Transforming Internal Audit to Business Partners

Internal Audit (IA) is uniquely positioned to use its cross functional / external perspective to provide strategic guidance to the business while balancing the need to perform its traditional work.

Align IA with the most significant business risks:

  • Lead the enterprise wide business risk assessment focused on business risk, not solely financial statement or auditable risks.
  • Keep the business risk assessment refreshed with emerging risks and business changes.
  • Set the audit plan to address highest potential risk areas.  Continuously re-assess and adjust real time.
  • Facilitate dialogue on acceptable levels of risk tolerance and alternative risk mitigation.

Shift hours from compliance to advisory work:

  • Specific hours set aside in the audit plan.
  • Partner with the business to address control issues identified, process challenges, business changes, etc.
    • Trade spend optimization
    • Control Health Checks
    • Process / control documentation for business implementations
    • Contingency planning for sole source providers
  • Audit Committee and / or executive management requests early in the process.
  • Focus on the business risk.
  • Customize solutions.

Balance objectivity with strong relationships:

  • Partner with the business.  Understand business goals / objectives and how audit can help enable them.
  • Relationships matter.
  • Establish credibility
  • Audit is intimidating.  Being approachable is critical.
  • Watch out:  maintaining independence (perception of not being objective)

Practice what you preach:  eliminate costs and inefficiencies:

  • Eliminate and / or reduce lower risk audits.
  • Assess IA's processes to eliminate non value added work.
  • Leverage non audit internal resources to complete traditional compliance work with IA reviewing.
  • Simplify reporting.
  • Manage travel and expenses.


  • As the business evolves, IA needs to evolve with it.
  • Finding the balance of traditional audit and business partnership is powerful.
  • Continuous re-assessment is required.

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