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​Internal Audit: The Future Is Now

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The origin of the expression, "the future is now," is murky at best, but it is often incorrectly credited to Korean American artist Nam June Paik. Paik, whose work with television and video in the early 1960s gained him the moniker, "the father of video art," was quoted in Artnews magazine in 1995 urging, "People talk about the future being tomorrow, but the future is now."

Paik was ahead of his time, and his approach to his craft is best described in his quote. He had the vision to articulate how technology and media would change perceptions and mold how we view our world. He also had the courage to incorporate this view into his avant-garde work.

It is difficult and daunting to think futuristically, especially for internal auditors. It's a risky proposition, and professionals whose work centers on risk and risk management are by nature reluctant to predict what may happen. But we must embrace Paik's approach if we are to elevate our profession to be universally recognized as indispensable.

This week, about 2,000 people are gathering in Sydney, Australia, for The IIA's annual International Conference. The theme of this year's conference, "L.I.V.E. the Global Experience: Leadership. Innovation. Value. Effectiveness," centers on the idea that internal audit must embrace a futuristic approach. 

The conference's educational tracks are designed to position practitioners to think and act futuristically, helping them to recognize and understand the skills and techniques necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing risk environment.

Here's a sampling of some of the 10 educational tracks and 70 concurrent sessions that will help attendees prepare for the future:

People and Relationships: Reinventing the Personality of Internal Audit. Attendees can learn about transitioning from internal auditor to business leader, the use of emotional intelligence for effective leadership, and enhancing organization engagement.

Practice Management: Creating Innovation and Effectiveness. The offerings include learning how to develop an agile audit function, how to tell a story with data analytics, and how to disrupt internal audit to deliver results in a disruptive environment.

Digital Dawn: Pioneering the New Frontline. This track offers sessions on the impact of blockchain technology, robotic process animation, and auditing at the speed of risk.

IT Auditing: Addressing Digital Risks and Opportunities. This delves into auditing social media risk, cloud-based IT services, and how to communicate risk and assurance to stakeholders.

Risk Management: Building New Value. In this track, attendees will examine geopolitical risk, risk management of disruption, and measuring the effectiveness of enterprise risk management.

In addition to the concurrent tracks, this year's International Conference boasts an impressive lineup of keynote speakers chosen for their futuristic thinking. The conference kicks off with global futurist Chris Riddell, who promises a provocative examination of our world in, "The Future Is Already Here. So What About Tomorrow? "

Attendees also will hear from Philippa Malmgren, founder of DRMP Group and respected economic commentator who predicted the global financial crisis, the slowdown in China, Brexit, and Trump. In "The Big Shift: Reading the Signals of Geopolitical Risks and Opportunities," Malmgren will share her views and insights on the telltale signs that signal where the world economy is going next.

For the first time, the International Conference will offer nine "special interest" discussion forums on topics ranging from women in audit and small audit shops to health sector auditing and addressing technology in internal auditing.

Clearly, this year's conference offers significant opportunities to expand our view of futuristic thinking. Embracing this outlook has become vital to the internal audit profession. Technology, geopolitical uncertainty, and the dynamic nature of business demand that internal audit become proactive, agile, and armed with the skills to confidently peek beyond the horizon.

If you didn't make it to Sydney, I urge you to mark your calendars for next year's International Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. There, internal auditors will gather May 6–9, 2018, to look yet further into the future.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

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