4 Benefits of Having a Well-Functioning Audit Trail System

Audit trail
Having a rich audit trail gives business users a holistic perspective
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Every industry needs an audit trail: from healthcare to logistics, high-tech, energy, and financial services. They all need secure and immutable records of whether and when a transaction was performed accurately and truthfully. Organizations mostly need these audit trails to comply with industry requirements or government regulations. However, a well kept audit trail can also help organizations understand the state of their business both past and present.

An audit trail records business events, such as the creation of an order, the delivery of a shipment, the filing of an insurance claim, or even the movement of people across a country’s border. Audit trails are especially useful if trading or exchanging data between transacting parties. For instance, a large healthcare insurance company may get up to millions of claims daily from their partner hospitals and clinics, and in return would issue claim acknowledgments and payment determinations.  These are all business events that need to be recorded.

The best business practice is to store a record of all your transactions (up to a commercially reasonable time frame), in case your vendor or customer wants to know about such things as the status of their invoice or order. Otherwise, you need an audit trail in case there is a dispute. Audit trails are essentially records of business events that at some point might need to be reviewed for a quick status lookup, in case there is a dispute, or if you need to prove your compliance with industry standards or government regulations.

Think of audit trails like buying insurance. You don’t think about it or need it unless something goes wrong. It’s the same with an audit trail. You don’t need it until you really need it, but if you don’t have it, the consequences can be quite inconvenient or even catastrophic

Audit Trail development is complicated and too often an afterthought

App developers create audit trails for the benefit of business users. The problem is that creating audit trail systems is quite complicated so, they are usually developed as an afterthought. Too often, you will find homegrown solutions that just make the situation worse. Instead, developers will typically focus on the main features and functionality of the app rather than the audit trail.

But why are audit trails so complicated to build? Because their development requires the combination of a lot of moving parts such as:

  • Where to store the data
  • Security of that data
  • Messaging between the apps that contain the data to pass data back and forth and to the database
  • An API layer is needed on top of the data if you want people to be able to access the data
  • A search engine on top of the data is needed because users might find this data valuable and they need to be able to search it
  • The accumulated data needs to be visualized so users can draw insights from the data

Unfortunately, organizations often end up spending a lot of time building audit trails that are inconsistent in quality. And at the end of the day, the consumers of the data are not satisfied because they can’t even do basic tasks like search the data for what they need, or go back in time to troubleshoot what went wrong in recent transactions.

Benefits of having a functioning audit trail system

The benefits of having a good audit trail system go beyond just troubleshooting. A good audit trail system lets you see the big picture of the state of your business. The best audit trail systems also have visualizations that allow you to review the state of your business at a glance.

You can get the complete lifecycle visibility of a typical business process in your company. The life cycle of a typical business process can be pretty involved. For example, a supply chain business process can hop from an in-house customer order management system to a third-party logistics provider’s warehouse management system, before ending at a transportation carrier’s shipping system.  How do you keep track of the different hops across multiple information hubs? A good audit trail system will enable you to create these business events in the system where it will capture the details of these events and chain them together as a whole so you have an entire overview of your business and how it is operating.

So, a good audit trail platform will enable your business to:

  • Be compliant with the law or standards
  • Give you a big picture of your business
  • Troubleshoot issues
  • Cut down the development costs and time-to-market of your applications

For more information on audit trails, please visit the TIBCO Cloud™ AuditSafe page, TIBCO’s newest addition to helping ease your audit trail worries.