Category Archives: How to…

Create a Help Desk for Data

analytic metrics, numbersCompanies need to create a help desk for data, similar to the help desk they created for hardware, software, application, network, and user problems.

Can you imagine if companies didn’t have a computer help desk and each department had figure out their own computer issues? If each department had to find, load, configure, and troubleshoot their own hardware and software?

But isn’t that how most companies operate when it comes to data and data projects?

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Before You Analyze Data

Before you start analyzing data, you need to 1) know you have the right data, and 2) understand the data and the process that produced it.

This post assumes, of course, that you already accomplished some of the hardest tasks already: figuring out what data you need, where to get it, and actually getting the data. Good luck with that. :)

This post is part of the Excel: Basic Data Analytic series.

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How to Profile Data

Before you analyze data, you should profile it.

Otherwise, your analysis may not be too broad, too narrow, or you may miss some important insights or errors.

This post is part of the Excel: Basic Data Analytic series.

Data profiling is developing a profile of your data, just as facial profiles of a person, taken from various angles, helps you size up a person’s nose, identify whether his chin is sagging, and how far apart the person’s eyes are.

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Quote of the Weak – Clean Data Manually

clean data manuallyIf you are in IT, audit, or security (or any other job requiring data analysis), you should NOT be cleaning data manually.

Let me share a recent experience with you….

A young IT auditor texted me at work and asked for some Active Directory user account data that I capture automatically every week, using some scheduled ACL scripts.

If you’re not familiar with my ‘Quote of the Weak’ series, I described it briefly in About. For a list of posts in this series, see here.

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ACL Tip: Be Careful when Renaming Tables

acl table leggy




When you need to rename ACL tables, be careful to also rename the associated .fil file also.

Otherwise, you (or your ACL script) might get confused. You might delete the wrong table or .fil file, and create a head-scratching problem.

I know because I confused myself.

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Steal from Agile to Increase Audit Analytics

agile analyticsTo increase the amount and depth of the analytics performed, steal some agile methods, and apply them to your audits.

If you’re not familiar with agile methods, check out the first 5 topics listed here (just click Next at the bottom of each page; the topics are quick to the point and full of pictures).

Briefly, agile projects are performed in cycles, or iterations, rather than in a long, linear-waterfall fashion, which is: do all planning, then field work, then reporting. Each iteration of the project creates some value and includes feedback, which is used in the next iteration to increase the value of the project.

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Create a Team for Audit Analytics? Part 3

analytics team?In the previous post, Create a Team for Audit Analytics? Part 2, I explored the pros and cons of expecting all auditors to develop a level of data and analytic proficiency.

These auditors would continue to do audit testing that involves analytics as well as testing that does not involve analytics. In addition to keeping up their business skills, they would be learning and upgrading their data analytic skills.

In the first post of this series, I reviewed some of the pluses and minuses of creating a dedicated analytics team.

However, a third option exists, which is sort of a hybrid between having dedicated analytic auditors doing all the analytic work and requiring everyone to increase and develop their data and analytic skills.

Let’s explore the hybrid method in this post, and wrap up the series with a few final thoughts.

This is the third post of a 3-part series…

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Create a Team for Audit Analytics? Part 2

analytics team?In the previous post, Create a Team for Audit Analytics? Part 1, I explored the pros and cons of developing an analytics team.

This team consists of analytic auditors who are dedicated to analytic projects; they would NOT typically manage audits or testing that did not include analytics.

In this post, let’s explore another option for managing and growing analytics in an audit department — expecting all auditors to develop a level of data and analytic proficiency.

This is the second post of a 3-part series…

 

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Create a Team for Audit Analytics? Part 1

analytics team?Once your audit team has proven the value of doing analytics consistently, the next question is: Do we create an analytics team and have the team do all (or the majority) of the analytics?

Or should we expect all auditors to develop some levels of analytics proficiency?

Of course, this question often comes a bit further down the trail on the analytics journey, but I think the sooner it is decided, the better.

This is the first post of a 3-part series…

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The Analytic Staircase for Auditors

analytic staircase stepsBuilding a successful audit analytics program is like climbing a staircase.

The staircase is a set of steps that consist of several items having increasing levels of maturity.

The staircase steps not only help you build your program, but enable you to measure that maturity.

