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Software Audit Guide: Discover Hidden Costs In Digital Solutions.

Software Audit Guide: Discover Hidden Costs In Digital Solutions.

By Nelson Malekela  |  May 10, 2024

Software auditing is the process of systematically reviewing and evaluating software applications and tools used within an organization, for two purposes

  1. To assess whether the software delivers intended value
  2. To assess technical aspects of the software product

To assess whether the software delivers intended value,here are the key questions software auditing answers

In this aspect, the

  • What are the pain points that resulted in acquistion of the software?
  • Were the pain points resolved after acquisition
  • Are there any gaps and areas of improvement?
  • Are there any downside introduced by the software acquisition?

And in order to assess technical aspects of the software product, the focus is establishing software long term value delivery, which can be obtained by reviewing


  • Quality of the technology used
  • User experience and usability
  • Software security
  • Software reliability 
  • Software scalability


In this article, we'll explore 


  • Expand into “the why” it is an essential process in today’s technology driven business landscape.
  • How software auditing is conducted in a manner that can be effective and productive,

Purpose of Software Auditing


So why is software auditing important ?


Going back to why you adopted the digital solution,

Some of the reasons could be increasing efficiency, productivity and maximizing profit.


So when doing software auditing in other words you are evaluating


whether your organisation realized those values by using this software and if there are any bottlenecks introduced by the software


And so essentially software auditing measures the value your digital solution delivers to the business.


Studies show 70% of IT budgets are wasted on underutilized or unnecessary software

[Source: Gartner research]. 

Software Auditing Process


So how is software auditing done?


First to effectively identify flaws in a digital solution, you must have a clear understanding of your business process.


How your business operates and therefore what requirements the digital solution needs to meet. 


Having this understanding allows,


You to properly figure out how the digital solution should integrate seamlessly with your business processes.


For instance consider this scenario; 

A retail company with multiple sales points uses point-of-sale (POS) software to record sales. 

However, this POS system isn't integrated with their accounting software. 


This disconnect would eventually lead to discrepancies between sales reports and financial reports.


The solution to this would be to integrate the POS system with the accounting software: 

Inoder to allow automatic data transfer between the two software.


This is one simple example of why business software auditing is important.


And therefore the suggested solution would certainly take you back to finding which POS and Accounting systems integrate well.


Or whether you need custom software or ready made.

A cloud based or an offline one e.t.c

General Software Audit

There are some simple DIY Software audit aspects that can be observed immediately . They are surprisingly simple to analyze and require little technical background. 



Functionality: 

Does the software meet needs or 

Are there features that are not used?

Are there noticeable bottlenecks?

Let's say you have an e-commerce website where people can buy your products or access your services. 

You can assess functionality by simulating the user processes like : 

Browsing and search functionality,

Product pages, 

Add-to-cart process, 

Coupon code application, 

Shipping options and order confirmation process. 


As you do this you analyze if they satisfy user needs as required.


Performance:

Are there frequent crashes or slow loading times?


In the example given above, 

you could also assess the performance of the e-commerce platform under various conditions, including 

Periods when there is high incoming traffic, 

The response times for page loading, search queries, and checkout processes and identifying slow-loading pages or server errors.


This is the starting point of auditing your digital solution, these aspects can be easily spotted by normal users. Therefore users feedback can provide insights of what is not working well.

Criteria of Software Auditing

Before diving deeper into software auditing it is important to understand the key criteria that govern the auditing process.

 

Software auditing can be very broad therefore the auditing process might need to be categorized according to these criteria.


Reliability:

This focuses on testing for bugs, errors, crashes, and system failures. 

It involves conducting regression testing, fault tolerance analysis, disaster recovery planning, and monitoring system uptime to ensure uninterrupted operation.


Regression Testing: checks how the software reacts to unexpected situations to avoid crashes.

Fault Tolerance Analysis: checks how well your software can handle unexpected situations without everything falling apart.

Disaster Recovery Planning: creates a plan to get the software back up and running quickly if something goes wrong.

System Uptime Monitoring: keeps an eye on how the software is performing,  in order to catch any issues before they become major problems.




Security:

This focuses on assessing security measures implemented in the software to protect it .

This includes reviewing the following areas:

Authentication Mechanisms:  This ensures only authorized people (with the right keys or codes) can access the software.

Access Controls: This checks who can access different parts and what they can do once when they are granted access.

Encryption Practices: This checks to make sure your data is hidden.

Vulnerability Management:  Checks for gaps that can be used by hackers to break into a software.

Compliance with Security Standards:  This ensures your software meets security best practices.



Usability:

Usability ensures that the software is  efficient and user friendly.

This includes assessing navigation, layout, labeling, error handling, help documentation, and support features to facilitate ease of use and adoption.


Navigation:Is it easy to find the features you need? A good software audit ensures the navigation menus and buttons are intuitive and logical.

Layout:  Is everything organized in a way that makes sense? This audit checks if the layout of the software is clear and avoids overwhelming users with too much information at once.

Labeling:  Are the buttons and features clearly labeled? The audit ensures labels are easy to understand, so users know exactly what each feature does. 

Error Handling:  What happens if you make a mistake? Does the software offer helpful error messages that guide you in the right direction? 

Help Documentation:  Is there a user manual or online guide available?This audit ensures there's readily available documentation that explains how to use all the software's features.

Support Features:  Does the software offer ways to get help if you're stuck?  The audit checks if there are features like chat support or FAQs to assist users who need extra guidance.



Scalability:

Assesses how the software can accommodate growth in data volume, user base, and system complexity over time. 


