Innovating audit and technology in the face of uncertainty

By Fraser Doig

The current situation with COVID-19 has thrown up a considerable amount of uncertainty across all aspects of day to day life. Audit and technology is just one example of this, as many businesses and job functions are having to rely on technology to re-think the way they do things. What’s important here is looking for digital solutions that are robust and add value to your organisation, rather than viewing it as something temporary until social distancing is relaxed. This is an opportunity to review and innovate processes and realise the benefits of digitalisation in the long term.  

Reviewing risk 

The outbreak of COVID-19 has more than likely changed the key risks that organisations had identified prior to this. Reviewing risk assessments to identify what the priorities should be is crucial in the current climate as the risk environment has now changed. Chief audit executives (CAEs) should be analysing these risk assessments to pick out relevant risks that are urgent and should be prioritised, updating the audit team and key stakeholders to ensure everyone is informed.  

Much of this communication is going to rely on the use of technology and digital tools while workplaces are closed and social distancing measures are in place. Whether that’s using internal audit technology, file-sharing or video calls - organisations will need to embrace the opportunities to innovate their practices in the digital sphere.  

The role of the auditor in these uncertain times 

Auditors are a key part in ensuring that businesses remain compliant and attuned to risk, helping to identify those that may have been overlooked, emerged or increased as a result of the coronavirus pandemic; for example, cybersecurity and third-party relationships. As an organisation’s third line of defence, auditors will play an important part in reviewing health and safety concerns in implementing a return-to-work plan.  

In addition, remote auditing is being adopted by many internal auditors as an alternative to in-person visits. This involves using video calls, digital document access, screen sharing and capturing the work environment via photos and videos where possible. The government has issued advice for auditing remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Strengthen internal controls 

The top three risks identified by Protiviti and North Carolina State University are a lack of understanding of technology, resistance to change and cybersecurity. The IIA state: “in a data driven world, strong data management is crucial — and strong internal controls are how the company manages enterprise data.” This is particularly prevalent in times of uncertainty, where a robust audit software solution is needed to manage data remotely and support key audit processes in an efficient and secure manner. Using internal audit technology helps to automate some of the audit processes, allowing you to focus on aligning an audit with the organisation’s key risks and strategic objectives. This serves to enhance the value that an auditor provides, ensuring you are focusing on the most relevant things.  

GAM 2020 

The coronavirus outbreak caused this year’s annual General Audit Management conference to be cancelled so we’ve moved our event stand online so you still have the opportunity to speak to our audit experts. Craig Watson discusses the benefits of agile auditing in his online presentation and Stephanie Jones covers the main issues faced by auditors across Europe and North America in 2020 in the Ideagen Insights podcast. Join in and experience how audit and technology can work together in the face of adversity and uncertainty.  

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