Data Analytics Strategy For Internal Audit Effectiveness

Written by
data analytics for internal audit

Annually, Price-Waterhouse Cooper (PWC), the high profile audit firm, releases its “State of the Internal Audit Profession Study.” In 2018, this study focused on the difference between “Evolvers, “Followers,” and “Observers” for organizational approaches to adopting a data analytics strategy for internal audit effectiveness. The research found that those organizations embracing technology more often better aligned internal audit outcomes to their strategic plans – something that cybersecurity standards increasingly require.

Internal Audit Data Analytics Strategy

What is an Evolver?

PWC defines Evolvers as organizations advanced in their technology adoption. Meanwhile, Followers lag behind and adopt these technologies at a slower right. Finally, Observers take no notice of technology use to enable their internal audit functions.

Problematically, the report only defines 14% of organizations as Evolvers. However, it’s important to note that 75% of Evolvers highly value their internal audit function.

How Evolvers use collaboration tools

74% of Evolvers and 43% of Followers currently use collaboration tools. As your audit program matures, more stakeholders need to be included in the audit process. For example, shared drives and intranet sites enable cross functional communication between internal stakeholders.

However, these tools still require you to manage the conversations and reminders. As you increase the number of stakeholders, you also increase the number of administrative follow-up tasks. The creates a burden for the internal auditors limiting their ability to effectively and efficiently carry out audit tasks. With time allocations being a key performance indicator for many audits, workflow struggles can diminish the effectiveness of the internal audit function.

Supervision and gathering audit documentation remain primary reasons for audits to take longer than their allocated time. The Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors explains that conversations between the audit manager and internal auditor eases the time management burden. Moreover, gatherind audit evidence often increases the time allocated as risks not being appropriately controlled need additional investigations.

Using dashboards with effective workflow task management functionalities enables audit teams to not only communicate effectively but to share documentation that diminishes the time spent on audits.

How Evolvers use risk assessment and audit planning tools

Evolvers focus on having an analytics strategy that enables stronger risk management to focus audit testing procedures on prioritized risks. As part of the enterprise risk managment process, you need insight into the continuously evolving risks that threatening your organization. A primary directive of governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) program objectives includes not simply moment-in-time risk evaluation but continous monitoring of the environment.

In cybersecurity, this continuous monitoring becomes more important. Zero day attacks, attacks that use previously undiscovered vulnerabilities, can undermine controls at any moment.

Since cybersececurity risks can change in a heartbeat, big data that reviews threats as they arise can enable a stronger security, compliance, and audit stance. Open source intelligence (OSINT) has been around for more than fifty years, but big data collection and analysis allows for more organizations to incorporate it.

For example, malicious actors review vulnerabilites across the internet to try to gain unauthorized access to your information. Public facing systems, like customer portals, offer insights to hackers that you might otherwise miss. The Google Hacking Database allows insights into your systems without actually touching them. Using these types of publicly available OSINT services allow you to better evaluate risks so that you can more appropriate target the highest risks for auditing purposes.

How Evolvers use reporting and ongoing monitoring tools

The same tools that enable stronger risk management strategies also enable you to continuously monitor and report your security, compliance, and auditing effectiveness.

Taking a security first approach to compliance and audit requires automation and, increasingly, artificial intelligence. To better enable you internal audit department, you need tools that help you look at what has happened, what is currently happening, and what may likely happen.

Utilizing analytics capabilities, you can incorporate predictive outcomes that are likely to threaten your data environment. For example, the PWC “What to expect from artificial intelligence” report explains that AI is enabling malicious actors to more rapidly advance malware.

If you’re using similar predictive technologies to advance your analytics maturity level, you’re less likely to have a security breach. Fewer security breaches, even with the advent of new risks, allow you to maintain the appropriate level of security that mitigates outdated standard and regulatorily required best practices. The required control may fail under a zero-day attack, but with analytics capabilities, you can maintain effective data protection.

How Evolvers maintain continuous auditing capabilities

Reviewing risk is the first step. Maintaining a strong cybersecurity control system is the second step. Proving that you’ve mitigated risks as part of your internal audit procedures is the third, and final, step.

Evolvers incorporate not only data analytics to manage and mitigate cybersecurity risks, but they also incorporate dashboard and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools to continuously document their compliance stance. A traditional audit approach focuses on a single moment-in-time glimpse at your IT security. However, increasingly you need real-time insights to prove a continuous compliance approach to data protection.

With that in mind, you need a toold that not only eases communication between stake-holders but that enables continuous documentation and insight.

How ZenGRC creates Evolvers

ZenGRC’s System-of-Record makes continuous auditing and reporting easy. By streamlining the workflow, organizations can eliminate emails while tracing outstanding tasks. Additionally, the unified control management feature allows organizations to map controls across multiple frameworks, standards, and regulations to determine whether compliance gaps exist. This mapping capability enables organizations to ensure consistency that leads to stronger audit outcomes.

For example, as part of the System-of-Record dashboard, organizations have at-a-glance insight into the percentage of controls finalized and a portion of controls mapped to a particular framework.

ZenGRC’s streamlined workflow shows task managers the date on which a vendor provided a response and a status. These details mean that compliance managers no longer need to spend time following up with the organization’s multitudinous vendors.

GRC automation enables organizations to focus on the fundamental issues of compliance while eliminating the tedious tasks that often make compliance feel like a burden. Not only does this help compliance officers feel more effective at their jobs, it also makes organizations more efficient at the ongoing task of governance and continuous monitoring.

For more information about how ZenGRC can streamline your GRC process, contact us for a demo today.