ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Getting started with ISQM 1

Steps that firms can take now on their quality management journey.
Back to the quality management hub

1. Read the standards

They are long and the requirements will take time to get to grips with, but there really is no short cut. The IAASB has also published first-time implementation guides on ISQM 1 and ISQM 2 to help firms understand and apply the standards, and more implementation support is expected to follow. 

2. Break down the requirements into manageable chunks

Consider the areas where the firm could start to progress implementation plans and who within the firm needs to be involved. 

3. Risk assessment

Start to identify the quality risks that the firm faces, ie, the risks to the individual firm of not achieving the quality objectives. It is easy to underestimate what might be needed here and the risks will need to relate back to the quality objectives in ISQM 1 or, if required, to additional ones identified by the firm. 

To help identify risks, firms could review their list of engagements, thinking about the nature of engagements they provide (audit or otherwise) and the extent to which and how they might create quality risks in relation to the objectives. Audit firms could also review the findings of cold file reviews and QAD monitoring activities to identify areas of concern and potential quality risks. 

Firms could look at their existing quality control mechanisms in place to see to what extent they might respond to the risks identified. Firms are likely to have some procedures and policies in place that will continue to be very relevant in meeting the new requirements, but it would be wrong to assume this without considering the specific requirements in ISQM 1 and individual nature and circumstances of the firm and its engagements. A gap analysis, driven by the risk assessment, will help identify the areas where firms may need to design and implement additional – or different – responses.

Firms can begin to map out objectives, quality risks and responses. Those firms using off the shelf solutions for this will firstly need to understand the timing and nature of updates from the service provider to identify gaps and when they will need to perform further work. Under ISQM 1, firms will also need to plan for a greater degree of tailoring of these tools so that they meet the specific needs of the individual firm.

4. Resources

ISQM 1 requires firms to establish specific quality objectives to address appropriately obtaining, developing, using, maintaining, allocating and assigning resources in a timely manner to enable the design, implementation and operation of the system of quality management. ISQM 1 defines ‘resources’ quite widely.

Firms could identify and begin to evaluate their resources, considering those resources that are in-house and those provided by service providers, such as audit software, data analytics tools, methodologies and quality reviews. Firms will have to evaluate whether resources from service providers are appropriate for use in their system of quality management and in the performance of engagements. 

For network firms, the individual firm is responsible for its system of quality management, including professional judgments made in the design, implementation and operation of it. It will therefore need to evaluate whether and, if so, how the network requirements or network services need to be adapted or supplemented by the firm to be appropriate for use in its system of quality management. Networks will, in turn, also need to think about what information they need to provide to member firms where resources, such as global audit methodologies, are being used.

5. Root cause analysis (RCA) and monitoring activities

ISQM 1 specifically requires firms to design and perform monitoring activities to provide a basis for the identification of deficiencies as part of a firm’s monitoring and remediation activities, and to evaluate the root cause of deficiencies. RCA is not a new concept, and some firms will already be doing this. But for those that haven’t, this is an area where firms could begin to make some progress, even where other aspects of the standards have yet to be implemented. 

Likewise, internal monitoring activities and ISQM 2 reviews could be performed as if the new standards were in place to demonstrate to engagement teams within firms what areas would need to be improved were the standards fully implemented. 

The new quality management standards provide an opportunity for firms to improve the quality and consistency of performance of their audit engagements, but it will be important not to underestimate the time and work effort needed to implement them.

Recommended content

Event series
A desk with laptop, clock and stationery.
Implementing ISQMs

An online event series designed to help small and medium-sized practices to implement the new quality management standards.

Find out more
ICAEW Faculty
ICAEW's Audit and Assurance Faculty can help you stay ahead of the curve with its essential guidance and technical advice.
Audit and Assurance

An internationally recognised network of professionals focused on keeping ahead of the changes to the audit and assurance landscape.

Find out more