Audit Training

We’re now living in a time when many auditing procedures will be performed remotely and auditors will become more reliant on technology than ever before. Firms and standards setters are working hard to set guidelines to ensure audit quality, but methodology changes alone won’t be enough to ensure firm success in this new environment.

To meet these challenges, auditors will have to exercise their own judgment to solve complex problems, evaluate risk, make evidence-based decisions and manage the engagement. A shortage of face-to-face meetings and Zoom fatigue will place a greater premium on communication skills.

The goal of this curriculum is to build the competencies auditors have always needed but will now come to depend on even more.

All courses can be tailored.

Project Management

Duration: 1 day
Delivery: Live seminar; facilitated distance learning

Designed for audit seniors, this course begins by linking project management to engagement profitability, and the senior’s ability to contribute directly to the firm’s financial success by taking ownership for completing their jobs on time. The group describes their project management frustrations, which paves the way to exploring practical solutions.

The course provides practical guidance for the blocking and tackling of project management. We introduce the participants to a proven approach to successful project management that touches on five interrelated elements: scope, quality, effort, risk and time.

Learning activities allow the participants to practice project management techniques under circumstances they are likely to encounter on their engagements.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify engagement management assumptions during audit planning and anticipate scope creep.
  • Identify and assess project management risks and develop a mitigation plan.
  • Quickly identify and evaluate unexpected project management issues and work quickly to resolve them.
  • Develop a preliminary work plan, identify its critical path, and address variances before the audit gets too far over budget.
  • Create a realistic budget
  • Effectively communicate project management matters to audit team members, the client, and other stakeholders.

Audit Simulation for In Charge Auditors

Duration: 2 days
Delivery: Live seminar

This fully immersive, two-day role play simulation builds the skills required to successfully supervise financial statement audits. Participant teams are tasked with planning and performing interim test work for a fictitious company, culminating in a presentation to the engagement partner. To achieve that goal they must work effectively with the client, juggle multiple responsibilities, supervise staff and manage unexpected developments.

With our help, firm managers coach the participants through the simulation, creating a unique learning opportunity for both staff and managers.

Learning Objectives

The overall learning goal for this course is to prepare auditors who have recently been promoted to assume their new responsibilities as in charge of the day-to-day management of audit engagements.

To accomplish this goal, participants in this course will learn to:

  • Gather information needed for planning decisions
    • Perform risk assessment procedures
    • Scheduling and staffing considerations
    • Project management considerations
  • Prepare and deliver presentations
  • Plan and perform audit procedures for high risk audit areas
  • Juggle multiple responsibilities and engagements
  • Supervise staff members
  • Communicate status to internal and client personnel

Advisory Skills for Auditors

Duration: 1 day
Delivery: Live seminar; facilitated distance learning

Big data, globalization, rapid changes in technology and regulation have been accelerating changes to business of all sizes across all industries. The global pandemic accelerated and amplified this need for change.

Accounting firms have always been uniquely qualified to help their clients navigate change, and they are now rapidly developing new service offerings to meet this shifting business environment.

Auditors have to obtain a deep understanding of their clients’ strategies, operations and information processing. The nature of auditing fosters a client relationship based on candor and trust that is different from a consulting relationship. For these reasons the audit team can serve as a bridge between client and other firm service lines.

This is not a course about cross selling. It’s a course that helps senior staff and managers better identify, understand and articulate client needs. The engaged participation in this course will enable the auditor to serve as the “tip of the spear” in the firm’s business development initiatives.

Learning Objectives

  • Apply an understanding of the client’s business strategies and problem solving process to lay the groundwork for a business partnering relationship.
  • Differentiate between 3 different types of advice and determine which would be most valuable in a given set of circumstances.
  • Use effective techniques for clarifying the root causes of problems
  • Develop foundational skills for effective business advisors, including:
    • Forming and asking probing questions that drive clarity
    • Use active listening skills to derive meaning
    • Apply critical thinking and problem definition skills to develop and present actionable advice that allows the client to make supportable business decisions.

Data Analytics for Auditors

Duration: 1 day
Delivery: Live seminar; facilitated distance learning

Data scientists solve business problems.

It is both art and science.  The science is in the application of various analytic techniques and the mastery of analytic tools.

The art is in defining a business problem and translating it into a problem that can be solved with data analytics.  It’s about working with the client to obtain the clean data you want in the format you need, and then creating an alternative plan when that data is not available.  Storytelling is an important skill for data scientists because stories are the most effective way to communicate meaning to an audience that is not technical.

This course introduces auditors to the art and science of data analytics. and allows them to develop fundamental skills necessary through all phases of the analytics lifecycle.  Through an extended case study, participants learn to answer important audit questions through data analytics.

Learning Objectives

  • Apply the definition of data analytics to audit engagement tasks (including engagement management) they currently face
  • Follow the analytics life cycle approach to address audit issues, including:
    • Define audit planning objectives and create an audit question to be solved through analysis
    • Leverage a basic understanding of the client and its industry to create a testable hypothesis
    • Model a data analysis solution to test the hypothesis using a selection of data mining techniques
    • Analyze the results and use the analysis to plan appropriate subsequent actions

Customized to Your Firm

Our case study and data set can be used in most data analysis and data mining platforms such as Tableau, IDEA, MindBridge, Analytics AI and other readily available tools.  Learning activities are customized to the specific tools used at your firm.

