COVID-19, like no one single event in recent years, has starkly brought to attention the need for most, if not all functions across the enterprise to be agile and tech-enabled in order to transcend beyond survival and, more importantly, to thrive in our post-pandemic reality.
While internal audit has evolved over the years, it is the challenges of recent times that have highlighted how the internal audit function continues to be a trusted advisor for organizations. Those internal audit functions which have been able to effectively help their organizations navigate through risks during the pandemic are guided by three key principles – agility, speed, and the ability to maintain cost-effectiveness.
Internal audit practitioners have traditionally conducted their risk assessments on an annual basis and developed their annual audit plan accordingly. However, conducting risk assessments on a more regular basis - quarterly or continuously, helps to better ensure that annual audit plans reflect current risks to meet stakeholder expectations. During these uncertain times, when organizations are required to quickly update risk assessments and annual audit plans to address the business, economic, and health risks associated with the global pandemic, this agility has proven vital to the organization's internal auditors' support.
Internal audit has traditionally issued audit reports after completing audit fieldwork and therefore may have been relatively slow in raising issues that require immediate attention from management. The reality is that internal audit must raise issues with management continuously during the audit via interim reports or memorandums. Also, internal auditors must be mindful of their audience by prepare audit reports which are concise, and more focused on getting management attention.
Internal auditors are always under pressure to do more with less. To that effect, internal auditors must be better at utilizing data analytics to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their audits. By gaining an understanding of data by using statistics and visualizations, internal auditors may then analyze data and look for patterns that identify which issues require immediate attention. This was highlighted during the global pandemic when auditors were trying to conduct their audits while working from home and finding that data analytics allowed them to do so with zero face-to-face contact.
I hope these guiding principles serve well for every internal auditor out there looking to continuously deliver value, especially during these turbulent times.