As you view the staircase graphic, mentally insert the word “analytics” before each step.

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No Metrics, Little Analytics

analytic metrics, numbersIf your department doesn’t track metrics on your analytics, you are probably not doing analytics or you are making little progress in analytics.

In either case, its obvious that analytics isn’t very important to your management.

Which is one of the points I made in my post, 10 Signs Mgmt Doesn’t Really Support Analytics.

So far, I have encountered very few audit departments that track meaningful metrics about their analytics.

Counting the number of projects that include analytics isn’t enough.

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CISA Does NOT an IT Auditor Make

cisa study guide, tipsPassing the CISA exam does not make you a good IT auditor anymore than passing a driving test makes you a good driver.
Passing either exam says that you know the basics, but you still have a lot to learn.

Most likely, you still don’t know how and when to use what you know and apply it to the current situation. That’s why experience is necessary. Lots of it.

I’m going on a rant here, so reader beware. If you read on, make sure you hang in there until I make my main point in the end.

You just won’t feel the love right away…

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Deleting ACL Table Covers A Multitude of Sins

Delete ACL table problemI’m not sure why, but sometimes deleting an ACL table or two covers a multitude of sins, errors, or just plain weird behavior.

No, I don’t get any error messages. That’s the strange part.

I’m talking about strange ACL behavior that you can’t troubleshoot by reviewing the log.

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Require Analytic Skills to Hire and Promote 

up down arrowsUnless your department is still in the early stages of your analytics journey, analytic skills should be one of your hiring and promotion criteria.

In an earlier post I outlined 10 Signs Mgmt Doesn’t Really Support Analytics.

One of the signs is that hiring and promotion decisions are made without reference to a person’s analytic skills.

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Which Way is Analytic North?

compass analyticsTo create a successful analytics program in internal audit, you must have a plan. A plan that points to analytic North.

That requires WRITTEN goals.

In an earlier post I outlined 10 Signs Mgmt Doesn’t Really Support Analytics.

One of the signs that indicates management isn’t really serious about analytics is that management does not require every staff member to have measurable analytic goals.

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10+ Signs Mgmt Doesn’t Really Support Analytics

mgmt doesn't support analyticsYour management says it wants more analytics, but does it really support analytics? Here’s 10+ signs that indicate that your mgmt:

  • Does NOT knows what it takes to get analytics off the ground
  • Believes that analytics multiply like rabbits, naturally
  • Is NOT willing to make the adjustments required to deliver and sustain real value.

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New IT Auditor (and WannaBEs) Master List

Here’s a list of all my posts to-date related to becoming or growing as an IT Auditor, all in one place for easy reference.
I’ll add other posts as they are written.

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Use LinkedIn to get an IT Audit job

If you’re looking for an IT Audit job, here’s how to use LinkedIn to get noticed.

new-auditorIn a nutshell, you need to enhance your LinkedIn profile so that everyone knows you’re working hard at learning IT auditor skills.

If you’re already working as an IT auditor, use these suggestions to get noticed more and move ahead (or into another company with more opportunities).

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Why Internal Auditors Should Care about Robotic Process Automation

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How to get an IT Audit job with little or no experience

I get asked all the time, “How do I get a job in IT audit with little or no experience?”

When Michael Onuoha asked me this question (see here), I thought I’d share my response with my readers.

You’ll find these same answers scattered around the blog as I answered people in the past, but I thought I’d pull it all together into one place.

Breaking into any field can be difficult, but it can be done. Especially when the demand for IT auditors is so high.

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Careers After IT Auditing

life-after-it-auditRecently, a reader named Porak asked me what careers IT auditors can move to when they leave auditing (see the original question here).

I couldn’t find much on the Internet on this topic, but there’s a lot of options.

I’ve actually worked in quite a few of the areas mentioned below…

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New IT Auditors Should Start Here

new-auditorIf you’re a new IT auditor or want to become one, I’ve listed a number of my earlier posts for your consideration. If you’re an experienced auditor, here’s an overview of the profession through my eyes.

These posts will:

  1. Provide basic information regarding IT audit and security and links to other sources.
  2. Help you avoid some of the hidden pitfalls that control owners and auditors face.
  3. Give you ideas and approaches for some common and uncommon audits.
  4. Give you a few chuckles.

