Elevating internal audit’s role: The digitally fit function
In an arena defined by more data, more automation, sophisticated cyberattacks and constantly evolving customer expectations, internal audit needs the dexterity to pivot quickly and keep up with the digital pace of the business and the knowledge and skills to provide advice and strategic assurance.
For our 2019 State of the Internal Audit Profession Study, we evaluated internal audit survey respondents based on their digital fitness scores across five dimensions (vision and roadmap, ways of working, stakeholder engagement, services model and operations). Nineteen percent were so-called Dynamics, the most digitally fit, 27% were Actives, those taking many of the steps necessary to become more digitally fit, and 54% were Beginners, those at a very early stage in their digital journey.
Pascal Tops, Partner at PwC Belgium
"Internal audit departments in Belgian companies tend to be smaller than their US/UK counterparts with a different appetite for investment. They also seem to be more pragmatic and driven by cost than those in neighbouring countries," explains Pascal Tops, Partner PwC.
As a result, they tend to act more as a follower, observing trends before taking action. But this is something that Pascal Tops believes could get them into trouble: "Innovation is moving so fast and new technologies are appearing at a rapid pace, internal audit needs to be prepared to audit them. This has a huge impact on the quality of the internal audit function and its relevance going forward. Internal audit can’t afford to sit and wait three to five years, the time to act is now. It’s time for internal audit to future-proof itself."
Our 2019 State of the Internal Audit Profession Study shows that the Dynamics are more prepared for the digital world with 49% already auditing or skilling up to audit artificial intelligence (AI), for example. By contrast, just 13% of Beginners are doing so.
My internal audit function is fully staffed and capable of auditing or in the past 12 months has audited an area that used this technology.
Q. Which of the following best describes your current preparedness to audit each of the following new technologies?
Base: 98 Dynamics; 140 Actives; 271 Beginners
As organisations become more and more digital, internal audit’s baseline levels of digital acumen must rise. Marc Daelman, Partner, PwC, points out, "being a generalist auditor is no longer sufficient. A deeper understanding of data is critical because data sits at the centre of all things digital. An understanding of cybersecurity, change management and so on is becoming more and more important. All of which is having a substantial impact on the type of staff internal audit must now hire."
Given the small size of internal audit departments in Belgium, this is a real challenge. "It’s not about creating a bigger function, but about reassessing the skill mix to make sure that the right competences are present," Marc Daelman adds.
According to our survey, investment in upskilling differs significantly between Dynamics, Actives and Beginners. Dynamics are working with their organisation on digital initiatives to increase internal audit’s level of digital knowledge; they’re partnering with risk and compliance functions on training investments and they’re building upskilling programmes of their own. Dynamics also put digital first in the way they recruit talent, often targeting and reaching candidates through digital recruiting strategies.
Marc Daelman, Partner at PwC Belgium
01 - Go all-in on the organisation's digital plan
02 - Upskill and inject new talent to move at the speed of the organisation
03 - Find the right fit for emerging technologies
04 - Enable the organisation to act on risks in real time
05 - Actively engage decision makers of key digital initiatives
06 - Collaborate and align to provide a consolidated view of risks