To schedule this workshop, the firm must have in-house data mining experts to  teach the use of its firm-specific data analytics tool.

Audit Leadership Series

Firm leaders know what skills their organization needs to be successful, and they have a good understanding of where the gap between the desired and current skill levels is widest. These leaders understand that to be truly effective, their managers must have more than just technical and interpersonal skills. Problem solving, decision making, analysis and project management all of this are vital to the organization.

Over the past three years, we’ve trained hundreds of accounting and finance professionals. Our training is different. We don’t lecture much. Instead, we present learners with challenging case studies and job situations, see where they struggle and then coach them through the challenge.

This teaching style has given us tremendous insight into the true challenges audit managers and supervisors face in applying these skills you depend on most in the future.

This series of short training courses are designed for firm leaders who want to innovate, deepen client relationships and be prepared for the future of auditing. It’s for those who understand that the key to success lies in manager and staff performance, and who are frustrated that their current professional development programs have come up short.

In these learning events, we will share with you what we’ve learned about the root cause issues that must be addressed for staff to:

  • Manage projects to a timely and successful conclusion
  • Understand and solve problems
  • Identify and assess client needs and how your firm may be uniquely positioned to meet them
  • Evaluate facts and assumptions to make evidence-based decisions
  • Communicate complex ideas clearly

These modules are designed to stand alone and be delivered individually or combined for a single day of training.

Decision Making in Times of Uncertainty

Duration: 2 hours
Delivery: Live seminar; facilitated distance learning; webcast

Professional services firms face a number of challenges in making sound business decisions. In times such as these—where the one thing we know about the future is that it won’t be like the past—the ability to make high quality decisions quickly will separate the firms that succeed in the post COVID-19 world from those that merely survive.

The course introduces firm leaders to a more structured, repeatable approach that can be taught to and reinforced in others. We’ll share what we’ve learned about what your supervisors truly struggle with when making decisions and offer suggestions for how firm leaders can improve evidence-based decision making practices across the entire firm.

Partnering with Clients begins with the Staff

Duration: 2 hours
Delivery: Live seminar; facilitated distance learning; webcast

For decades CPA firms have sought to build business partnering relationships with clients that allow the firm to deliver high value services. Relationships built on trust and value lead more often to referrals and cross-selling opportunities than transactional networking.

The PPP and other government responses to the economic depression caused by COVID-19 showed that CPA firms do indeed occupy an advantaged relationship with their clients. But how can firms leverage that relationship to grow their practice once the business world settles into a new normal?

Partners can’t build partnering relationships alone. The relationship built during the day-to-day delivery professional services is vital to identifying additional client needs and service opportunities and building trust with clients. This course explores the core elements of a trusted business advisor—trust—and what it means to add value through advice, regardless of general business environment. With this framework as a foundation, firm leaders can successfully coach managers and supervisors to play a more productive role in the business development process.

The Art of Analysis: How to Think Your Way Out of a Jam

Duration: 2 hours
Delivery: Live seminar; facilitated distance learning; webcast

CPA firm leaders often tell us that their professionals need to improve their “critical thinking skills,” but the term can mean different things to different people. Through our training courses we have worked for years to help audit staff improve critical thinking and the ways in which they can more productively analyze a set of facts. The general process and building blocks of critical thinking and analysis are known. This course applies this general process to the specific needs of accounting firms and some of the situations they are most likely to encounter.

Clarity is at the heart of insightful analysis and this course will provide practical advice on how to create clarity and communicate needed actions with others at critical points in the analysis process. Using a case study, the course examines ways in which firm partners can help managers and supervisors frame problems, evaluate information, identify assumptions and bias, construct logical conclusions, and assess the impact of proposed action.

The course concludes with ideas on how to institutionalize sound analysis in the firm’s service delivery methodologies.

Engagement Management:—the Quickest Way to Higher Realization

Duration: 2 hours
Delivery: Live seminar; facilitated distance learning; webcast

It is common for firms to report that engagements lose profitability when partners and managers are forced to finish the engagement after the staff has rolled off the job that should have been completed while they were still in the field. Finding ways to reduce the economic loss caused by “reverse leverage” are the single quickest way to improve realization across the firm.

“Our seniors are bad project managers,” is a common refrain, but improved engagement management is not just for seniors. Partners play a vital role in reinforcing the project management techniques that lead to improved economic performance. Although not directly involved in the day-to-day delivery of services, the ways in which partners communicate expectations, identify and manage risks that could derail timely completion and clear roadblocks will significantly impact the ability of seniors to do their job and prevent realization slippage.

In this course we’ll share what we’ve learned from hundreds of staff accountants about the true project management challenges they face and how firm leaders can best support them.


Call 303-249-7991 to discuss training goals and how MRA Learning helps finance teams with Audit Training or send us a message.