Many of our clients maintain an unfortunate view of the internal audit profession. Rather than seeing it as a source of support and valued expertise, they consider internal audit a compulsory activity focused primarily on finding errors. They often don’t recognize the critical role internal audits play or how they serve to help improve organizational performance. Practitioners bear the responsibility for these misconceptions, and it is our job to correct them. To change people’s views, we must demonstrate our value.
Most importantly, perhaps, internal auditors must show clients that they possess the ability to make meaningful contributions to the business. Beyond our risk, compliance, and control expertise, we need to demonstrate a commitment to enhancing the organization with skills aimed specifically at improvement. Internal audit could supplement its existing competencies, for example, with business-specific acumen such as Lean Six Sigma. Many businesses today are implementing Lean thinking for efficiency, improved performance, and quality enhancement. The methodology could serve as a tool for internal audit fieldwork and planning, or it could be used as a basis for advising on Lean Six Sigma projects. Other types of certifications and training could also prove beneficial, especially those that link directly to operational and strategic objectives.
Just possessing these competencies, however, is not enough. Internal auditors also need to make sure clients are aware of the expertise they possess by actively communicating it throughout the organization. They should ensure these capabilities are understood by clients and emphasize the value they can provide to the business. Announcing new staff credentials and competencies via a company newsletter or intranet site, for example, can help increase awareness. Internal audit could also consider meeting with key stakeholders to discuss its capabilities and develop a brochure to promote value-added services.
To cement internal audit’s credibility and truly demonstrate its abilities, auditors need to show how their expertise can be put into practice. For example, audit teams that possess Lean Six Sigma training could look for opportunities where Lean principles can support recommendations for business process improvement. Similarly, fraud, technology, or industry-specific expertise should be leveraged whenever possible for enhancement and support. Audit recommendations can be viewed, in part, as an opportunity to promote the function’s value-added services. Moreover, while remaining mindful of independence, internal auditors must actively participate in critical organizational projects underway or about to start.
To make sure the audit function gains recognition as a valued partner, it may be necessary to go above and beyond these conventional skills. By demonstrating a commitment to organizational improvement, internal audit helps position itself as a key adviser and an essential source of expertise.