The internal audit team at Electronic Arts is made up of 20 people spanning from Redwood City, California to Guildford in the United Kingdom. Historically, EA has been a packaged goods company, but it is now transitioning to digital. “For the audit group, this presents a challenge because we’re dyed in the wool in the sense that we knew how to do packaged goods. And now, in the transition to digital, there are certain things that are pretty straightforward,” said Williams. “You’re going to need the traditional skill sets in audit like communication skills and being able to partner up with the business. But there’s also a pivot around data analytics to keep up with the technology. So, how do we make sure that the people who are with the team right now get the training and the skillsets they need to address those challenges?”
As a part of the digital transition, internal audit has brought in members with new skills in data analytics and IT to get in front of the changes. “Go back five or six years and we didn’t have much of an IT presence within our audit team, but we’ve made the move to bring in three or four specific IT auditors,” said Vaughan. “Now we’re looking to leverage the people on the team with those specialized skills to train the rest of us so we can also perform those types of audits.” Internal audit also sources talent with diverse skills sets internally through a guest auditor program. “We encourage people from around the business to partner with us or participate on an audit to learn more about what we do, but also so that we can leverage their skills,” said Vaughan. With this perspective, someone going on long-term leave can be a valuable opportunity to embed an auditor with a different part of the business or to have a person from a different department bring their skill sets into audit for a period.
One core area EA has been focusing on is upleveling their data analytics capabilities. “As we come to a point where we can wrangle the data and tee it up quicker, then our team can spend more time at the value add part — understanding the trends, and talking to the business,” said Williams. “At the end of the day, I don’t want them spending 70% of their time preparing everything. That should be the easy part in this day and age. The hard part is having that relationship with the business.” By building out their data analytics program, internal audit will be able to fully leverage the relationships they’ve built across the business to deliver impactful, data-driven insights.
Collaborating across a globally distributed team that ranges from the UK to California to India is a challenge that both internal audit and the broader business are facing. “We have a distributed business model not only for audit, but also for the studios, for the legal entities, and so on,” said Williams. “Now internal audit also has a headcount over in Hyderabad, and that’s a completely different timezone. Technology is great, and it facilitates our processes, but I think at the end of the day — and the business will say the same — you have to invest the time to have the face time, to have a personal presence. We do our best to have people rotating back and forth amongst the offices, especially with the new hires. If you don’t make that investment of time, no matter how good the technology is, I don’t think you’re going to have that fluidity.” By leveraging technology and making it a priority to build relationships across time zones, the internal audit team helps EA stay on top of the evolving risk landscape.
When it comes to giving advice to people considering going into internal audit or expanding their internal audit career, Helen Vaughan draws on her nontraditional route into audit. “I actually started at EA in supply chain and operations, so I come from an operational background with no traditional Big Four background,” said Vaughan. “For me it was important to learn as much as possible, talk to as many people as possible. It’s really just not limiting yourself, and not being afraid to ask questions or learn new things.” By making internal audit a partner to the business and a value-add function, the team has made the department a natural stop for anyone looking to move up in the company. “I evangelize to other parts of the business that in the arc of your career, audit is a stop you have to make,” said Williams. “Because it’s going to give you a visibility into the business that you will not get anywhere else.”
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