One of the easiest ways to test any auditor’s or consultant’s skills, is to overwhelm them with massive amounts of data. Once I was leading an investigation team in a highly populated African country at a utility company, with over 12m customers. Our firm had been hired to examine the possible mispricing since new connections were increasing without a corresponding increase in revenue.

The issue was to examine the possible causes of increasing new customer acquisitions against stagnating revenues, despite the absence of any promotions or discounts. Many times, the client also wants to know who is responsible and how they do it.

When you are in a foreign country, you must be very careful. However, professional your team maybe, you are in the hands of a foreign country. The other people share a nationality. As much as possible you want to put the locals at the front line, as you work from the back end. As part of risk management, we usually send the report of the investigation after returning home! It is a common finding that clients state the issues with some biases. The suspected people are usually clean. For that reason, we focus on interrogating the data to understand the full story. And that is where your data analytics capabilities come in handy.

An investigation is about fact-finding. You must analyze data for patterns to identify the smallest detail that is not adequately supported. There is no materiality in investigations. You must look at all transactions that occurred during the period under the scope. We approach every investigation with a forensic perspective. You want to collect evidence while respecting the chain of custody rules. Because you know the opposing counsel will examine it thoroughly to punch holes into it to make it less credible. Preservation of critical evidence is key and commences immediately we are contacted. We never want to leave any stone unturned.

Depending on what is at stake, we usually start by making sound forensic images of the original evidence. Where this is not possible or required, we request for the data backups or database dumps of the server for the entire period under review.

And that is where we usually get tested or challenged.

At one of the clients, we were taken to the off-site backup facility, and they gave us access to the data storage area, set up in RAID with a capacity of more than 20 petabytes of data! That was too much data. How do you navigate to the database of your interest, and extract what you need, and then loan on your examination machine for analysis and visualization?

When you are a data-literate professional, you can navigate such challenges of an adversarial client support staff. When people have something to hide, they make your life difficult so that you give up. They will say things like we cannot give you access to the live database. Our data is backup at once. We cannot extract for you the application database. You have to examine what you need in a RAID setup. Without interrogating the data, you are unlikely to make progress.

It does not matter which profession you are in, you need hands-on data science skills.

At the Institute of Forensics & ICT security, you can get the following training:

  1. Beyond Excel – the power of Microsoft Excel in data analytics and business intelligence. Learn the several data models in MS Excel and become an instant pro and gain the trust of your colleagues by automating their routine tasks.
  2. Data analytics as a service – (DaaS), explore how to start your own business by offering outsourced data analytics and business intelligence services to some of the top companies. We will give you the tools and skills to do this and start making money right away
  3. Custom MS Excel tools like audit tools and analytics, HR tools, financial modeling, and forecasting tools, and operational effectiveness predictive models – to save you money and time. You will be able to do any model of your choice and save your company money currently being spent on off-the-shelf tools base on MS Excel VBA engine just like the way a fisherman sells you fish instead of teaching you how to fish!
  4. Obtain certification in business intelligence and data science and become a professional other admire and look up to

Every business has both structured and unstructured data, the latter accounting for over 80%. To win, you must be comfortable in data analysis and manipulations to identify patterns. Let no one scare you with any amounts of data. After all, you don’t need to import it, if you can have read-only access to it you will do anything you need to find in that data.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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