JUNE 2017 49 INTERNAL AUDITOR
Imagine if the internal audit team could build a series of
bots to do all its routine control testing, how much time and
how many resources that could free up to focus on higher
brain-power auditing and advisory work. It could mean liberating resources to deliver those value-added projects stakeholders demand without sacrificing audit’s ability to provide
assurance in traditional areas. I see this emerging innovative
technology as an internal audit multiplier.
LOOKING CLOSE AT HAND
One of the most powerful tools for innovation in internal
audit is fresh thinking. I am very encouraged by how many
CAEs with whom I work are open and receptive to new
ideas. They want to incorporate those ideas into their work,
but with a busy work schedule, we all know how difficult it
can be to turn ideas into action.
Fortunately, innovation can start from looking differently at those things that are closest at hand. When I was
thinking about my theme, I realized that the way most
internal auditors work has not fundamentally changed
over the nearly 25 years I have been in the profession. Of
course, the red pencils, hard copy ledgers, and ring binders are gone. We work on computers and smartphones.
But most of us could not genuinely say that we are digital
internal auditors, even though most of us live and work in
a digital world.
Internal auditors have embraced technology to assist
in achieving consistency and quality in our work. But we
can go further and fully embrace technology the way our
businesses are embracing it. That can be as simple as leveraging the tools that auditors use in their everyday work to
their utmost capacity.
But not all innovation relies on technology. For example, not every risk needs a full audit or full audit report. I
have worked with many clients to adapt their audit response
to the risk, and to be flexible in how they define an audit.
For example, they can carry out more remote monitoring,
or they can do a design assessment of controls, rather than
conduct a full audit. Sometimes, the equivalent of kicking
the tires is enough. As we all know, getting an audit report
finalized can take a long time because so much value is
placed on that report. Yet The IIA’s International Standards
for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing only requires
us to communicate the results of our activities— and that
can take various forms. Yes, sometimes a formal audit report
is vital. But other forms of communication can be more
effective, including, for example, issuing an executive memo,
preparing and delivering a presentation, or providing additional training to deal with control weaknesses. These techniques can be more efficient and timely than an audit report
that arrives three to six months after completing the work.
THE ONLY OPTION
Innovation in internal auditing is both crucial for its growth
and necessary in meeting the ever-changing needs of stakeholders. It is a messy, frustrating, and ongoing program that
demands commitment and courage. And it is fun, surprising,
and rewarding. All auditors can take a few easy steps to start,
or reboot, their journey today. If we want to understand our
stakeholders and serve them well in the future, embracing
innovation is the only option.
SHANNON URBAN, CIA, CRMA, is an executive director with
EY in Boston.
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