Benchmarking Data Reveals Audit Priorities Across Sectors   

As organizations strive to maintain trust and assurance, understanding the specific compliance focal points within your industry becomes crucial. A-LIGN’s 2023 Compliance Benchmark Report provides in-depth industry benchmarking data across multiple sectors, including technology, IT services, professional services, healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and government. 

In this blog, we’ll be exploring the valuable insights uncovered by the benchmarking data, shedding light on the top audit priorities within various sectors. 

What is the most important audit? 

SOC 1 is the most important audit across the most verticals, including the technology, IT services, professional services, and manufacturing sectors, with SOC 2 and ISO 27001 contending for second and third place to varying degrees. While any of these three audits are useful for demonstrating trust and assurance, SOC 1 is generally considered less intensive than SOC 2 or ISO 27001, which could explain its popularity. However, the finance sector prioritizes SOC 2 over SOC 1 because SOC 2 places a greater emphasis on demonstrating the effectiveness of its data security controls. 

The healthcare and government sectors are the outliers, which both prioritize HIPAA compliance over all others. Since HIPAA is a federal law focused on healthcare security and privacy, most non-healthcare organizations can safely ignore it. The government sector also prioritizes FedRAMP and FISMA, which are both government-specific compliance frameworks. 

What is the greatest challenge to audit processes? 

The professional services, healthcare, manufacturing, and government sectors cited limited staff resources dedicated to compliance as the greatest challenge to their audit process. These sectors could strongly benefit from strategic compliance initiatives, such as consolidating audits and auditors, and leveraging compliance management and audit software to streamline the audit process. Each of these strategies has the potential to unlock compliance efficiencies, reducing the strain on their limited resources. 

Likewise, the technology and IT services sectors could benefit from audit consolidation, as their greatest challenge is the complexity of conducting multiple audits. Consolidating audits can help ensure consistency and efficiency and save organizations significant time and resources. 

On the other hand, the finance sector cited tedious and manual evidence collection as their greatest challenge. This challenge could be related to the finance sector’s preference for the more intensive SOC 2 audit. In any case, the finance sector could be best served by adopting compliance management and audit software solutions, which offer features such as automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring of compliance state to streamline the audit process. 

Which industry conducts the most audits?  

The technology and finance sectors conduct more audits than the other industries. 60% of the technology sector conducts four or more audits per year, compared to 51% of the general population, and works with four or more auditors, compared to 30% of the general population. 32% of the finance industry conducts six or more audits per year, compared to 16% of the general population.  

A logical explanation for the high volume of audits in these industries is the importance their customers and partners place on data security and privacy. It also makes sense that the technology industry cited the complexity of conducting multiple audits as their greatest challenge since they also conduct so many audits. 

What are organizations looking for in a service provider? 

The biggest reason the technology sector would switch audit providers would be for a more efficient, less time-consuming process, which seems logical since they conduct so many audits each year. In fact, every industry said that the main reason they would switch audit providers is for a more efficient, less time-consuming process, which ultimately speaks to the value of consolidating audits and auditors. Consolidating audit service providers not only increases the efficiency of audits, saving both time and resources, but also ensures the consistency of results. 

When evaluating audit firms, the technology and IT services sectors favor audit firms that use technology throughout the entire audit process. The professional services, healthcare, manufacturing and government sectors prefer the ability to complete the entire process, from readiness to report, with a single provider. The finance sector prefers the ability to complete multiple assessments with a single provider, which again highlights how they tend to conduct more audits than any other vertical. 

Delving deeper into demographics and verticals 

If you are interested in learning more about the benchmarking data of your specific vertical, be sure to check out A-LIGN’s 2023 Compliance Benchmark Report which includes a full breakdown of upcoming audit plans and budgets, as well as best practices for achieving strategic compliance. 

Learn more — Download A-LIGN’s 2023 Compliance Benchmark Report.