Resources Foster Strategic Internal Audit Leadership: 4 Executive Approaches

Foster Strategic Internal Audit Leadership: 4 Executive Approaches

Strategic internal audit leadership and change is the new status quo. With rapid shifts on all fronts, organisations need accurate data to make the right decisions at the right time. Though internal audit departments have the power to stop adverse risk events in their tracks, other organisation members may only sometimes regard them as the strategic leaders they indeed are.

Strong relationships with internal departments and the board can change that. Chief Audit Executives (CAEs) can elevate the reputation of internal audit within the organisation through clear expectations, clear communication and a clear vision.

Start turning your internal audit department into a strategic business leader with these four tactics:

Set clear priorities for your audit department to ensure strategic internal audit leadership

Internal audit departments should have a single version of the truth. Though “mitigate risk” might feel like a priority, being more specific can lead to better outcomes by encouraging teams to follow your lead. This will keep the internal audit department productive and make it easier to communicate the value of internal audit organisation wide.

To determine your priorities, start by forecasting. Consider topics that might arise in the future (think of new risks or upcoming policies and regulations) and the subsequent impact of recommendations you make now. Use predictive and real-time analytics to evaluate various scenarios so you can confidently explain them to other departments and your executive board.

Next, evaluate your controls and compliance initiatives, ensuring you develop or revise processes to tackle your risk scenarios. This will allow you to give other departments the assurances they need to move forward with their priorities. You can then use the audit solutions you’ve developed as a framework to strategically optimise business processes and seek out root causes and trends.

Analysing both individual issues and the bigger picture will make internal audit an actual change agent for your organisation.

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Build a relationship with your audit committee chair

The audit committee chair is your best not-so-secret weapon; this person can go to bat for the internal audit department when you, the CAE, are not present. As important as the audit committee chair is, nearly a quarter (22.8%) of CAEs said they speak to their chair only once per quarter, according to an IIA survey. Yet consider how much can change in three months.

Aim to meet with your audit committee chair at least once a month. Use this time to regroup on internal audit plans, especially if you’re experiencing ongoing change. This ensures that your audit committee chair will be up to date on your goals and familiar with the people behind them. With this information in hand, the audit committee chair can effectively advocate for the value of the internal audit function within the organisation. This advocacy is critical to ensuring your team’s seat at the decision-making table.

Elevate the brand of the internal audit team to secure strategic internal audit leadership

Internal audit was once viewed as a behind-the-scenes team crunching numbers that didn’t always connect with business goals. Today, internal audit has a unique ability to anticipate and mitigate risks. Yet many CAEs aren’t effectively telling that story organisation-wide.

Think of the internal audit department as a service provider whose clients are all other departments within the organisation. Your goal should be to build trust between the internal audit and the rest of your organisation. Every interaction is an opportunity to foster goodwill. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for other teams to add you to their agenda.

Instead, host internal webinars, distribute an email newsletter briefing the company on critical insights from internal audits or build relationships with executives that might not otherwise cross paths with your department. The more understanding you can give the organisation into the value of your department, the better.

Incorporate the right internal audit technology

Technology alone isn’t a silver bullet. But once you have organisation-wide relationships, technology can help internal audit take the next step towards being a trusted business partner.

Audit management technology, such as HighBond, checks your organisation’s compliance boxes so your team can spend time developing strategic initiatives. Features like automated workflows, classifications and risk assessments can free up your team to focus on solutions that drive value for the entire organisation. Real-time analytics and simple, easy-to-read dashboards also make it easy to package your team’s work for everyone in your organisation to view, even those who aren’t so tech-savvy.

In rapid change, data-driven decision-making is the only way forward. Internal audit departments can be a single source of truth, which is why these teams are crucial to the future of almost any organisation. While a digital transformation can make data more readily available throughout the company, organisation-wide relationship building can elevate the internal audit’s reputation.

Want to elevate your internal audit reputation within your organisation?

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