Internal Audit: Equipping Your Navigation System

By Jason Rohlf

For anyone who has read my past blog posts, it will come as no surprise when I tell you that there are certain themes that I tend toward:

  • Internal Audit: Logging 12+ years as a practitioner and another 6+ in the software world helping internal auditors has given me cause to stay interested and up to date in the profession.
  • Analogies: I’ve always found them to be a simple yet effective way to take an abstract concept and make it more relatable.
  • Software and Technology: Given that I work for a software company, it’d probably be a bit weird if I didn’t talk about it from time to time.

I also am a big fan of reading what respected folks in the GRC and software industries have to say about the things that are happening around us. One such individual is Richard Chambers, Global CEO of the Institute of Internal Auditors. Mr. Chambers is a leading advocate for the Internal Audit profession, and his blog posts consistently provide an interesting perspective on what’s happening in the world of IA.

In one of his many insightful blog posts, Mr. Chambers wrote about Internal Audit as the Navigation System of an organization. He references the long-standing analogy that IA serves as “the brakes that allows the organization to drive faster.” He then offers an updated analogy: that IA serves a key component of an organization’s navigation system, helping to guide its journey rather than acting as an impediment to progress.

The point Mr. Chambers makes is a valid one: IA cannot effectively serve the organization if it is simply there to put on the brakes (even though brakes are critical to safe driving). Rather, IA can provide the most value to the organization by acting as a guide, providing crucial and helpful feedback along the journey, identifying when the organization has gone off track and letting them know when they’ve reached their destination.

I’d like to take Mr. Chamber’s analogy one step further and describe how internal audit software and technology can assist IA in its quest to be that trusted navigation system. Just as the quality of a car’s navigation system helps us get where we want to go, so too does the quality of IA’s technology indicate how accurate and timely they can be with their key stakeholders. Having the right navigation technology gets us to our destination efficiently and safely; having technology that is outdated, unpredictable or unreliable can take us on an unwanted joyride or, worse, send us into harm’s way.

When I was a teenager, I spent my summers as a “gopher” for the road construction company where my dad worked. I would pick up plans, perform routine maintenance on job sites, drop off paperwork with our insurer, and most importantly deliver our official bids to the various municipalities, counties and toll authorities with whom we did business. While I may date myself here, I will confess that the only “navigation” systems I had were 1) a Rand-McNally road atlas of the Chicago area and 2) my own wits and memory (spoiler: #1 was much more reliable). While I was generally comfortable navigating myself around the area and finding my way to where I needed to be, there were times where I found myself in danger of missing a bid deadline because the information I had at my disposal was no longer useful, causing me much panic and consternation. And in our business if you missed a bid deadline, that meant lost revenue, and it also meant that you were no longer welcome back at the yard office, dad or no dad.

I’ve talked to internal auditors who are embracing new technologies, mainly because they understand the benefit they stand to gain. Yes, there is going to be some pain involved in changing the way you do things, but the benefits of having accurate and secure data, clear and concise reporting and more efficient processes will quickly dull that pain. But just as there are IA departments blazing the technology trail, there are many who still rely on that Rand-McNally map book in their back set as their primary navigation tool. Word and Excel, while excellent business tools, simply do not offer the foundation of a solid internal audit program. Or maybe an IA department has been stuck in the same technology for years, and while everyone seems to be content with the way things are currently working, deep down they know there has to be a better way to help them be that trusted navigation system.

When it comes to evaluating technologies that can appropriately support the IA function, you should ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Solution Benefits: Will the software help your IA team elevate its performance? Will it noticeably improve the way you work, measure and report?
  • Capabilities: Does the software offer the toolset you need for audit planning, project delivery, coordination, issue management and reporting? Can it adapt to your methods and processes?
  • Time to Value: How long will it take you to realize the benefits of your chosen software? What resources will be required to deploy and manage the tool?
  • Vendor Considerations: Can your vendor talk the talk and walk the walk? Do they have a track record of excellence?

I invite you to download our Buyer’s Guide to Internal Audit Software for a deeper discussion of technology as a critical enabler for your Internal Audit department. I hope you’ll also read Mr. Chamber’s full article on how IA can serve as an organization’s internal navigation system. Please share your own perspective in the comments below.

Featured Resource:

A Buyer’s Guide to Audit Management Software

4 Guidelines for Selecting an Internal Audit Platform That Fits Today and Scales Tomorrow

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