control, and governance
How Do I … Conduct Effective Kickoff Meetings?
Internal auditors can sometimes overlook the importance of kickoff meetings to the overall audit process. Generally the first formal contact an audit team has with its audit client, kickoff meetings help auditors set the tone of an audit, develop rapport with the client, and get the project off to a successful start. Some audits may never fully recover from a poorly conducted kickoff meeting, so this aspect of the engagement should never be taken lightly.
AUDIT TEAM PREPARATION
Due to time constraints, or the perception that it is simply a check-off item in the planning workpapers, auditors may be tempted to limit planning for the kickoff meeting. However, the more audit teams can learn about the area in advance of the meeting, the better impression they are likely to make with the client. Some typical sources available to internal audit personnel for review include prior year audits and workpapers, intranet sites, U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 process documentation, compliance department reports, and contract files. Information about certain topics may also be available on the Internet.
While audit clients cannot be expected to prepare for the kickoff meeting with the same rigor as the audit team, some guidance should be provided to set clients’ expectations and help them prepare to the extent possible. Before the meeting, auditors should send clients a list of general information necessary to start planning the audit — with enough lead time for them to gather at least some of the listed materials in advance.
To ensure sufficient coverage of administrative topics necessary to proceed with audit planning, the agenda should be kept simple and exclude any extraneous items. Typical standing agenda items for kickoff meetings include:
A standard meeting agenda template can be developed for internal audit department use to ensure consistency.
CONDUCTING THE MEETING
To show respect for the client’s time, auditors should start the meeting promptly. To facilitate this, they should send electronic copies of meeting materials in advance and have extra copies on hand in case anyone forgets to bring them. Consider using overhead display equipment for presenting the meeting materials to conserve paper.
The meeting should begin with introductions of the audit team members and an explanation of their roles during the engagement. Likewise, audit clients should introduce themselves and explain their respective roles. Auditors should then proceed through each item on the agenda and stay on task.
Many audit clients still do not fully understand the true role of internal auditing within the organization. And auditors sometimes feel that they are bending over backward to accommodate the audit client with little reciprocation because of a perceived “value-gap” by the client. However, the kickoff meeting presents a unique opportunity to establish a tone of mutual partnership and respect and for the audit team to communicate assertively its own business objectives and value within the organization.
Adapted from "Effective Kickoff Meetings" by Rick Wright (Internal Auditor, "Back to Basics," April 2009).
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