XML Editors Versus Microsoft Word: The Importance of Using the Right Tool for the Right Job

The audit industry is rapidly evolving. With a greater focus on audit quality and risk, today’s firms are turning to technology to help navigate the changing landscape and to carry out more efficient, better-targeted audits. It has been proven that the design of an audit methodology and the access to focused, high-value guidance improves auditor judgment. This drives the need for firms to create more guidance content that is concise and easier to find by auditors. Increasingly, audit firms are seeking more sophisticated means of managing their content as their current content management processes are no longer fit for purpose, not built to scale or eat away at a firm’s competitive advantage in being so costly to maintain. With a wealth of options to choose from, firms often apply the logic that in order to have consistency in a document, they must have structure in the tool. This leads many to conclude that XML editors are their best bet.  XML editors can offer numerous benefits including the ability to create structured documents. However, there are many ways to create the required structure and when considering the needs of your firm, it is important to examine how the tool helps achieve your goals and the other factors that may influence your processes.

Learning curve

In the case that an XML editor is the best way to achieve the required document structure, it can often demand a steep learning curve from subject matter experts (SMEs) accustomed to working with tools like Microsoft Word. Extensive training may be necessary as even simple tasks such as creating tables, paragraphs and numbering can pose difficulty. These challenges can even require additional supports.


This learning curve slows down turnaround times, for example, introducing additional steps or hours in transferring content from Microsoft Word to the XML editor. Not only can firms lose efficiency, but it can also increase the cost of delivering guidance material.

The right tools for the right job

Audit demands rigorous audit trails and complete visibility over processes. Indeed, the updating of audit manuals and guidance has specific requirements that an authoring tool may not meet. 

For example, most authoring tools also only understand publishing dates and do not have the capability to manage effective dates – when changes to guidance are issued today but won’t be effective for six months.

Regulatory Content Integration

In addition, changes to laws, regulations and guidance need to be incorporated into the knowledge base with localization for different jurisdictions and regulatory frameworks added. Without an automated way of doing this, it is easy for something to slip through the cracks or to introduce delays, causing guidance to be inconsistent.

In a previous article, we outlined the compliance risks associated with issues such as link rot and content drift which describes what happens when, for example, a link in an internal policy directs users to a document that no longer exists or continues to work but points to something completely different. Audit firms need a solution that can automatically track and manage links between documents.

Ensuring quality

The good news is that there are ways for SMEs to work in Microsoft Word, delivering the structure required while allowing the tool to manage the XML under the hood.

While XML editors offer numerous benefits for authoring structured content, the demands of audit manuals and guidance material are such that firms need a tool that understands the specificities of managing such content. Propylon’s TimeArc® platform has been built from the ground up to do just that. Learn more about what it can do for your firm.