Internal audit teams play a key role in ensuring that a company’s governance, risk management and compliance processes are operating as they should.
But internal auditors can do far more than check boxes — they’re in a prime position to help guide the overall business strategy.
By bringing their programs to maturity, internal audit teams can use their unique insights to play a bigger role in the overall planning process, usher in more opportunities for the business and demonstrate the value they bring to the C-suite.
Here, we explore 7 key indicators of internal audit maturity and how these traits allow audit teams to serve as strategic advisers.
7 Key Indicators of Internal Audit Maturity
The following traits are indicative of a mature internal audit program that provides more than just basic assurance.
1. Aligned and Flexible
A mature internal audit program is closely aligned with the organization’s overall strategic plan (particularly in risk management) but remains flexible to change.
For example, the internal audit team should frequently update risk assessments in order to keep up with organizational objectives and developments, such as new ESG initiatives or other shifts in business focus.
By aligning internal audits with the broader business strategy and updating procedures based on strategic goals, the audit process can contribute to overall business improvement and enhanced performance.
2. Successfully Integrates Data Analytics
Data analytics can play a central role in helping internal audit teams become proactive partners and advisers to the board.
Not only do they improve data quality and save auditors time by allowing them to analyze large amounts of data, data analytics can also deliver valuable and practical insights, enabling clearer communication.
Audit management software with built-in data analytics can make it easier for teams to integrate data analytics into their overall strategic approach.
3. Uses Holistic Risk Assessment
Just as mature internal audit teams integrate data analytics into their overall process, they also view risks as part of a larger picture. By analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data, internal audit teams can gain a holistic overview of their organization's risk.
This view can also help them to see risks that are interconnected, which allows them to better understand potential implications for the business.
To ensure full protection, strategic objectives — and risks to those objectives — should be monitored and prioritized on a continuous basis.
4. Presents a Variety of Skills and Backgrounds
In addition to auditing and accounting, strong internal audit teams possess a wide variety of other skills that allow them to better advise the board.
These can include critical thinking, leadership skills and knowledge relevant to a specific industry, among others.
This mix of skills and backgrounds is important for audit teams looking to guide overall business strategy, because they’ll have a broader range of experiences and knowledge to draw insights from.
5. Offers Deep Visibility to the Board
Mature internal audit departments document and monitor their procedures and systems. They’re also ready to adapt those procedures as new developments emerge.
Thorough documentation lends itself to deep visibility, which is critical to staying on top of potential risks and keeping the board informed.
User-friendly dashboards drive clear reporting, which audit teams can use to build more effective and agile internal audits, and which boards can use to obtain real-time updates and important insights.
6. Automation and Continuous Monitoring
Automated workflows not only speed up internal audit processes — they also minimize the potential for human error.
Meanwhile, continuous monitoring empowers internal audit teams to investigate what’s going wrong as it’s happening and immediately remedy the problem, rather than lose time considering everything that could go wrong. This also drives continuous improvement in internal audit processes.
Automation can dramatically improve day-to-day work and boost morale, saving audit teams valuable time and helping them unearth key insights to share with the board and C-suite.
7. Offers Key Input for Strategic Decision-Making
Perhaps the ultimate indicator of a mature internal audit program is the ability to serve as a strategic partner and advisor to the board.
When visibility and communication are clearer, internal auditors are able to “speak the same language” as, and therefore better interact with, other parts of the business (for example, risk and compliance teams).
By utilizing data analytics, automated workflows, continuous monitoring and a diverse set of skills, internal audit teams can spend less time on mundane reporting tasks and more time generating insights that guide strategic decision-making across the organization.
Technology Can Increase Internal Audit Value
The right technology can help internal audit teams check all of the above boxes and bring their programs to maturity.
Solutions such as the Diligent Audit Management Solution and ACL Analytics automate control testing and centralize workflows, allowing teams to get more done in less time so they can focus on driving strategy.
This boosts productivity while elevating executive visibility and assurance, so audit teams can provide a new level of assurance in less time, demonstrating the value they bring to the board and organization as a whole.