A Hard Look in the Mirror – [the Independent Auditor’s Paradox]
I am a big believer in setting goals, both short-term and long-term. This provides a structured strategy and defines the low-level tactics required to meet objectives. Once these goals are established, I have laser focus and, at times, have blinders on. This focus and drive has been primarily a blessing, but sometimes I lose perspective.
Our business, proServices, has been an independent “auditor” of software for over a decade, and we are a DCG partner. I have always recognized how uncomfortable this process makes our customers feel because, for the first time, we are providing transparency into the software risks across their organization, so what was once hidden is no longer. This can be very intimidating and make some folks feel exposed and compromised.
The Auditor Becomes the Audited
I had a similar experience recently, when our company was audited. During our initial meeting with our auditors something felt different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was almost a surreal experience. First there was a risk assessment, with the auditor asking all types of questions about our documentation and process, etc. Then the auditor asked if we could package up the artifacts under audit cleanly and if we had control of them for completeness and accuracy. They then explained their audit process and the concepts of transparency.
It wasn’t until the day after our initial meeting when it hit me. Quoting Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, “Zoinks!” I just had the experience my customers have when they first meet with us! It may not sound like a very profound moment but it was. We at proServices have been “heads down” with laser focus for a long time, trying to change the software world from art to engineering, but I never had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the table as the audited, not the auditor.
Finding the Humor
As I watched the auditors pour through our artifacts, I found myself saying, “I’m glad I don’t have to do that; it looks so boring and tedious!” If I had a nickel for every time one of our customers made that same comment to us, I would be retired. It also made me laugh because at the end of the meeting, the auditor explained how by going through this revealing process my business would be better off – and I couldn’t disagree with her because I’m in the same business! Oh, the moral dilemma!
Practicing What You Preach
Everyone has a job to do and we all believe that job is in some way going to make the world we live in a better place. Auditors are people too and although the process we are going through is uncomfortable, it’s necessary. In the end, it will help move us forward by learning from any mistakes uncovered or by confirming that we’re doing everything correctly.
I’m learning a lot sitting on the other side of the table, including humility. However, looking back over the past decade I have no regrets. We have treated our customers fairly and worked hard to communicate that we are there to help, not destroy or embarrass. I believe we have been successful in this by the amount of repeat business our customers give us, which is a tremendous vote of confidence.
What I respect most about auditors is their objectivity in not being emotionally tied to the data or results. They only seek to understand the truth, no matter how good or ugly it is. Lastly, I very much respect their disposition, having walked more than a mile in their shoes. I know that as an auditor you’re, at times, the least favorite person in the room, and it’s tough to build relationships if the other parties are afraid to embrace the truth and put aside egos and politics to do what’s right.
So, there you have it. Now that I’ve been on both sides of the table, I feel like I have a better understanding of our customers. Of course, for me, it also solidified the value of an audit. If your company would benefit from a software audit, I’m happy to help – I’ve been there too.
PSC Vice President, DCG Sales