Viva Las Audit: A Comprehensive Recap of IIA All Star 2019

iia all stars 2019 recap
October 24, 2019
While the city's indelible marketing slogan may be "what happens here, stays here," I hope Las Vegas will forgive us if we bend the rules a little. After all, what went on this week at the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) All Star Conference should be shared far and wide with internal audit practitioners everywhere.

With hundreds of the brightest minds in internal audit connecting at MGM Grand, the conference was a can't-miss event. Historically, the All Star Conference is one of the largest internal audit events in the U.S.—alongside IIA GAM and IIA International—and 2019 did not buck the trend, with more than 600 attendees and thought leaders.

As explained by Harold Silverman, managing director of CAE services for the IIA, the conference brings the “best of the best” sessions from other IIA events around the country. “All the concurrent sessions that are at the conference are sessions that have been previously given our highest rating by attendees.”

“It’s an honor for anyone who is invited to speak,” added Harold.

And it’s my honor to bring you this recap of the conference. This year, the IIA focused heavily on three topics, sure to be top-of-mind for practitioners around the globe as we head into 2020. Here are the main points I picked up at IIA All Star 2019 in Las Vegas.

1. Leadership is needed more than ever


Internal audit, like many other professions, is at a bit of a crossroads right now. With seasoned audit practitioners delaying retirement and fewer young professionals entering the field, leadership is needed now more than ever. And, the curriculum of the conference reflected that. Harold says the emphasis on leadership at the conference is natural, as attendees are all looking to improve their capabilities as professionals and as auditors. Additionally, it adds to the overall spectrum of education at the event.

"It's nice to have diversity in sessions, so you can come to the conference, you can talk about technical matters or risk management, but at the same time, talk about how you can develop toward becoming a better leader," he said.

At the opening keynote session, "Leadership Today: Are You Playing Chess or Checkers?," Michael Dominguez set a positive, invigorating tone for the conference right from the get-go. Michael, the President and CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International, shared his insight on technology, emotional intelligence, and leadership in internal audit. For him, it's all about serving people. "As a leader, if serving people is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you," Michael said.

In his session "Why Don’t They Listen? You Aren’t Persuading!," Brian Tremblay, Director of Internal Audit for Acacia Communications, argued that much of this miscommunication stems from a lack of persuasive ability and emotional intelligence. When we have to go report to the audit committee, the same tactics that your organization's sales team uses can apply to you as well.

"Smiling and addressing your audience by name is hugely important," said Brian. "People are very self-centered, and they like to hear their own name." Your audit committee, C-suite, or external audit team is no different.

2. Audit agility today for the future


You might have heard the word "agile" in the context of software development before—maybe even here on this site. In short, it's a methodology based around iterative development across cross-functional teams.

But where does agile overlap with internal audit? And what can you learn from the software development team at your organization?

According to the 2018 IIA Pulse survey, and as explained by former chief audit executive Tim Berichon, fewer than half of CAEs consider their internal audit functions to be very or extremely agile, and stakeholder engagement could be improved. Of the 10 tips on agility shared by Tim, the most immediately practical advice dealt with staff rotation and diversity.

"Internal audit is the most relevant when it's a rotational function. You don't want me to just do SOX testing, for instance. Build skills and competencies that can take your people anywhere," he said. "After all, working on teams with a diversity of skills and backgrounds is proven to produce better outcomes."

In her session on agility and compliance, Pam Nigro, Senior Director, Information Security for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, explains the benefits of agile, scrum, and DevOps methodologies for internal audit, and how these can help accelerate product development, accommodate change, and drive productivity.

Including DevOps and agile methodology at the onset of a project—not when it's already underway—is key to success.

"My slogan is 'bake it in, don't bolt it on,'" said Pam, emphasizing the importance of fully embracing the method to add energy, focus, clarity, and transparency to project planning.

3. Seismic disruption is already here


While flying cars are still off on the horizon—I suppose a Tesla in space is an OK analogue for the time being—we're already living in the future. Robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence might sound like things from sci-fi films, but they're already timely topics for internal audit professionals.

In his session "Auditing at the Speed of Risk: Internal Audit in the Era of Disruption,” IIA CEO and President Richard F. Chambers gave his sage advice on the outlook of the internal audit function in the decade to come. Ultimately, the profession itself is evolving because of the pace of risk, he said.

“Risks can literally change from week to week—the things that are risks this week may not be risks next week,” said Richard. “We are living in an era of risk volatility, and there is no precedence for it in history"

That said, there are three things teams can do to stay ahead of the curve: identify emerging risks, emphasize speed, and leverage technology.

"Deploying innovative technology will enable internal audit to dramatically enhance its capacity, drive greater efficiency and effectiveness, and will yield greater value for stakeholders," said Richard.

Harold agrees, and adds that internal audit technology should ultimately connect people.

“Technology is intended to empower people,” he said. “The ability to work collaboratively in remote locations—that's one of the things that is exciting. As an internal audit leader, I could go see different operations of my own organization, different geographies, see different things. Internal auditors, like every part of the organization, should be embracing technology to help them better do their work.”

What's on the horizon for 2020


While it’s too early yet to pin down entirely what’s in store for next year’s conference, Harold is thinking cybersecurity is the topic to watch.

"Cybersecurity was an emerging risk a number of years ago. So, you'd figure at this point, it would be mature,” he said. “But if you look at the data points, it is still an emerging risk. That’s because it is constantly changing. It may always be emerging.”

Paraphrasing Richard Chambers, whether it's improving communication with your team, growing your leadership capabilities, or accelerating your understanding of cybersecurity, all signs point toward the importance of connected people, processes, and data in 2020.

Find out more about connected reporting and compliance—and how it can impact your organization—in our new e-book, The Future Is Connected: Building Trust in the Age of Transformation.

Hope to see you at an upcoming event soon!
Ernest Anunciacion

About the author

Ernest Anunciacion, Director of Product Marketing, brings over 15 years of experience in internal audit, risk management, and business advisory consulting to Workiva. Ernest is a Certified Internal Auditor and Six Sigma Black Belt. He holds an undergraduate degree and an executive MBA from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota.