If you're involved in the digital transformation that's shaking up the business from top to bottom, you're likely also upending the neat little world your auditors have lived in. The move to digitize processes, retrain people, refocus job roles, and rely on cloud resources for vital functions means auditors are going to have to throw away their playbooks (they do have playbooks, don't they?) and figure out new ways to assess the health and wealth of their businesses. They have to become savvy IT experts in their own right, and start poking their noses much more deeply into IT processes. These days, auditing types have to look through today's IT systems to determine how well data and access is locked down, how well things are governed, the role of cloud,. That's the word from Protiviti and ISACA, which recently released a survey of 1,323 chief audit executives, internal audit professionals and IT audit vice presidents and directors worldwide.
I have worked for a couple of decades with professional services firms that perform financial audits, but I have never done one--nor have I ever wanted to do one, to be honest. I'm not good with work that involves structured processes, details, and rigorous checking, and audits always seemed heavily infused with those kinds of tasks. Now, however, I am becoming quite interested in audits for two reasons. First, they are beginning to employ substantial amounts of analytics. Secondly, there is increasing talk about employing cognitive technologies to help with audits.
Technology is also streamlining existing business and audit processes alike. For example, asset verification has been a critical, labor-intensive audit step. Today, Deloitte auditors are using a proprietary application called Icount on their tablets and smartphones to scan and consolidate inventory count results automatically for real-time consolidation and analysis in an online portal. While conducting the count, the auditor can use a voice-to-text capability to create documentation, take pictures of the observed inventory, and generate the audit working papers automatically. Another benefit of innovation for private companies involves performing competitor analysis and identification of leading practices.
Enterprises are exploring opportunities driven by digital transformation, identifying technology-driven paths to deliver more value, more quickly, while also benefiting from new process efficiencies. IT auditors must do the same to ensure they remain valued partners by the organizations for which they work. As enterprises increasingly harness technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analytics – and deploy methodologies such as Agile and DevOps – the IT audit teams of the future would be well-served to mirror this approach if they wish to thrive amid the business technology landscape of the future. Traditional auditing methods need to be revisited to more directly align with how businesses are operating, so audit teams are living what they are auditing instead of operating in parallel universes from their business partners. If auditors are going to audit areas like DevOps or Agile, it stands to reason that they should have direct familiarity with those methodologies.