When Microsoft is not the best choice for fraud examiners

By Richard B. Lanza, CFE, CPA-CITP, PMP

Fear Not the Software

Fraud examiners were never meant to be computer programmers when analyzing data files. Hence they need software that "masks" the highly technical tasks while producing results. An easy choice for fraud examiners is Microsoft Excel and Access - the "don't cost nothin' solutions" - because they're loaded on most business computers by default. Also, these products are relatively easy to learn and most people have taken classes in them even before entering the professional world. It's no surprise that a software study completed by the Institute of Internal Auditors found that Microsoft Excel was the top data analysis product, two years in a row (2004 and 2005).

While the Microsoft products can be fantastic tools in an examination, their relative weaknesses should be understood so they don't become the trusty hammers when what is needed is a set of pliers. Therefore the focus here is arming the fraud examiner with key considerations when making a data analysis software decision, which encompasses Excel,™ Access,™ and other fraud specific tools like IDEA,™ ActiveData,™ and ACL.™

The considerations are organized into these sections: 1) file sizes, 2) speed, 3) error prevention, 4) functionality, 5) data import, and 6) training.

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