Now that we have become more accustomed to working flexibly and organisations have largely adjusted to the initial shock of Covid-19, internal audit teams still need to demonstrate to stakeholders that our insights and independent assurance are valuable.  Organisations have gone through a significant period of internal change and may start to believe that they can operate effectively without internal audit, if internal audit teams have been diverted onto other tasks.

Lurking in the background, however, will be a backlog of unmet audit requirements, if the assurance programme has been disrupted for too long. 

It’s time to play catch up and shift the gear for the rest of 2022

Organisations have been preoccupied with their Covid-19 responses which forced executives, boards and audit committees to reconsider their expectations of the traditional workplace, and by extension, the value delivered by their internal audit teams. However, internal audit functions now need to turn their attention to how to best serve their organisations as they navigate through this new way of working.

Our position allows us to have discussions and experiences across the industry; from this, we’ve compiled the key initiatives that can help internal audit teams to better meet the shifting demands of their stakeholders.

Integrating dynamic risk and assurance

We need to position ourselves to align with our risk colleagues in the second line. Unsurprisingly, the risk profiles of our organisations have changed considerably over the last 12-24-month period. The question for an internal audit function should be: how do we know that we are still aligning our assurance activities to the greatest areas of risk for our organisation? Risk has become much more dynamic and so must assurance.

There is a very compelling case for initiating an integrated approach to risk and assurance, aligning disciplines which have often been separated. Organisations can simplify and coordinate enterprise risk and assurance by aligning the efforts of each assurance provider to the business driver. A scattergun approach to defining the contents of an internal audit plan may no longer be the best approach.

The internal audit function, as a provider of independent and objective assurance, should drive or play a key role in the effort, working with the first and second line to determine what level of assurance is needed and where it can be most effectively and efficiently provided.

 At KPMG, we have worked with a range of clients to identify their first, second- and third-line assurance activities. This provided the internal audit functions with the visibility of the assurance landscape and where they can partner with their organisation to address the greatest areas of risk.

Understanding the sources of assurance and their scope means that internal audit can focus on the greatest areas of risk and plug gaps in assurance in an agile way, providing greater value to audit committees, boards and leadership.

Enhancing our communication

Whilst we continue to improve our technical skills, we also need to be cognisant of the foundational qualities of a good internal auditor. The ‘soft skills’, often over-shadowed by the interrogative nature of internal audits, are a key characteristic of our profession. In order to hold quality meetings with people across the country, we need to refine our interpersonal skills for the virtual environment. Where we may have used body language in person, we need to learn how to adapt our tone of voice, our use of technology and online etiquette for an engaging conversation or interview.

If ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, why do internal auditors often insist on drowning key insights in a sea of literature when the same can be said with a simple visual? We need to demonstrate to time-poor committee members that they should no longer expect to read swathes of information to justify a finding. 


If our audience already spends hours in front of a screen, often without a break between meetings and little time to digest pre-reading materials, they need to pick up the essence of a message quickly. The true testament of an internal audit report is presenting outcomes in a well-articulated, impactful, and simple to grasp way. Particularly if internal audit is placed at the bottom of a virtual meeting agenda, the challenge becomes recapturing a weary audience who have competing priorities. 

In our experience, both management and board members share very positive feedback when we use visuals such as diagrams and infographics to present key insights and key messages.

Building our toolbox

Internal auditors would be remiss not to take advantage of the rapid expansion of online tools available to enhance the way we interact virtually with our audiences. We can improve the way:

  • we hold meetings
  • we gather insights into business processes
  • we present our findings to deliver value to our stakeholders.

We have experienced how interactive presentation software such as Mentimeter, visual collaboration tools like Mural or digital quiz maker such as Kahoot can create an engaging environment for interviews or workshops. The Microsoft suite, already used by the majority of organisations, also has a wide range of underutilised functions that can enhance virtual meetings, help share resources and make decisions with polls. When internal auditors use these tools, the audience can clearly see how their insights contribute to the objectives of the meeting.

Of course, using technology comes with its challenges, such as price and upskilling time, which can cause resistance to uptake. However, if we are to move away from a stale approach to interviews and provide a value-adding and memorable experience for our audience, we need to become familiar with the innovative tools available.

It is clear that Covid-19 has been a catalyst for innovation and created an opportunity for organisations to evolve at a much faster rate. Internal audit functions need to keep up with this rate of change to enhance their relevance to their organisations. These simple actions will help many internal audit functions connect better with their audience and keep raising the quality of our profession. 

Written by Grace Nunn, Manager, Consulting

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