I spent last week in London, UK, at ACL’s User Conference for Europe, Middle East and Africa, as well as at our regional partners conference. There were excellent presentations at the User Conference by various ACL user organisations, including Philip Morris International, Essent Trading, Liberty Holdings, AMEC plc, the Dutch Tax Authority and FDI, as well as ACL Impact Award winners from Sara Lee International and Axis Bank Ltd. Arie Pronk, Head of Group Audit at ABN AMRO Bank NV was keynote speaker and provided a particularly compelling view of how technology can transform the effectiveness and contributions of internal audit.
I ended up with several takeaways from the conference. Firstly, that each of these audit and assurance teams was at a somewhat different stage in their use of data analysis technology, but that all were clearly on the same path. The common themes were extending the benefits of data analysis beyond the use by technical specialists and moving towards or extending the use of continuous audit and monitoring. Continuous audit and monitoring were clearly not ideal or theoretical goals, but key elements in an effective and practical audit, assurance and risk management strategy.
The other thing that struck me was the importance of leadership. Many of the speakers were Group Heads, Directors or VP’s of Internal Audit. They were talking at a strategic level about audit’s role in risk management and providing significant benefit to the business through the use of audit technology. They clearly understood the technical aspects of audit analysis – but also were able to lead their teams through the people and process issues that must be addressed for successful use of audit technology.
Every organisation at which I have seen audit technology used to maximum benefit has at least one senior visionary – a champion who understands the strategic value of technology and really leads. This may the CAE or it may be someone from a technical background who has built their career progression on their understanding of technology and ability to communicate the benefits.
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