for business management to be in awe of the information produced and requested that auditors turn over their programs to management so that the business could incorporate them into their service delivery strategies. These data analytical techniques were commonly referred to as computer audit assisted techniques or CAAT tools.

Some organizations and their professionals used and significantly benefitted from these tools. Process efficiencies, higher quality data, better decision making and automated monitoring were examples of benefits obtained. Unfortunately, many did not take advantage or ignored the data-derived benefits of these early “data analytical” tools. Whether audit, security or risk management professional, we’ve been hearing promises for over 35 years of how data analytics would change our world. Yet for the most part we have we not realized the promised benefits.

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