3 Takeaways from the 2018 IIA Leadership Academy and Houston Conference

June 20, 2018

Internal audit teams can help their organizations navigate constant change by leading innovation. Combining advanced technology with effective communication can help make that happen.

That was one of the top messages attendees heard at two Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) conferences in the past few months. The IIA hosts conferences that provide networking opportunities and training on process improvement for members every year.

On the heels of the IIA's General Audit Management Conference, this year's IIA Annual Conference in Huston and Leadership Academy in Orlando focused on innovation. Both events explored how to use an agile mindset to overcome evolving business models and increased pressure from stakeholders for deeper insights.

Here is a summary of our top three takeaways:

1. Innovation is the key to internal audit success

Internal auditors are being asked to provide more insightful advice and better anticipate risk. The conferences stressed that with increased demand comes a need for innovation. Attendees were urged to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Embracing an agile mindset allows auditors to meet demands and elevate the internal audit function.

However, there are still challenges that auditors face during this transformation. According to the IIA’s 2018 North American Pulse of Internal Audit, the report on the IIA's annual survey of chief audit executives (CAEs):

  • Only one-third of CAEs strongly agree their internal audit functions challenge their own status quos
  • About half of CAEs say a lack of enough internal audit resources is a roadblock to their teams being agile
  • Only 13% of CAEs strongly agree their internal audit functions are quick to adopt new technologies or processes

While survey respondents say availability of audit resources is to blame for lack of innovation, the biggest roadblock may be unwillingness to adopt new technologies. IIA conference attendees learned that an agile mindset also means leveraging technology as a resource to innovate.

2. The right technology can help, while old technology can do more harm than good

Conference speakers emphasized an important reminder: the threats and opportunities from technology are both increasing. If your technology becomes outdated, it becomes a risk. However, the right risk management technology can improve processes, reduce audit cycle times, and decrease cost.

When it comes to risk assessment, internal auditors are continually challenged to provide more meaningful insights. Tech-savvy teams can use data to provide solid evidence to support conclusions and present actionable advice to management with confidence. This builds trust with stakeholders and proves internal audit teams' value.

Outdated technologies and manual processes cannot keep up with the rapidly changing audit environment. Investing in sophisticated technology can bring your processes up to speed and save money by collecting, aggregating, and reporting on risks, all in one place.

3. Communication is critical for companywide innovation

How auditors communicate findings to stakeholders is as important as quality of the data. If stakeholders require deeper insights, then auditors must present data in a meaningful, valuable, and concise way. Here are a few tips from the conferences to ensure clear, effective communication:

  • Create a coaching culture to foster collaboration—all team members should understand each other’s value and performance to achieve business success
  • Learn and adapt to individuals’ communication preferences
  • Ask better questions to elicit more thoughtful responses
  • Use storyboards to influence responses and gain acceptance of recommendations

The IIA conferences concluded that innovation happens when advanced technology and effective communication collide. When choosing a technology, look for top-of-the-line reporting and controls solutions that enhance collaboration and transparency.

Not sure which solution or vendor to choose? Download this Purchasing Checklist for questions you can ask as you evaluate options.