Rock stars and internal auditors have more in common than you might think. That’s just one of the insights gleaned from Deloitte’s third annual Global Chief Audit Executive (CAE) Forum. Another insight? The internal audit (IA) function can be both a stabilizing influence and a catalyst for change.
The internal auditor’s conundrum
Consider the case of a musician with a new album. Out on tour, the performer wants to fill the set list with the latest cuts. But the fans turn out for the old hits. How can the artist send the crowd home happy, while simultaneously remaining true to the muse?
Internal audit functions face a similar dilemma: Their old “hits”—retrospective and assurance-based audits with a focus on compliance—provide reassuring familiarity to their audience of CFOs and audit committee members. But the new “music”—delivering valued advice and predictive, analytical, technology-enabled insights—gets the auditors’ blood pumping.
Attaining an equilibrium between tried-and-true and cutting-edge, between a focus on the past and on the future, is critical to keeping both music fans and business executives happy and artists and auditors fulfilled.
Move beyond the mandate
One might argue that today’s typical internal audit function adequately satisfies its mandate: providing assurance with a focus on the past. Why not just coast along, doing what you’ve always done?
Because the future beckons.
IA is uniquely positioned to help guide the organization into a future fraught with risk and rife with opportunity. But before it can help the organization, internal audit must change itself.
A makeover, however, shouldn’t be so extreme that it renders you unrecognizable. As internal audit executives look to remodel their shops, they would be wise to retain some of the familiar trappings that formed their identity initially.
At the same time, many chief audit executives would be happy to expunge some negative perceptions and persistent stereotypes that tarnish their profession, such as belief that the internal audit function:
Push into new directions
Seats aren’t given, they’re taken. Make some noise, throw some elbows, raise some eyebrows. Push the internal audit function in new directions. Deliver unexpected insights. Ask uncomfortable questions. While IA shops can’t put the past completely in the rearview mirror, the function can turn its gaze toward the future, where the risks and opportunities reside.
Where to start?
Here are a few tools that innovative internal audit groups are adopting:
What other developmental areas hold promise and greater enlightenment for internal audit? Participants at the Global CAE Forum described a variety of strategies that have yielded success.
Embrace the role
The notion that rock stars and internal auditors share commonalities may not be so far-fetched after all. Consider: Until relatively recently, no one envisioned that a staid, behind-the-scenes profession could spawn a true celebrity. Yet veteran auditors will remember early in the 21st century when an internal auditor was named a “Person of the Year” by Time magazine, raising the profile and stature of the profession to unimagined heights.
But you don’t have to land on a magazine cover to be considered a star. That recognition will come from a few adjustments, more or less. That is:
Business is undergoing a dramatic shift. The internal audit function can help lead the way. Embrace the new role and it will embrace you too.
Download the full report to learn more about what innovative internal groups are doing and the internal audit tools they’re leveraging.
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