Let the Right Amount of Old Audit In

I’m not really a big vampire guy. Bela Lugosi set the standard, some other incarnations have been fine, but I don’t rush to the bookstore or Cineplex for the latest blood bath. Like so many other fads, it is a note that has been played so often it becomes an alarm warning that your brain is about to go stagnant. But I heard good things about the movie Let the Right One In (the original Swedish version, not the American remake Let Me In — haven’t seen that one yet, but it is in the Netflix cue) and was pleasantly surprised. And that is why I am now reading the original novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

The book is not the movie, nor vice-versa — and that is as it should be. Because, unlike the poor adaptations that so often plague movie screens, this movie has taken the book and made it fit what a movie should be. Parts of the book would work in a movie; parts would not. The resulting movie takes what will work and turns it into an experience different than the book. The book is disturbing on very different levels than the movie. The movie is successful for different reasons than the book. Yet, the movie is true to the material.

But, let’s face it, the number of successful translations of book to film is incredibly small. That is because one of two things happens; either the director tries to be too faithful to the original material (rare, but it occurs) or the director goes too far afield (much more common). Too faithful? Think about the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. That was not a movie that needed to be remade in the first place. And, no movie needs to be copied exactly. Too much freedom? Think of I Robot. Originally, a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov about the development and problems of robots in society; made into a movie that was nothing more than a special-effects laden vehicle developed as a showpiece for Will Smith. (For the naysayers out there who might think the original source material was unfilmable, there was at least one script floating around that worked.)

The point is, if you are going to do something that has been done before, you need to bring something new to the table, but not so much that you lose the original vision.

Many years ago most audit departments lived by the “cycle of audits” concept. For the young out there, this was the idea that an audit department would identify a set of audits to be completed every two-three years — same area to review, same audit program, same tests. In planning for the next year, the audit department would keep their eyes open for new audits, but it would take an act of Audit Committee to deviate from that schedule.

Those days are now behind most of us. (I know of exceptions. If your department is still living and dying by this concept, you may want to look around.) I see most shops operating with a more tabula rasa approach — annual risk assessments, rolling audit plans, a focus on governance and assurance providers — all intended to ensure we see the emerging issues where we can provide the greatest value. 

Here’s my concern. Are we throwing the audit programs out with bath water? In our focus on the new and exciting, are we ignoring the old stuff/good stuff we used to do? It isn’t sexy. We’ve done it before. That was yesterday’s news. But that cycle of audits existed for a reason; at some point someone made the determination that these were important areas for the company — important enough that internal audit should be involved.

And so I would suggest, if you’ve completely thrown out that old audit procedure manual containing that list of audits, go back and revisit it. You may have thrown out historical concepts that will make a difference in what you do.

You see, those audits are source material. In completing the cycle of audits, we were doing shot-for-shot remakes of Psycho — adding nothing and just paying homage to an audit plan that had lost its relevance. But, if we go too far afield, we might wind up with Will Smith jumping around on flying audit reports that are pretty and sparkly, but have no substance. Go back, see what the risks were in the past, and see if it isn’t worth taking that source material and making it your own (without losing what made it so good in the first place.)


Posted on May 6, 2011 by Mike Jacka

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