This year, my weekly blog has received more than 300,000 views from internal auditors and other professionals from around the world. Each year since 2016, I have dedicated time to examining the most-popular blog post for clues about internal audit priorities over the past year. It should come as no surprise that 2020's list is dominated by content related to COVID-19. The pandemic has been the driving force behind world-altering changes, from reshaping business models and redefining the workplace, to accelerating digital transformation and rewriting the rules of consumerism.
Five of the top 10 posts for "Chambers on the Profession" in 2020 regarded COVID-19's impact on the internal audit profession. That included the top post, published in early March just as the potentially global spread of the virus was becoming evident. The post, which drew nearly 30,000 views, addressed how internal auditors could step up to support their organizations in the face of the pandemic's risks.
Here is snapshot of each of the top 10 posts — in descending order — as well as links to the original:
In the Face of the Coronavirus, Internal Auditors Must Do More Than Don Masks. This post came early in the evolution of the virus, back when it was more often referred to as coronavirus. In it, I shared five key actions internal auditors should be taking to support their organizations.
New IIA Three Lines Model Offers Timely Evolution of a Trusted Tool. The new IIA Three Lines Model, which took a fresh look at the Three Lines of Defense, generated great interest. Its potential to change the way organizations look not just at risk, but also at controls, collaboration, communication, accountability, assurance, and more, drove significant readership. Importantly, I addressed the issue of internal auditor independence and objectivity in relation to the model. The key takeaway was that "independence does not imply isolation."
Returning to Workplaces Will Be Risky: Roll Up Your Sleeves, Internal Audit. Returning to the workplace creates a multitude of risks that are not typically found on most organizations' risk assessments. As prospects become evident of the pandemic dragging into 2021, three key areas of risk focus should continue to resonate with readers: preventing the spread of COVID-19, designing appropriate workplace controls, and establishing how to identify and isolate employees who may have the disease.
Return-to-workplace Risks: Is Internal Audit Stepping Up? An IIA poll of chief audit executives (CAEs) in North America provided a decidedly mixed answer to whether organizations were prepared for a safe return to the workplace and whether internal audit was sufficiently involved. The Audit Executive Center poll, conducted in early May, found that more than half of organizations might not have been well-prepared to address some key factors for returning safely to the workplace. Even more troubling, many respondents could not provide an opinion on the readiness of their organization for about a third of the factors examined. That signaled that a large number of internal audit functions were on the outside looking in on some of the biggest risks facing their organizations.
For Internal Audit, Success Boils Down to Five A's. There are some basic axioms that I believe define success for any internal audit function, which I delineated in one of the top non-COVID-19 blog posts for the year. Drawing on more than 45 years in this profession, I believe there are five key basics to success for internal auditors. I call them the Five A's of Effective Internal Auditing.
Fraud Report Affirms Internal Audit's Value at Critical Time. The annual Association of Certified Fraud Examiners' (ACFE's) Report to the Nations reliably provides affirmation of internal audit's value to organizations. The Global Fraud Survey consistently reflects the significant role that internal audit plays, and the value it adds, in detecting and deterring fraud. In this extraordinary year, the report's message about internal audit's value was needed more than ever.
Internal Audit, COVID-19 Risks, and the Year Ahead. In light of the continuing impacts of the pandemic, anticipating risks has never been more critical than it is today. COVID-19 accelerated the velocity of risk to unprecedented levels, making most risk assessments undertaken in 2020 limited in their usefulness. And yet, the uncertainties wrought by the pandemic in 2020 will be only a drop in the bucket compared with the uncertainty of risks we face in 2021.
Pandemic and Looming Recession Demand Internal Audit to Step Up. The conversation is no longer about whether there will be a global recession. Instead, the question is how deep will it be, and how long will it last? Economic downturns offer both threats and opportunities for internal audit, and practitioners must be ready to support their organizations.
10 Signs Trouble May Be Brewing for the CAE and Internal Audit. Every CAE must continuously review current and potential stakeholder groups and reassess their needs, which can change swiftly. There are telltale signs when stakeholders may be unimpressed or even unhappy with the leadership of the CAE and the value provided by internal audit.
Five Internal Audit Resolutions for 2020 and Beyond. The pandemic made resolutions for 2020 quickly irrelevant, or so it would seem. However, a review of the resolutions I offered in January finds they do continue to resonate, even in the face of these challenging times.
As I reviewed the list of top posts for 2020, I was struck by two things: First, COVID-19 has taught us that the only certainty is uncertainty. This should clearly signal to internal auditors the value of being well-prepared, resilient, and attuned to emerging risks that could threaten our organizations. Secondly, I wonder what this list will look like at the end of 2021. Not only will we have lived through another year of the pandemic's impact, but my weekly blog for The IIA will have come to an end. But fear not, for I intend to continue sharing my perspectives on the profession in new and even more exciting ways.
Despite the uncertainty in the world in which we live, and the changes that are on the way, I look forward to seeing what the next year brings and continuing to share my views with you, my loyal readers.