Unlocking the Value of Audit Analytics: Visionary Leadership
Over the years, I have come to realize that there is a one thing that is consistent in Audit Departments that deliver exceptional value – a visionary leader. Audit executives today face major challenges with Board and Senior Management questioning the value they add. To be successful they have to manage expectations while leading a team that delivers value.
The hardest task is enrolling the team in an audacious vision for the department. Painting a “Picasso” of success, respect and relevance, while convincing the team that anything is possible; all on a limited budget – who wants that job? Especially if after you do all that internally, you have to do the same thing externally. If your department is traditionally seen as reactive then not only will you have to convince stakeholders that you can be strategic but you have to actually deliver.
The Internal Challenge
Don’t underestimate the importance of language in performance and leadership. As alluded to in my previous post, leaders have to be possibility thinkers and their every word must echo that attitude and approach. Negativity and indecision saps the energy from team members and forces them to disengage. As a leader, when it’s time to perform you have to execute with a team that thinks they can do it.
Leading a team towards a great vision requires crusaders and not just you. You need to be clear on creating that “can do” culture. You also have to be decisive in removing people that actively use language and take actions that go against your vision. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not saying you should not encourage different views. In fact, you absolutely must encourage other viewpoints. I am talking about completely negative team members that infect others. For example, people that complain endlessly even when they are capable of changing their situations or people that take pride in saying, “it will never work”, while offering no suggestions. Once there is consensus on a way forward the entire team must work in unison, including those persons that initially disagreed with the approach. Second guessing and indecision is always worse than any decision.
Most forward thinking companies expect more from internal audit than just a reactive unit. They want a department that brings insights and collaborates with the business on risk management. This means that there is a place at the senior management table. Take it!
Be prepared to articulate the role and value of your department and also listen to constructive criticism. Criticisms are often an inside-out way of asking for help. Many Senior Managers are struggling with weak internal controls and significant incidents of fraud and abuse and need help because they don’t understand their risk and controls landscape. They need guidance, prior to audits, not scolding after incidents occur. Be proactive because after the fact is often too late.
Innovation and Technology
A vision that lacks innovation, critical thinking and the use of technology is unlikely to enroll the brilliant minds of your department. They won’t follow you and the business won’t respect you if your vision is not aligned to theirs. However, it is not enough to just document your vision, relevant steps must be taken to turn it into a reality. Regardless of the technology being used to create value such as data analysis, continuous monitoring or electronic working papers, you must communicate results in a manner the business will understand. Otherwise, you risk losing credibility. It is important to embrace change and be genuinely excited about the successes it will bring. The same for any innovation your department embarks on. Turn your vision into a reality through action, like CaseWare Analytics success story Phil Hurd of Georgia Technical Institute, and you will work towards saving your organization time and money while managing the risks associated with monetary loss and fraud.
For most of my career, I have had to lead teams and through all that I have learned, I am still learning today. Whether they are charismatic or pragmatic; leaders play a significant role in the success of their team. Choose what kind of leader you will be and then set about creating a vision.
I hope you’ve gained some good insights from today’s blog. Next I will discuss the following building block in the series, Stakeholder Satisfaction.
About Andrew Simpson:
Andrew Simpson has close to two decades of experience in the information systems audit and security business; specifically data analytics, interrogation and forensics. He is a regular contributor to various auditing conferences and is acknowledged as an expert on continuous controls monitoring and revenue assurance.