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Thinking Like an Auditor

  • How to Find Talent Elasticity

    August 20, 2019 | By Colleen Knuff, CPA, CIA, CISA, CRMA, NPDP

    Is your department short staffed right now? Guess what, it's not just you. Four out of five CAEs report challenges in filling open positions. If those open positions require specialized skills, well now that just got twice as hard.

    I track Internal Audit trends, and one of the most prominent changes in the last couple of years is that audit teams are being asked to do a lot more than even five years ago. I don't just mean audit more parts of the business, but to expand into new scope areas like auditing disruption or pace of change in the business, or even take on work that may have previously been a different second line assurance function.

    We are also moving toward more real-time auditing and continuous monitoring of the business, which requires implementing strong data analytics programs. While you are at it, figure out how to audit artificial intelligence, robotics process automation, and blockchain. Then when you figure that out, start using those technologies to make your team better, smarter, faster.

    Did I mention that most teams are trying to do all that with no additional team members? In fact, I started by mentioning that I am aware you are still trying to fill open positions. So how on earth is any of this going to happen?

    In my opinion, there is no single solution. However, finding the skills to conduct work, create audit programs in tandem with your teams, source content and simply augment headcount is going to require thinking differently about the problem.

    Co-sourcing and hiring consultants are one approach, especially if you have immediate needs and the budget to do so. Based on conversations during several recent CAE events I attended, these approaches seem to have limited success mostly due to budget constraints. I have also seen that in extremely competitive markets (think the entire west coast including Canada), CAEs get creative about staffing. They borrow subject matter experts (SMEs) from different parts of the business to assist with fieldwork. They contract retired SMEs for specific projects or to train existing/junior staff. They even hire remote auditors that have highly desirable skills or who may be closer to locations that require staffing. All are great methods of thinking differently about how to get the work done.

    These creative CAEs cited their biggest challenge in taking an unconventional approach is still finding candidates that meet their needs. Where do you look? How do I vet them? The flip side of this is that we are also not great at marketing ourselves.

    I recently spoke with an individual with his IAP certification and a degree in data science. He's bored in his current job because the data science program is immature, and his manager wants him to fill in on operational audits. While one could argue that doing so is a great way to learn the business, he would rather hone and use his data science skills. When he checks out the LinkedIn profiles of potential internal audit opportunities in other organizations though, internal audit staff are either non-existent or our profiles are quite sparse. Said another way, our departments look boring.

    I think the next big change in internal audit will have more to do with how we expand and collapse our teams to get the right work done by the right people at the right time - demonstrating talent elasticity - than fancy new tools. What are your thoughts?

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