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​The More Things Stay the Same

Today's advice to audit departments looks strikingly familiar.

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There is a lot of virtual ink being spilled on the subject of internal audit's need to adapt and change in this next phase of the pandemic. And several consistent themes are appearing, including talent retention, improving technical proficiency, focusing on privacy and cybersecurity, automating internal audit, doing more with less, and making better use of data analytics.

These are all valid areas of concern. We do, indeed, need to recognize and move forward in these areas. But examining them more closely may bring about a strong sense of déjà vu — a resonance from the past.

In fact, a review of pre-pandemic audit literature reveals similar calls for action in every one of these areas. We have to wonder why we're asking the same questions, putting forward the same challenges, and continuing to rehash issues and concerns we identified before the world changed. And what makes us think this time will be different?

Through much of our history, internal audit seems to have been playing a game of catch-up, promising we will change just as soon as the latest fires are put out. As an example, those of us who have been around for many years have seen a constant cry for internal auditors to make the most of available computerized tools. We are told we need to make better use of data analytics. And before that we were told we needed to make better use of computer-assisted audit techniques. And before that we were told we needed to make better use of continuous auditing. Throughout these various supplications, most departments kept doing things the same old way, with the promise that they would take on these tools in the near future. That near future is 20 years past and counting.

And so it is with almost every pandemic-era concern listed above. Talent retention was an issue long before the employee shortage many are now facing. The need for upskilling within internal audit was seen as a serious gap and one of the causes for the C-suite not taking our departments seriously. Doing more with less becomes a predominant theme during every economic downturn. And there has been talk of ensuring all internal auditors become more technically proficient since the 1990s.

Internal auditors continually recognize these issues, yet little progress has been made. And the current situation has only widened that gap.

There is nothing wrong with the latest challenges we've given ourselves. The difference is that, this time, we must embrace the need for change.

Internal auditors have the skills, knowledge, and opportunity to be leaders, with each department taking a leading role in the organization, and the profession undertaking greater leadership in the business world. But it won't happen until we truly believe change is necessary and actually take steps to move forward — steps we have consistently recognized but avoided.

Mike Jacka
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About the Author

 

 

Mike JackaMike Jacka<p>​​​​​​​​​​​Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU, worked in internal audit for nearly 30 years at Farmers Insurance Group. He is currently co-founder and chief creative pilot for Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS). In <a href="/_layouts/15/FIXUPREDIRECT.ASPX?WebId=85b83afb-e83f-45b9-8ef5-505e3b5d1501&TermSetId=2a58f91d-9a68-446d-bcc3-92c79740a123&TermId=ac8af301-e15c-49bc-9c04-b97c2e183a4b" data-feathr-click-track="true">From the Mind of Jacka​</a>, Mike offers his wit and wisdom on the internal audit profession.</p>https://iaonline.theiia.org/blogs/jackaMike Jacka blog posts

 

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