One of the things that we talk about often in this blog are audit tools. We look into why credit unions use them, what benefits they confer, and what kind of utility they provide.

Sometimes, we even talk about what audit software for credit unions looks like. We haven’t provided any sort of textbook definitions, but we’ve certainly outlined a few features to look for.

 

However, because we haven’t provided any concrete definitions, some credit unions have asked us about which applications we’d include in our definitions. So, are office productivity suites included? Or, do Microsoft’s Excel, SharePoint, or Outlook count as audit tools?

The Short Answer: Yes, They Are Audit Tools

There’s a short answer and a long answer. So, if you’re feeling particularly pressed for time—and if you hate nuance or grey areas—then let’s start with the short answer first:

Yes, Excel, SharePoint, and Outlook are audit tools. If they’re used to complete audits, then they certainly count as audit tools.

Then again, a rock is sometimes a building tool. Missing a hammer? Use a rock! Yes, it’s a tool, but is it a good tool? Is it the most effective tool? Is the tool working as well as intended?

So yes, generic office productivity software definitely counts as audit tools. If they work for the job at hand, then they fit the definition. In fact, many credit unions have used Excel to manage their audits for many years without any major issues. It’s software they already have and know how to use, and it’s flexible to boot; the advantage of using office productivity tools is that you don’t have to buy anything new and you don’t need to train much to use it.

But if you’d like to see the longer answer, keep reading!

The Long Answer: No, They’re Not Audit Tools—Not Really

The same way you can use a rock as a building tool, you can also use spreadsheets as an audit tool. Does that mean you should call a rock a hammer? Ehh, probably not without an obvious wink. The same goes for office productivity suites for audits. They’ll work for the task at hand, but that’s not really what they’re designed to do.

Consequently, Excel, SharePoint, and the others aren’t particularly effective as audit tools.

Software that’s specifically designed for audit programs is much more rigorous in its approach. Credit union audit automation software assists audit teams in ensuring that actions occur consistently, that they occur on time, and that they occur the way they’re supposed to.

To get similar functionality from office productivity tools, you’ll need to do some work. Getting consistent audit-specific usage from generic tools means someone has to build in those abilities, which takes time and doesn’t guarantee results. Plus, the native capabilities of audit automation software will surpass those of other solutions.

Another knock against Excel, email, and other tools is that they’re not contained in one application. Coordinating an audit across several different types of software introduces a lot of risk into the equation. Not only is version control harder, but moving data back and forth between applications introduces a lot of pain points for audit teams.

The Best Solution

Ultimately, you can call Microsoft’s Excel, Outlook, and SharePoint audit tools if you’d really like to. If that’s the purpose they’re serving, then they’ve earned the name.

However, their limitations are significant compared to actual audit tools. Solutions like credit union audit automation software are easier to use, but also more rigorous and consistent. To truly understand why the difference between “audit tools” and audit tools are significant—like the different between a rock and a hammer—you might want to see how one credit union achieved 25% faster audit completion times by ditching Excel.

If you’d like to read more about how you can improve you credit union’s audit efficiency, subscribe to our blog! Or, if you’d like to get a head start on your next credit union audit or exam, check out our credit union audit checklist here.

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