Digital analytics and automation for internal audit (IA) organizations

The untapped power of Digital IA

​With Digital IA capabilities on the rise, learn how internal audit automation can help you increase efficiency, decrease errors, and free up resources for value-added work.

The future of internal audit automation

Over the last several years, technologies supporting analytics and automation in internal audit—which we refer to collectively as "Digital IA"—have risen significantly. Tools such as robotic process automation (RPA) allow those labor-intensive, error-prone processes that formerly took days to complete to be accurately conducted in a matter of minutes.

Meanwhile, an increase in sheer computational power has been matched by the streamlining of user interfaces and the refinement of visualization tools, putting power that used to reside only with the elite "geek" set into the hands of average users.

Thus, through internal audit automation, organizations can increase efficiency, decrease errors, and free up resources for value-added work. And through analytics, IA can not only better perform its traditional duties but can broaden its mandate and sphere of influence to provide actionable insights to management through the anticipation of both risks and opportunities.

This ability to peer into the future has raised the esteem of internal audit, earned chief audit executives the ear of top brass and a proverbial seat at the table, and—not incidentally—improved the fortunes of their organizations at large.

Back to top

Exploiting the power of Digital IA

For internal audit organizations that intend to exploit the power of Digital IA, three factors will influence the ease of adoption and the quality of outcome: mindset, skillset, and toolset.

Mindset: There's no criticism, stated or implied, in the observation that auditors are typically conservative, traditional, and resistant to change. These traits have served the profession well for more than a century. However, 21st century auditing requires a new way of thinking that values innovation, fosters creativity, and embraces technology. Those who fail to keep up with the rapid changes in the profession will quickly be marginalized.

Skillset: A broader base of skills is needed within the modern internal audit shop. Traditional CPA backgrounds will still be valued, but these talents must be augmented with nontraditional abilities and perspectives, such as those found in mathematicians and systems engineers. Auditors of the future will spend more time working in four key areas: Exception routines, supervision and control, unstructured processing, and root cause analysis.

Toolset: Digital IA technologies are continually growing in power and number. Internal audit organizations that have adopted the mindset and acquired the skill set to exploit digital IA can choose from the following menu of enabling technologies:

  • Data management
  • Predictive analytics
  • Data visualization
  • Robotics process automation (RPA)
  • Natural language generation (NLG)
  • Natural language processing (NLP)
  • Machine learning (ML)
  • Augmented intelligence (AI)

Back to top

socket outlet

Accelerating the adoption of Digital IA

The benefits of Digital IA are unambiguous: Users quickly become believers, and the promise of "faster, cheaper, better" becomes a reality. With this compelling rationale, all that's required are a few strategies to accelerate the adoption of Digital IA. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Honor the past but build for the future: Bring in unconventional skillsets to augment your traditional audit backgrounds. Diversify your talent mix to add creativity, innovation, and technological savviness.
  • Train maniacally: Today's cutting-edge tool is tomorrow's outdated technology. Change is relentless; progress is rapid. Internal audit professionals need a structured and well-funded program of ongoing professional development to keep up.
  • Talk it up: Tell the Digital IA story at team meetings, training sessions, in elevator conversations, and during coffee breaks.
  • Engage colleagues: For the potential benefits to multiply, everyone in internal audit should think of themselves as part of the Digital IA team, regardless of their area of specialization. Seek out opportunities across the organization by leveraging and being part of the broader enterprise-wide efforts around analytics and automation.
  • Recruit an executive sponsor: An ally and proponent in an influential position can be invaluable in breaking down barriers and converting naysayers.
  • Integrate into the audit process: Work with professional practices staff to properly integrate Digital IA into the audit process. Consider lead times, processes, and systems coverage and knowledge.
  • Deliver impactful results: Providing value and insight is the objective. If you deliver on the promise, you'll win converts and supporters.
  • Celebrate success: Tell the Digital IA story in internal newsletters, during lunch-and-learn events, and at all-hands meetings. Get the audit teams to promote innovative uses both within and outside of internal audit. Nothing is more powerful than the influence of peers.
  • Take small steps: A thorough and complete transformation to a Digital IA operating model can't be attained overnight. Instead, work methodically over time to introduce new tools and methods, including automation, analytics, cognitive computing, and machine learning.

Back to top

data cables

Looking to the future

Digital IA provides neither a panacea nor instant gratification. Fully realizing the benefits will require dedication and resources. You'll need to cultivate the proper mindset, skillset, and toolset within your internal audit organization.

To do so, simultaneously look to the future and to the past, both in terms of the makeup of your team and the focus of your audits. Add the predictive to the detective. Mix and match behavioral and transactional data.

Deliver value and drive positive change across the organization. The rising stock of both your internal audit group and your organization at large will be the outcome.

To learn more about the future of internal audit automation, download the full report.

Back to top

Data networking rack with optical and UTP cables
Did you find this useful?