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Lack of analytics skills hampers internal audit

When it comes to internal audit, technology makes all the difference. Three-quarters of internal audit teams with a strong technology and talent strategy contribute significant value to their organisations, compared to only 34 per cent of teams that lack an advanced technology strategy and skill sets. This is according to a survey of 2,500 internal audit executives by PwC. The report acknowledges that advanced technologies also pose risks – but successful internal audit organisations also focus on mitigating the risks, while benefiting from the innovative tools to work more effectively.

However, the survey also found that only 14 per cent of internal audit functions are advanced in their technology adoption. Those considered to have advanced technology adoption tend to also do the following:

  • They move technology and talent in lockstep, excelling at obtaining, training and sourcing the talent they need compared.
  • They build a deliberate strategy, focusing on technology enablement as part of their strategic plan.
  • They leverage technology-enabled collaboration tools and are better at managing stakeholder relationships and cost efficiencies.
  • They are self-service in data extraction.
  • They use tools and skill sets for enhanced productivity – from advancing data analytics and monitoring, to leaning into intelligent automation, they invest more in technology risks and tools training than their peers.

Integrating analytics into audit

And analysis from Protiviti also suggests that internal audit departments are not using integrated data analytics to boost their audit processes – but formalising a data analytics programme should be one of their top priorities, according to Protiviti's Brian Christensen. He added: “Internal audit groups continue to face a lack of skills in understanding and using analytics technologies. Chief audit executives need to focus on increasing the levels of education in their internal audit functions, and more specifically, to move from general plans and discussions about using analytics to actually advancing and integrating analytics, robotic process automation and other digital initiatives into the audit plan. Those who fail to integrate these initiatives risk becoming obsolete as their organizations continue to undergo digital transformation at an increasingly rapid pace.”

The Protiviti study also outlined the following actions for improving audit analytics capabilities:

  • Recognize that the demand for data analytics in internal auditing is growing across all organizations and industries.
  • Seek out opportunities to expand internal audit’s knowledge of sophisticated data analytics capabilities.
  • Consider the use of champions to lead the analytics effort and, when appropriate, create a dedicated analytics function.
  • Explore avenues to expand internal audit’s access to quality data and implement protocols that govern the extraction of data used during the audit process.
  • Implement steps to measure the success of your data analytics efforts and also consider the most effective ways to report success and value to management and other key stakeholders.

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