58% of chief audit executives (CAEs) report their teams are performing all or most of their work remotely, according to data captured by The IIA in October and November 2021. A further 22% say their teams are utilizing a hybrid approach of roughly equal remote and in-person work.
In this predominately virtual landscape, an informal IIA and AuditBoard poll on LinkedIn conducted in September 2021 reveals 52% of the more than 1,800 respondents say that building key relationships is the biggest challenge to auditing remotely. A separate AuditBoard survey of audit leaders in September 2021 reveals 40% said relationships with non-audit personnel in the organization had weakened.
To counteract this relationship atrophy, some audit leaders are scheduling no-agenda “coffee talks” with non-audit peers to keep the conversation flowing. These leaders stress that purposely finding time for regular contact with audit stakeholders is key to sustaining a relationship that can help auditors understand the areas they are auditing.
Not being able to conduct in-person audits has spurred investment in technology, according to a second IIA and AuditBoard poll conducted in September via LinkedIn. More than 50% of the 598 respondents affirm that since the start of the pandemic, their organizations have acquired cloud-based technology to help with remote collaboration and risk management.
Along with cloud-based technology like audit management platforms, business intelligence applications, and data analytics tools, audit teams have made use of video conferencing applications for audit work and walkthroughs, existing security camera networks to replace activities requiring physical observation, and even drones for certain kinds of site inspections. Organizations are also focusing on upskilling employees and improving data literacy.
In addition to technology and relationship building, internal auditors benefit from cultivating an adaptive and intentional mindset on the individual level. In an audit leader survey conducted by AuditBoard in September, more than 60% of respondents identified analytical/critical thinking skills as “critical audit skills” and more than half also named communication skills as critical. These skills are crucial for rethinking internal audit processes and brainstorming alternative procedures as hybrid auditing continues to evolve.
In particular, strong communication skills are necessary to fill the gaps in communication created by the remote work environment. Auditors working together must be deliberate about checking in with each other to ensure they are aligned and moving in the right direction. An intentional mindset can alleviate this challenge, as iterative audit planning allows teams to frequently circle back to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of objectives and risks.
Ultimately, the most successful internal auditors in the future will embrace the innovations created during the pandemic and blend them with tried and true methodologies. To learn more about how audit leaders and teams are strategizing to adapt to their new priorities, download the full report here.