Internal Audit is a unique department in any organization. Other departments have a vague idea of internal auditing, and what they do know is usually fed with misinformation and no real understanding of the true value of an internal audit department. In my experience, most departments view the internal audit department as a silo internal cost center. During an audit, every interaction we have is a chance to market our department and the value we bring to the organization, even when those interactions are remote. Here are five key opportunities to showcase internal audit’s value at every stage of the audit lifecycle.
How Can We Market the Value of the Internal Audit Function?
In practice, there are many opportunities to market the value of the internal audit function. Each of the examples that follow addresses different parts/functions of the organization and occurs at different stages in the audit life cycle. Marketing the internal audit function is not a one-time action, but an iterative process.
1. Performing the Risk Assessment
At the beginning of the audit life cycle, we perform a risk assessment that typically includes conversations with senior leadership. During this time, take the opportunity to ask if any upcoming projects could potentially turn into a consulting engagement for the audit team. As we know, the Standards from the Institute of Internal Auditors allow the department to take on consulting engagements as long as we have the “knowledge, skills, and other competencies” to perform the work (IPPF Standards 1210.C1).
2. Establishing a Rotational Auditor Program
Bringing in talent from across the organization, either as a subject matter expert (SME) on a single audit or as a rotational program for a set period, plants people who better understand the benefits of internal audit and strengthens your internal audit team. According to The Institute of Internal Auditors, “Rotational programs also facilitate the sharing of best practices and potentially increase awareness of internal control and the role of internal audit among business-unit staff.” By having advocates for internal audit throughout the business, we have people who can market on our behalf as advocates for internal auditing.
3. Executing the Audit
Perhaps the most critical time to demonstrate the benefits of internal audit to an organization is during fieldwork. Fieldwork is our chance to put on an internal audit roadshow to educate the auditees about how audit can benefit them. Take time during the audit to explain what we are doing and how it directly impacts them and their department. Most importantly, ensure you address any concerns they may have about repercussions from the audit in a timely manner. Too many people still think they will get in some trouble because of findings in the audit report.
4. Presenting Audit Results
When presenting the audit report to the senior leadership, we have the opportunity to connect our audit directly back to organizational objectives, goals, and risks that concern them the most. The report should have a theme that ties the entire audit report together. Having a theme helps us drive home how internal auditing can add value to each specific business objective and the organization as a whole.
5. Partnering with Other Assurance Teams
We can also highlight internal auditing benefits to an organization by working closely with other assurance teams — teams such as enterprise risk management and internal control. Collaborating with these teams will stress the importance of internal audit planning. To work well together, we must share plans and best practices. Working closely with the other assurance teams allows them to see firsthand that our goals are closely aligned to theirs and dispel much of the unknown of internal auditing.
How Can We Demonstrate the Value of the Internal Audit Function?
We can show the benefits of internal audit to an organization in everything we do every single day. We have the advantage of meeting with different people at different levels of the organization through every stage of the audit life cycle. In the end, every interaction we have is a chance to market the value of internal auditing — it’s up to us to seize the advantage of these opportunities.