Continuing our series looking at functions that have played such a big part in helping organisations through the pandemic, we look at the strategic impact of the internal auditor.
Unlike external audit whose focus is on company reports and has a primary responsibility to shareholders, internal audit specialises in governance, risk and compliance, enabling senior leaders to fulfil their responsibilities to the board and executive management.
Organisational risks come in many shapes and forms. From understating and evaluating customer feedback that might impact the brand, health and safety and financial implications through to cybersecurity breaches, businesses have to deal with different threats. Especially in today’s difficult economic climate, when competition is so intense, organisations can ill afford to fall behind. Risks need to be identified, mitigated and dealt with before they get out of control.
To succeed in internal audit, you need an eye for detail as you need to be very methodical, meticulous, analytical and of course highly organised. In a role that requires so much investigative work, you also need to be naturally inquisitive. Working on different projects also means that you’ll get to meet many different internal stakeholders, so you must be an excellent communicator and team player. You must also be comfortable presenting to senior management and getting their buy in.
One specialist area where auditors are in demand is in IT. IT auditors are responsible for identifying risks and ensuring that processes relating to a company’s technological infrastructure, policies and operations are meeting compliance standards. Ensuring that internal controls and processes are both working and being followed, IT audits are very important in keeping data secure and preventing external attacks.
It is not surprising that internal audit specialists need to understand data analytics, which is transforming the profession and helping the function be seen as a trusted business adviser. Deploying, integrating and implementing data analytics and associated tools will help improve outcomes – driving the quality and efficiency of audits as well as generating valuable new insights and providing greater assurance. The risks of robotic process automation (RPA) and the cloud would also fall under the remit of internal audit.
The role of the internal auditor is assuming ever more importance for organisations. It’s not just about identifying risks that could undermine progress but also opportunities that could drive organisational performance. It offers a very rewarding career for those who want to apply their technical skills and make a significant contribution to business strategy, both in the private and public sectors.
Especially now during the pandemic when cashflow is being stretched to the limit, the work of your internal audit team will be critical in helping you understand just how resilient your business is.