This involves testing performance under increasing loads, capacity planning, horizontal and vertical scaling strategies, and architectural scalability to ensure that the software can handle future expansion.


Testing under increasing loads involves simulating a lot of users accessing the software at once and seeing if it slows down or crashes. 


Capacity planning  estimates how much traffic the software can handle currently and how much it might need to handle in the future. 


Horizontal scaling:  checks if the software can be expanded by adding more "servers". This audit ensures the software can be easily scaled horizontally to accommodate more users.


Vertical scaling: checks if the software can be upgraded by adding more powerful hardware to existing servers.The audit checks if a software can handle more complex tasks or a larger user base.


Architectural scalability:  looks at the overall design of the software and sees if it's flexible enough to handle future changes and growth.

The audit ensures the software's core design is adaptable and can handle future growth needs.



These criteria make a practical guide on how iPF Software approaches software auditing.We have used these criteria to assess and produce insightful reports for several Fintech startups : See this case study: Assessing The Quality Of Fin-Tech Solutions: Insights From The Pesa Tech Accelerator Program



The next section goes deeper into some technical concepts about software auditing. 


It requires technical expertise, however these concepts can help you level up your software auditing knowledge.

Technical software audit 

This section dives into a more technical software audit for custom-built solutions.


Code Quality Audit

Software is made up of hundreds of lines of codes.

Hence high quality code simply means efficient software. Therefore when auditing it is very important to test the following aspects in the building blocks of codes of any software.


1.Reliability:This measures how consistently your code functions without errors over time. 


2.Complexity:Complex code can be harder to understand and maintain.Lower complexity often indicates higher quality.


3. Portability:Does  your code run smoothly on different devices or platforms? Testing across various environments helps ensure your code is adaptable.


4.Reusability: Well-written code can be repurposed. Analyze interdependencies (connections between code parts) to see how easily your code can be reused.


5.Testability:Easy-to-test code allows for thorough quality checks. The number of tests needed to find errors can be an indicator of testability. Complex code might require more tests.

Software Architecture assessment


The software architecture is the structure of the software components and the relationships among them. 


 Why Evaluate an Architecture?
  • A wrong architecture leads to performance issues and  security vulnerabilities  
  • Without the right foundation, adding new features becomes difficult and expensive.
  • Even very simple changes can become extremely expensive due to the underlying architectural limitations.


The most basic questions the assessment tries to answer are:-


  1. Is this architecture suitable for the software for which it was designed?
  2. Which architecture is the most suitable one for the software at hand?


Software Architecture assessment qualities


Performance is how quickly and efficiently the system responds to actions or processes events. We measure this by things like how many actions it can do in a certain amount of time or how long it takes to finish a task.


Reliability is about how dependable the system is over time. We measure it by looking at how often it breaks or stops working. 


Availability is how often the system is available and working properly. It's like how often you can use a website without it being down for maintenance or crashing.


Security is about how well the system protects itself from unauthorized use or attacks while still letting legitimate users access it.


Modifiability is how easy it is to make changes to the system. 


Variability is how easily the system can be changed to create different versions. 


Susceptibility is being able to produce a smaller part of the system if needed. Being able to release a basic version of a product even if the full version isn't ready yet.


Conceptual integrity is  how well everything in the system fits together and follows the same design principles. 


N:B However these quality attributes exist in the context of specific goals. 


For example “Perhaps the software uses passwords for security, which prevents a whole class of unauthorized users from breaking in, but has no virus protection mechanisms. 


Is this software secure from intrusion or not?


Therefore when assessing quality attributes the questions are supposed to consist more details like this:


  • Is a software modifiable (or not) with respect to a specific kind of change?
  • Is a software secure (or not) with respect to a specific kind of threat?
  • Is a software reliable (or not) with respect to a specific kind of fault occurrence?
  • Is a software performing well (or not) with respect to specific performance criteria?

Security Audit

A software security audit assesses the strength of software defense measures.


Security audits evaluate practices, procedures, and technology underlying the software.


A software security audit checks:

Vulnerability Scanning: Special scanners look for any common bugs or security holes in the building blocks (like code libraries) and the foundation (operating system) it relies on.


Static Code Analysis:Includes taking a closer look at the application's code (the blueprint!), searching for any weak spots, like typos in the code itself (coding errors), shortcuts that might leave it vulnerable (insecure coding practices), and settings that could be adjusted for better security (potential configuration problems).


Penetration Testing :In some cases, ethical hackers attempt to gain unauthorized access to the software by simulating real-world attack scenarios to identify unknown weaknesses. 


Security Posture Assessment: The audit takes a close look at several key areas. access controls, data encryption, having a plan in case of a break-in (incident response procedures), and security awareness for developers and users.


Compliance Requirements: Considers industry rules and standards that the software needs to meet.


Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC):

Software security is not a one time activity, it is  achieved through a multi-layered approach that involves various processes and tools throughout the development. 


Security best practices throughout the development process are evaluated to ensure security is built-in from the beginning.

Conclusion

In today's technology-driven business landscape .

Software auditing is not just about making sure your software is efficient .

It's about figuring out how to maximize their impact on your business.


Think about it: Are the digital solutions you're using giving you a competitive edge?  

Studies show that poorly chosen software can decrease productivity by up to 20% .

If you're not sure, a software auditing can help.


Software auditing goes beyond basic efficiency checks. They assess if your digital solution truly aligns with your business goals, helping you identify areas for improvement .

This can be the key to achieving your digital transformation goals.


At iPF Software, We offer expert guidance, custom software auditing, and digital solutions tailored to your specific needs.  Contact us today.


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