If you start at the top and read through each post, you’ll get a good taste of the positives and negatives of IT auditing. Since you can’t do it in one sitting, you could bookmark the list and work your way through it as you have time.

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Some of my Favorites

Since some of you are newer to the blog, I thought I’d bring a couple of my favorite posts to your attention.

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How to Review Your ACL Log

Review ACL logWhether you script your projects or use menu commands, you need to review your ACL log carefully.

Good analysts review their results and the log as they work in ACL, after they think they are done, and have others review their log before the ACL project is relied upon.

(You can’t imagine the dumb mistakes my team and I found that saved us a lot of embarrassment later.)

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Transform Data Fast with Excel Flash Fill

Excel Flash Fill, the un-formula filler, formatter, and concatenatorYou can easily use Excel’s Flash Fill tool to transform data fast, without formulas.

Did you catch that? Without formulas!

Flash Fill has been around a few years, but few people, including auditors, seem to be aware of it.

This tool is so easy to use, you could learn it AND teach it to your mom in 4 minutes. Really.

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Safely Check Bad URLs

If you’re looking for a way to safely check URLs for bad content, Lenny Zeltser had a great list of free online tools for you.

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Check Excel Data for Blank and Invalid Values (Part 2 – Sort)

basic data analytics1As I explained in the last Excel post, you can check for blank and invalid data in Excel several ways.

In this post, I will focus on the insights and issues encountered by sorting each column from A to Z and then Z to A.

Sounds pretty simple, but I’m willing to bet you will be surprised to learn a thing or two…

For a list of the reasons why you must validate data before analyzing it, see Why You Must Validate Data.

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Check Excel Data for Blank and Invalid Values (Part 1 – Dropdown)

basic data analytics1You can check for blank and invalid data in Excel several ways.

Depending on the size of the file and your preferences, you can either scroll through the dropdown list, sort each column from A to Z and then Z to A, or apply a filter.

Sometimes, you need to use a combination of these methods.

It’s important to know how these methods treat data differently and to be aware of their limitations.

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Why You Must Validate Data

basic data analytics1Before you analyze data, you must first validate it.

Otherwise, your analysis may not be accurate, and you may miss some important insights or errors.

This post is part of the Excel: Basic Data Analytic series.

Before analyzing your data, you need to check the following:

  • Duplicate transactions do not exist.
  • Required fields/key fields do not contain blanks, spaces, zeroes, unprintable characters, or other invalid data.
  • Date fields contain real dates, and the range of dates is appropriate.
  • Amount fields don’t contain inappropriate zero, positive, or negative amounts, and the range of values is appropriate.
  • Each field is stored in the correct format. This prevents data from being converted on the fly into something else unexpectantly (e.g., user ID JUL15 becomes 15-Jul).

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Recover Pictures from SD Card

Recently a friend of mine went to Europe and took almost a 1000 pictures that she saved on 2 SD cards.

When she arrived back in the states, one of the cards could not be read by her camera or her PC. The card was corrupted.

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ACL: Automate Active Directory Downloads

Here’s a way to automate the download of data from Active Directory (AD), specifically group members, into ACL using adfind and the ACL Execute command.

I’ll walk you through it step-by-step.

Even if you don’t use ACL, you might gain a better understanding of AD and LDAP in general….

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Excel: Basic Data Analytics

basic data analytics1Here’s a list of my basic data analytic procedures for Excel.

As I add more posts to the series, I’ll update this list.

I created this series because:

1) I often get asked by new AND EXPERIENCED auditors how to do these tasks,

2) when I review workpapers, I realize too many auditors are not aware of these functions,

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Excel: Text to Columns

basic data analytics1Excel’s Text to Columns function allows you to separate pieces of data in a single column into multiple columns.

This function helps when key data is buried in a field with other information and you need to extract the key data into a separate column before you can analyze it.

For example, you obtain a list of email addresses, and all you want are the user IDs. Or you get a list of servers, and the server name is server.domain.com, and you need just the “server” name. Or you need to separate LastName, First Name into separate columns. That’s where Text to Columns saves the day.

This article is the fourth post in the Excel basic data analytic series.

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Easy! Insert Screenshot in MS Office

With just a few clicks, you can insert a screenshot into Microsoft Word, Excel, or Powerpoint from inside the application.

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