Know the business
Computer programs and audit standards have become the sole measure of performance and auditors have lost sight of the main purpose of auditing, which is to know your client and the business, listen and communicate properly with client and team, test information obtained, and give an opinion. Auditors are notorious for hiding behind their laptops and not being passionate about knowing their clients and the industries they are in.
Most serious audit failures, in my opinion, are not due to the non-compliance of a standard. Yes one will definitely find a standard that was not complied with, but the root cause is team members not knowing the clients, their business, what makes them tick, what can go wrong, and what is not recorded in the financial statements.
It is very common to see an audit being approached the exact same way for years on end, with no reference to what was done to find out more about what has changed in the year, systems that have been implemented, changes in products, etc. I have changed audit approaches for clients from laborious, energy sapping, substantive approaches, to simple, system based, and practical approaches, knowing exactly where the business is prone to errors, and where the client actually also benefits from the audit relationship.
Auditors will be well served to put their client’s business hat on, and think how they make a profit, and how they implement systems to achieve that. With that will come a sense of the client’s integrity, and natural scepticism, which are requirements of our code and standards, but impossible to apply from behind a computer screen.