“Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react and reinvent” – Bill Gates
Internal audit offers the perfect example. Businesses can apply Agile principles and technology enablers, such as automation and data mining tools, to transform internal audit departments and teams into high-value creation centers. When we apply Agile principles and value-first prioritization, we get empowered teams focused on driving business outcomes. For a high-performing internal audit function, this means delivering timely, continuous and impactful business insights to auditees, management and audit committees.
There are six key benefits of Agile auditing:
- Alignment: Aligning to business objectives facilitates collaboration and increases the value of insights.
- Shorter cycles: Reduces the audit lifecycle from assessment to reporting.
- Prioritization: Maximizes efficiency and impact by focusing on the most urgent risks.
- Insights: Transforms the audit team’s role from generating reports providing business insights and driving.
- Productivity: Improves collaboration and reduces rework.
- Quality: Maintains compliance to a time budget and builds in quality.
Let’s consider some of the impacts of Agile auditing on how we approach our work:
In Agile auditing, prioritized activities are always tied back to the assessment of risks (both current and emerging) to achieve our organizational objectives. Whereas traditional audit planning may have sought entity-wide coverage over time, in Agile, we relax that preconception and understand that risks to the organization are dynamic and should be reconsidered on a high-frequency basis (at least quarterly). Some low-risk locations or facets of an organization may never be audited under this approach, and Agile auditors are comfortable with that.
Agile audit approaches leverage a feature of business agility, the daily standup meeting (i.e., Scrum), which may include a representative from management to help reduce time to obtain requested information, contain scope creep, and provide audit insights in real-time to auditees for discussion and agreement.
Reporting under Agile audit is more about substance than form. That is to say, reports are just a vehicle to share audit insights. Agile audit teams work in such a way that delivery of insights is more real-time to auditees, reaching consensus on findings and management action plans as the audit sprint progresses.
Additionally, audit team leads should be able to prepare audit committee “reports” on demand. In other words, be prepared to provide the audit committee with insights from work performed more or less instantaneously. Of course, quarterly reporting for the audit committee will still require more presentation polish and an aggregated view of risk and internal control themes informed by the most recent audit sprint activities performed.
The Journey to Becoming More Agile
As 2020 taught us, having the Agile mindset and ability to pivot has been a corporate asset. For internal audit departments, implementing Agile is a significant change in mindset but a very manageable journey. Departments can substantially accomplish this transformation over a period of a few months, not years.