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Second Quarter 2007 • Vol. 11 • No. 2

Pitfalls1 of the CSA Process and How to Avoid Them
Cindy Douglass, CCSA, Internal Audit Director Joel Hammer, Internal Audit Director Albertsons, Inc. Boise, Idaho THE CONTROL SELF-ASSESSMENT (CSA) audit process has been used by many organizations, some more successfully than others. Internal auditors who have tried it with good resultsacknowledge that being aware of best practice techniques and common pitfalls can improve their process. Keeping in mind that not every CSA facilitation encounters the same types of problems and not every issue can be anticipated, with the right planning, flexibility, and experience, problems don't have to be showstoppers. Albertsons' CSA process — known as process control assessments — starts with anunderstanding of the most common problems associated with a self-assessment audit, which we've dubbed PITFALL: P: Poor planning. I: Inappropriate facilitator. T: Too many participants. F: Focus that is too narrow. A: Audit versus management ownership. L: Lack of flexibility. L: Limited management support. Poor Planning The key to the success of any endeavor is adequate preparation, includinganticipating problems so they can be dealt with greater ease. CSA is not a simple process, and devoting insufficient time and resources to planning can result in problems. Defining specific objectives is just as important. Taking on too much at the beginning of the CSA process can lead to overly aggressive goals that ends with a complicated, oversized project. It is important to meet with management tolearn the business unit's overall objectives to be able to define the CSA objective. Once the objectives are set, it is essential to select the right CSA process, such as surveys, interviews, or workshops. The facilitator has to do his or her homework to understand the operations, department structure, and level of management oversight. For example, when
PITFALL: Possible danger; something that itis easy to make a mistake about. P: Poor planning. I: Inappropriate facilitator. T: Too many participants. F: Focus that is too narrow. A: Audit versus management ownership. L: Lack of flexibility. L: Limited management support. 1


Pitfalls performing a CSA of Albertsons' promotional planning process, the auditors met with the project manager and primary stakeholders to identify thebusiness needs of the unit, determine the objectives, and document the operational process. The group then discussed the various CSA techniques and decided which CSA process would work best for this type of assessment. The result was a one-day workshop that would include more than 20 participants. When planning a CSA workshop, time, location, and tools are important factors to consider. Althoughscheduling a workshop for an accounting function during the month-end closing process is obviously a conflict, the facilitator should always obtain input from management regarding other potential or less obvious conflicts. In addition, setting the right amount of time for the workshop, as well as the entire CSA process will provide credibility in the measure of success. Experience at Albertsons hasshown that if multiple functions are to be represented, it is best to schedule a longer workshop — in one case, a two-day workshop was held — to ensure the information can be compiled without requiring follow up with multiple locations and functions. The CSA workshop location should encourage active participation and allow participants enough space to see all visual aids as well as give themsufficient elbowroom. Choosing a location where there will be minimal distractions — off-site is ideal — is also important. Setting the ground rules for use of cell phones, laptops, and other distractions can help minimize interruptions. The participants in a CSA workshop are as important as the content. Knowing who they are and their role and interaction with each other is essential to staying focused...
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