Although most organisations are primed to deal with a certain level of change and disruption, the pandemic turned normal business operations upside down almost overnight.
On a global scale, businesses had to quickly pivot and adapt, acting fast to implement largely remote workforces, all while responding to a flailing economic outlook and adjusting commercial strategies in order to stay afloat.
While many firms have, by and large, adapted and carved their own new version of normal in recent months, there is a fresh set of expectations coming into play across the Internal Audit arena.
Internal Audit functions are now tasked with navigating new risks brought on by the pandemic, while minimising business disruptions and meeting company objectives in a post-COVID environment.
This is why it’s important to keep an eye on and prepare for the Internal Audit trends which are currently gaining momentum and growing in popularity.
Automation and digital transformation
Digital transformation is expected to grow and expand into new areas in 2021 after the unexpected arrival of COVID and the subsequent battle to recurate operations accelerated developments exponentially.
Moving forward, we predict that companies will choose to automate audit procedures in order to minimise human error. This will also bring added time and money saving benefits, while allowing people to focus on less tedious and more productive tasks.
This is because digital transformation and automotive tools enable businesses to interrogate massive amounts of data, all while covering entire processes from start to finish.
Automated data gathering and analysis ensure that Internal Audit teams receive relevant data and insights on time, including specific alerts when a Compliance issue needs to be quickly addressed.
Remote working isn’t going anywhere and presented a set of new challenges and risks to Internal Audit teams, meaning they needed to think creatively to develop resourceful solutions where real life interactions are limited.
While this task may at first appear challenging, it is made possible thanks to the right work methodologies and technology tools.
Video conferencing apps, secure file-sharing and document signing platforms and virtual private networks (VPNs) meant that many internal audit teams were able to smoothly facilitate this transition, while keeping processes private.
There’s a good chance that various components of working will continue to be performed remotely, even after the pandemic is over.
Increased risk of fraud
With people transitioning Internal Audit processes to a remote basis to facilitate working from home, new internal fraud risks emerge. Internal fraud attempts may include false time reports, fraudulent financial reporting and unauthorised access to sensitive or confidential company information.
The simple fact is, like it or not, employees themselves pose a significant risk when critical information isn’t adequately protected. With many jobs hanging in the balance during recent uncertain times, some might, in desperation, choose to use company data improperly.
The right Internal Audit professionals are well placed to monitor suspicious access to information and provide alerts if and when this happens.
More focus on cybersecurity
Even before COVID, cybersecurity was a threat to organisations and an increasing number of businesses are recognising the need to defend themselves against it moving forward.
This can be achieved by reviewing security measures and identifying opportunities to strengthen protection measures. Due to their understanding of an organisation’s risk landscape and technology, Internal Audit teams are in an ideal position to assess cybersecurity processes and policies.
They can then subsequently report on the effectiveness of their security measures to other teams across the business, providing key opportunities for advancement and safeguarding in this area.
In short, Internal Audit professionals are able to shift according to relevant regulations, along with wider world events beyond their control. They are also trained to ask themselves in which direction the business is headed and put tools and measures in place to achieve this. In order to do so, they must strive to keep abreast of the latest industry trends and developments.
MERJE specialises in recruiting professionals across all levels of Audit, from newly qualified Auditor through to Director of Internal Audit and Chief Auditor. When you’re looking to secure your organisation, we’re the best people to help you build up your Internal Audit team. Simply get in touch with Andrew Varty, our Finance & Audit Managing Consultant: email@example.com.