When it comes to auditing and fraud detection, spreadsheets are one of the most popular tools because they are both familiar and convenient. Most spreadsheet applications, however, aren’t designed to handle large data sets, automate analysis or import data from a variety of sources – all functionalities that auditors and other financial professionals often need.
Professional-grade data analytics tools offer these core capabilities and more to help make audits more effective and efficient. Here are five reasons you should be using a professional-grade data analytics tool, such as CaseWare IDEA® Data Analysis software, rather than standard spreadsheets:
Although spreadsheets are frequently used to gather data from multiple sources, that data doesn’t always come together seamlessly. Cleaning up these large data sets can be time consuming and tedious, not to mention that it’s easy for errors to be introduced into the data during the clean-up process. With the limited import abilities spreadsheets offer, processing times are also often very slow.
IDEA allows you to quickly and seamlessly import almost any of your data from and into a variety of formats. These include text files (flat files generated from ERP systems), PDFs, MS Access or Excel, SAP, Oracle, SQL and others. No data cleanup is required because all imported files are read-only and IDEA recognizes various field types instantly.
“With IDEA’s ability to import many different types of data formats with large data files (several tens of millions of records) and user-friendly predefined functions for data analysis and evaluation, it ha become our essential work tool.” ~ RNDr. Maya Maškovб, Manager of Internal Audit and Control Department, Allianz Pojišovna
When using spreadsheets, it’s easy to alter data values accidentally or intentionally. Errors in formulas can also make your analysis logic prone to mistakes. Finally, because spreadsheets are emailed and shared with other users, there are risks associated with the retention and reliability of information, such as conflicting copies, duplicates or edits.
Data analysis software protects source data and allows only read-only access, ensuring all data is reliable. IDEA also creates an audit trail that records all changes and operations carried out on a database, including file and format imports, types of analysis performed, and results created. This information resides within the file properties and can’t be changed, so you can have greater assurance in your results.
Testing within spreadsheets can be time-consuming and complicated as users often need to program intricate macros or multiple pivot tables.
You can easily perform tests within IDEA by simply selecting a task such as duplicate or gap detection, join, stratify or Benford’s Law. The ribbon-type interface lets you view your results quickly.
Another benefit unique to IDEA is SmartAnalyzer, a framework that helps IDEA users navigate the data analysis process from start to finish. It includes a number of predefined routine tests accessible through a convenient ribbon entry point. Its Financial set of routines include General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Inventory Analysis, and Fixed Assets. The Segregation of Duties set of routines can be used to detect security issues in
SAP implementations. SmartAnalyzer helps auditors perform more comprehensive audits in significantly less time: 11 minutes compared with 61 minutes using Excel.
It’s hard to repeat your analysis consistently when using spreadsheets. While routine analyses can be built in spreadsheets, you likely need to have extensive programming knowledge.
Professional data analytics tools simplify task automation, saving you time and effort, and standardizing audit processes. IDEA’s Visual Script feature can also be used to repeat standard analysis processes and build continuous monitoring applications. In addition, you can produce consistent results using IDEAScript – an advanced scripting language – to standardize routine analyses and basic procedures.
IDEAScripts can also address complex processes that you repeat periodically (for example, import and normalization of data from different sources to prepare for comparison). Supported IDEA users can access prewritten IDEAScripts as well as many other data analysis resources.
“Being able to accomplish a task while everyone else says it is impossible to do is priceless. I am able to do this using IDEA and present results within minutes.” ~ Sabri Keskin, CIA CFE, CCSA, Manager, Internal Audit, American Water
Professional analytics tools speak the language of audit, and guidance is always available if you need help using any of IDEA’s features or functions. The IDEA Help Desk is one of the greatest benefits of IDEA; with just a call or email, CaseWare Analytics Support will provide you step-by-step assistance when you need it.
IDEA is designed solely with the data analyst in mind, from auditors and accountants to compliance analysts and others. CaseWare IDEA comes fully loaded with a wide range of help features, tutorials and reminders. The CaseWare IDEA Support Site is another great resource where supported users can access instructional videos, @functions, IDEAScripts and much more.
Spreadsheets are simply not equipped with many of the core capabilities that auditors require to audit effectively.
If you’re looking for a secure, extensive and efficient way to audit, CaseWare IDEA software is the professional data analysis tool for you. With more than 400,000 users in 90 countries, CaseWare IDEA technologies are built upon the foundation of best practices in assessing risk and controls, enabling audit and finance professionals to use real data insights to create remarkable ROI and business improvement opportunities.