As I have been writing in my blog for nearly 10 years, I think internal auditing can be one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet. But let's face it, no matter how good you are at your job, it's unlikely that people drop by your office each day, or post a comment on social media, just to say how much they loved your last audit. Still, as I wrote back in 2011, there are unmistakable signs that your last audit was indeed a big success. Here are a few of my favorite indicators that an internal audit report hit a home run.
1. Your audit committee specifically asks you to brief members on your last audit. At most organizations, the chief audit executive regularly attends audit committee meetings, but other internal auditors are less likely to also attend. If you normally are not invited, but this time the audit committee wants to hear from you, congratulations! Most likely, your audit addressed a critical risk or had important repercussions, and your efforts are being noticed. In this case, you and internal audit have hit a home run. (That is, unless the audit committee called you in only because members wanted to criticize your audit. Unfortunately, the name for your situation probably is a "strikeout.")
2. The CEO or CFO sees you in the hallway and stops you to talk about the audit. When people stop what they are doing just to talk about results of a recent audit, chances are good that you are making a difference in your organization. Any special recognition of an audit, even during an impromptu meeting, indicates that people have been thinking about your report and its consequences. I look at this as a big sign that internal audit is functioning as an agent for positive change.
3. Your audit recommendations result in significant cost savings, enhanced revenue, and/or major efficiencies. Everybody loves money. If your internal audit report resulted in a significant cost savings or materially enhanced the bottom line, I'm sure you already know that the audit hit a home run. These are results that would make any auditor proud. Internal auditors know that money is not the only thing that matters — but it never hurts.
4. Your internal audit reveals a major unrecognized risk or ferrets out a major fraud. When an internal audit unearths a serious problem or stops a major problem from occurring, you know you have made a difference. Addressing a serious risk might not enhance revenue, but on occasion, an internal audit recommendation can even save a life — and an internal audit that does this is an automatic home run in any book.
5. Operating management seeks out your advice on related or additional issues surfaced in a recent audit report. If you get a callback from operating management asking for additional advice, you can assume your audit was a success. When operating management seeks out your opinions about its operations, it's likely that your audit scored. But it doesn't count if someone calls you merely to ask for advice about how to word a response to an audit recommendation.
6. Your audit discloses (and management agrees) that culture is a root cause of one or more findings in your report. To be honest, this one was not on the list I first published in 2011. However, expectations that internal audit will comment on culture have risen dramatically in the past few years. Any internal auditor who can clearly identify culture as a root cause in an audit report may well be heading toward the "hall of fame" in my book.
These aren't the only indicators that internal audit has hit a home run. In fact, the strongest signal that an internal audit was successful is often unique to the circumstances of the particular engagement. Of course, if a single audit resulted in all of the outcomes above, chances are that it wasn't just a home run. It was a "grand slam!"
I would love to hear from you. Do you have real-life examples of moments when you realized your last internal audit was a success? Let's share the experiences!