An Interview with Agile In Audit co-director; Derek Davidson

Recently we had the chance for an interview with Derek Davidson, a PST and creator of the Agile in Audit Scrum Fundamentals course. This is a 2-day course that teaches Scrum for audit teams. Working in a series of Sprints, attendees collaboratively and interactively build an audit product. As well as learning the roles, events, artefacts, and rules of Scrum, common misunderstandings are addressed so delegates can apply Scrum more effectively. The AIA Scrum Fundamentals is a bespoke Scrum training course created specifically for auditors, with the learning content reflecting this focus.

Have a read through our interview with Derek to gain an understanding of what motivated Derek to apply Agile and Scrum in an audit environment and why this is so effective.

What inspired you to set up Agile in Audit?

Andy Spence and I worked with an audit department in a large UK bank and we were astonished at the progress that could be made, using an agile approach, in this industry. Andy also setup an Agile In Audit Meetup group and the take-up continues to be fantastic. We have visitors coming from all over the UK as well as continental Europe. With this pent-up demand, we believed we could help the industry to gain the many benefits of agile working so, we setup Agile In Audit.

Why would you apply agile to an audit?

We (Andy and I) see happier auditors, happier audit leaders and better audit outcomes. Some of our senior clients are motivated by shorter cycle times and improved estimating. But what is consistent is that, once you overcome the learning hurdle, audits benefit greatly from an agile approach and those benefits reach all levels of personnel in an audit function.

What are the common challenges you are seeing with audits and agile?

Initially, we’re faced with healthy skepticism but then, very quickly, we’re asked to help speed the uptake of agility. We’ve gone from ‘That won’t work here’ to ‘Why aren’t we doing this already?’ in one week! Admittedly, that’s unusually fast, but the outcome is consistent. Once the benefits are experienced, there’s real traction to apply agile ways of working.

What are the risks of working in an agile way during an internal audit?

Reversion to old ways of working when things get hard. This is not unique to auditing, of course. This is a human condition. But we have noted perceived risks which, in our experience, have not materialised. Examples such as:

i) Concern that agility means eschewing professional working practices
ii) Ignoring quality in pursuit of speed
iii) Ignoring methodology because ‘we’re agile’ to name but a few.  Applying agility means none of those things.

If you are using a framework like Scrum what impact does an audit have?

As we like to say:

“Adapt your work to scrum. Don’t adapt scrum to your work”

This is a common trap but again, not unique to audit. To benefit from scrum, we must apply scrum as described in the scrum guide. But we’re not pedantic about it. We realise that adopting a whole new way of working is hard and we’ll face impediments. As long as the intent is to get to scrum, we help audit teams on that path.

How can somebody who is using (or about to use) Scrum in an audit learn how to apply scrum more effectively?

Scrum itself is easy and anyone can learn it from the scrum guide. Anyone can learn scrum ‘on the job’. Learning scrum isn’t hard but the successful application of it benefits from a good education and good coaching. We usually advise that everyone start by taking our Agile In Audit Scrum Fundamentals course because

i) It gives you a firm educational foundation
ii) It catapults your adoption well into the future (vs. learning yourself and falling into the myriad pitfalls)
iii) We all know what we can expect of ourselves and each other when it comes to scrum.

What has the response been like from the agile community?

Quiet. Though, in part at least, that may be because we haven’t made any effort in that direction. Instead, we’ve focused on the potential market. We think we’ve identified a niche and we wanted to explore that. For those in the agile community that have found us, it seems to strike a chord as we’ve had a number of requests from fellow agilists to collaborate. We’re flattered but we’re also clear that we must keep our focus on the audit community so we better serve them.

The response from the auditing sector has been astonishing! The uptake is phenomenal. So far, we’ve been asked to work with two of the UK’s largest banks and we’ve been approached by European, American and Canadian banks. Although we started in the financial sector, we’ve quickly expanded and we’re now getting enquiries from the UK Government and Insurance sectors as well. 

Where do you go from here? What are you plans for Agile In Audit?

Inspect and adapt. I’ve heard that somewhere before … 🙂

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