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The Value of Audits

If the word audit invokes fears of a dark room in front of an IRS auditor, then you’re in luck – that’s not what I’m going to discuss in this post. Instead I’m going to cover requirements audits and why you should do them. In fact, I’ll cover three major benefits of doing requirements audits. Now some of you – if you’re still reading – are groaning and saying “audits – just one other non-value added task to place on my already over-loaded plate.” Give me a chance to convince you that that’s not the case – read on.

Organizational Improvement
The first benefit of doing requirements audits is organizational improvement. Any improvement program/methodology (such as CMMI or TQM) has a measurement component. For example, in the CMMI framework, to get to maturity level 4, you need to quantitatively manage your processes. Conducting audits is a great way to measure how each of your teams/projects is doing against defined objectives. Then to get to maturity level 5, your organization needs to optimize processes – and again, results from audits can feed into that improvement process.

Deliverable Quality
Audits can be performed during logical points during a project, or after the project has ended. If you conduct audits during a project, then the results of that audit can positively impact the quality of requirements. This is similar to having peer reviews performed (see an earlier post on reviews here).

Staff Improvement
Last, but by no means least, audits are a tremendous opportunity for staff development. Most of us get annual performance appraisals, but how many of those appraisals contain significant and detailed information that we can really use to improve our performance? Not many that I’ve received. Audits are a great way for us to receive measurable and actionable feedback.

I’ve heard many reasons why people don’t do audits – “they are a waste of time”, “no one would pay any attention to them anyway, so why bother?”, “I don’t have time, I’m already too busy”, etc… Sometimes it just takes a couple of people to decide they want change for change to occur. Remember, the definition of stupidity is not doing something wrong. It’s doing the same thing wrong over and over again while expecting a different result. If you really want to impact your organization, then take some responsibility and try something different.

Hopefully I’ve peaked your interest and you want to perform an audit. In my next post, I’ll give you some ideas on how to plan for and run an audit.


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