Information technology audit: systems alignment and effectiveness measures
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Information technology audit has proven to be a relatively new, less researched and rapidly expanding field among large, medium and even small businesses (commercial and non-commercial organisations). The implementation rate has grown rapidly and presents a huge growth market for audit consultants due to the need for transparency and compliance with regulation (for example: Sarbanes Oxley Act) and the need to be competitive in the marketplace. The audit process is being conducted mainly by consultants following a traditional process but using different proprietary approaches and mostly done manually. The purpose of this study is to present a scientific method to attach a purely measurement focus to the auditing process so as to provide an auditing as well as a quantitative outcome of the performance to the various IS entities that are audited using a novel automated method that can save organisations considerable resources in terms of time, cost and effort. The nature of the topic directed the researcher to three domains of information system (IS) namely studies on IS measurement, IT governance and software engineering. These areas provided information on the nature of IS measurement and the models used; the process of auditing/measurement and the corresponding frameworks used; the principles and methodology of measurement of IS entities; and measurement models used both in the software engineering and information systems domain. The review of the literature gave rise to the research question and the COBIT-GQM (Control Objectives for Information Technology Audit) – Goal Question Metrics) model. The research question that had emerged out of the four propositions “How can an IT audit or governance framework be used to measure the effectiveness of IS entities in a scientific manner using customised and goal oriented metrics” along with the nature of data sought (positivist), guided the researcher to qualitative research using multiple case studies to test the theoretical model (grounded theory) that had emerged out of the literature review. The theoretical model was automated (with a front end interface and a back-end database) and initially tested for usability issues. Then the common COBIT control objective that was obtained through an initial survey was entered into the database along with a set of questions and metrics (developed by the researcher by following the given GQM guidelines). This application that was demonstrated, and given for evaluation in four organisations gave rise to expected and surprising results. While the respondents expressed their desire to incorporate a customised and goal oriented measurement perspective to their IT audit/performance functions, that would save them time, effort and cost, numerous suggestions were provided that need to be incorporated into the model to make it fully functional. Notable among them are the need to embed a multiple contextual qualifying layer, incorporating benchmarking feature to the model, and the need to link this with the maturity model. These were incorporated into the model and a comprehensive model incorporating all the suggestions was created. The qualitative case study method being used here more to evaluate a theory, provided a sound base for future studies to generate hypothesis that can be evaluated using quantitative survey methods for the model to be generalised. IT auditing being a relatively new, less researched, conventional and high growth oriented field, the use of an innovative, comprehensive, automated and scientific method of audit and measurement method will satisfy the implied need for organisations to incorporate the diverse audit/measurement/ control/standards into one comprehensive method and this research is a major step in this direction. Since the new model is comprehensive and can be automated organisations can economise in terms of time, cost and effort. Irrespective of the nature of economic cycle the need for economising in terms of cost, time and effort is universal for all organisations.