2006 Buyers Guide to Audit, Anti-Fraud and Assurance Software.
By Dean Brooks, Mort Goldman, and Richard Lanza
Published by AuditSoftware.Net; ISBN: 0-9731812-9-X; $180
Accounting software has become commonplace, yet many buyers lack the proper resources, time, or skill sets to properly work their way through the process of selecting and purchasing the right software. This guide provides fairly solid advice in navigating through this process, while recognizing that there is no cookie-cutter approach.
The guide was assembled from a variety of sources. It is, for the most part, on point, although at times its advice is somewhat generic. Unfortunately, this is an inherent limitation when writing such a guide. The authors do not attempt to answer all questions from all sources; instead they offer fundamental advice on researching and implementing the appropriate tools for each buyer's needs.
The guide itself is a tough read, with numerous typos, inconsistencies in writing styles, and some editing issues that distract the reader from the content. It took me several chapters to focus strictly on the information presented.
The book has four sections: Buying Audit Software; Product Functionality; Vendor Selection; and Vendors.
Buying Audit Software contains several very useful chapters; the other chapters provide background regarding the guide.
The "Top Trends in Audit and Assurance Software" chapter offers basic advice on the current trends within the industry. "Top 10 Implementation Practices," followed by a supplemental article titled "What Holds Back Implementing Audit, Anti-Fraud and Assurance Software and How to Fix It," has very solid and logical advice. The list only gets to the core of the implementation process, and effectively makes the point that cost is not the only, or the main, issue.
The "Audit, Anti-Fraud and Assurance Processes" chapter breaks down the flow of information through these processes. It contains an excellent chart explaining what types of tools, testing, and monitoring are needed.
"Data Analysis: An Effective Data Analysis Methodology" provides an eight-step methodology. As the author states, "although any methodology is never perfect or complete, this methodology will provide a basis for beginning your own data journey."
The "Product Features and Pricing" chapter was disappointing. Determining the true cost of a software implementation is far from an exact science. However, the costing attempt in this chapter was too general to be truly useful.
Product Functionality is excellent. Each chapter is well written and offers solid, although at times generic, information. These chapters follow the same pattern. First, they discuss the central issues and processes. They then explain types of software that could be associated with that topic. Finally, they offer advice as to which features and functions to look for in that kind of software.
The chapters in this section are "Risks, Control Testing and Control Remediation Management"; "Continuous Controls Monitoring, Transaction Analysis, Financial Statement Analysis and Data Mining Products"; "Audit Work Collaboration and Management/Fraud Case Management"; "Employee Reporting/Control Self Assessment"; and "Research and Benchmarking Tools."
Unfortunately, the book does not include a chapter-by-chapter summary of products. Instead, the author attempts to do this in the chapter "Ways to Get Started with Audit Software Functionality Quickly and Inexpensively." By placing this information at the end of the section, this topic loses its impact.
Vendor Selection has three chapters: "Vendor Selection: A Brief Guide" "Sourcing the Solution," and "Step-by-Step Plan for Vendor Negotiation." The first two could be summarized by some very broad statements. They are: Do your homework, don't rush your decisions, and pick your vendor wisely. Regardless, these chapters are worth reading.
"Step-by-Step Plan for Vendor Negotiation," is a must-read that will help buyers maintain perspective in the negotiation process. It summarizes the steps and workflows for easy reference and includes a sample project plan.
Vendors gives brief profiles of vendors that offer credible products covering topics in the guide. Although the list is very good, the authors acknowledge that it is not necessarily comprehensive. It will, however, serve as an excellent starting point for vendor selection.
The list contains more than 140 vendors. Each vendor is listed on its own page, containing a brief profile as well as a listing of products offered by the vendor. I found these to be very useful.
Although not light reading, the 2006 Buyers Guide to Audit, Anti-Fraud and Assurance Software offers valuable insight for software buyers and those companies implementing audit, fraud, and assurance products. For those who need help in getting started with this process, this guide is certainly worth reading.
Stephen F. Ryan III, MBA, CPA, CITP, is an independent consultant based in the New York City area.
Reviewed by Stephen F. Ryan III