Internal auditors have been forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to work remotely in large part over the past two years, and with the spread of variants like Delta and Omicron, that pattern is likely to continue next year.
A recent report from the Institute of Internal Auditors’ Internal Audit Foundation and technology provider AuditBoard report included survey results and real-life examples from audit leaders. An IIA poll found that 58% of chief audit executives said in October and November their teams are doing all or most of their work remotely, while 22% said their teams are utilizing a hybrid approach of roughly equal remote and in-person work.
“For internal auditors, the shift to a hybrid or remote setting has required both flexibility and creativity in finding alternatives to the traditional face-to-face engagement,” said the report. “Audit teams have identified new ways to access information and test new assurance methods, and explored meaningful ways to engage with team members and build relationships with stakeholders.”
Over 50% of survey respondents said that since the start of the pandemic, their organizations have acquired cloud-based technology to help with remote collaboration and risk management. An informal poll by the IIA and AuditBoard on LinkedIn in September found that 52% of the more than 1,800 poll respondents indicated that building key relationships is the biggest challenge to auditing remotely.
A separate AuditBoard survey in September found 40% of the audit leaders said relationships with non-audit personnel in the organization had weakened since the start of the pandemic. To counteract this relationship atrophy, some audit leaders are scheduling no-agenda “coffee talks” with their non-audit peers to keep the conversation going. Finding time for regular contact with audit stakeholders is important for sustaining a relationship that can help auditors understand the areas they are auditing.
Together with cloud-based technology such as audit management platforms, business intelligence applications and data analytics tools, audit teams have made use of video conferencing applications for audit work and walkthroughs, along with using their existing security camera networks to perform activities requiring physical observation, and even drones for certain kinds of site inspections. Organizations are also working on upskilling their employees and improving tech literacy.