When Michael Perrotta, VP Internal Audit at OUTFRONT Media, came on board to start up and lead the company’s internal audit department, he brought the conviction that internal audit has a crucial role to play in improving business processes. At OUTFRONT Media, he has embraced technology to drive organizational change by implementing a data analytics program to provide management with real-time data, as well as finding ways to automate formerly manual processes across the company. Read our interview with Michael to learn how his internal audit team partners with the business on new projects, and cultivates IT audit knowledge and techniques to meet the challenges of cyber and data security risks.
What drew you to a career in internal audit?
Michael: In college, I started off as a finance major before switching over to accounting. Right out of school I started my career in public accounting before going into financial audit at PwC. I transitioned to internal audit at CBS to help start the new internal audit department after CBS was spun off from Viacom. When CBS subsequently spun off OUTFRONT Media in 2014, I came on board to start up and lead the internal audit department here. I’ve stayed in internal audit over the years because I found it allowed me to use my core audit skills while working within the organization to bring greater efficiencies and improvements.
Which aspects of your role do you find the most fulfilling?
Michael: I enjoy the ability to effect change throughout the organization. Although we own audit as well as SOX compliance, we also partner with the business on new projects, implementations, and development efforts—I always want us to be thinking with our consultant hats on to identify opportunities to improve the organization. Getting involved in new business development allows us to help define processes and implement effective controls as the company grows and changes. At the same time, these efforts give me and the team deeper insights into the business and its operations.
What is your internal audit team at OUTFRONT Media focusing on this year?
Michael: In addition to the ongoing compliance efforts for audit and SOX, we are focusing on some emerging development to transition our media to new proprietary digital formats. These processes are subject to rapid development and change, and we are bringing our expertise to help better define consistent and repeatable processes for the business.
Automation has also been an ongoing focus, since manual processes create the opportunity for errors. We have successfully partnered with management on several initiatives to help automate certain functions that were either very manual or paper intensive, and we continually look for these opportunities.
What do you feel is the most difficult challenge facing internal auditors right now?
Michael: Cyber and data security in general are going to require traditional operational internal auditors to have an increasing knowledge of IT audit terms and techniques to be effective. At OUTFRONT Media, we have been working with IT on their program to continually improve and mature our security programs. We’re finding that we can use our expertise to define robust processes, but more importantly, our work with IT gives us better insights into the company’s emerging risks so we can assess how to address them better in the future.
Having well-defined and well-controlled processes is no longer sufficient as applications continue to become more specialized and more complex, because the associated security risks and exposures also expand. I think we can all go a bit further to absorb IT language, techniques and approaches in our day to day work—and in the coming years, I think everyone in internal audit will need to further integrate IT technical expertise into what we do operationally.
How are you championing initiatives for improvement in effectiveness and efficiency?
Michael: Because we go to a number of different locations and shared service centers, we see how things are done in one place versus another. Getting to know the nuances of how people comply with policy and procedures puts internal audit in a strong position to share solutions and best practices across locations. In addition to our ongoing audits of the business, we have also polled offices across the country to determine best practices that are used as a basis to update policies so all offices can operate consistently and with maximum efficiency.
What’s been a recent success for advancing internal audit at OUTFRONT Media?
Michael: Over the last several years we have worked to expand our data analytics program, and by working with management, we’ve been able to better understand their concerns and refine the results to make them more useful and timely. We believe that when we provide management with more and better real-time knowledge, it can lead to better controls compliance and decision making.