Apparently, the concept of "want" versus "need" raised a few professional eyebrows. One commenter on InternalAuditor.org stated, "I question why 'want and need' are on a continuum. Can't we want and need something simultaneously? Should they really be in opposite directions?"
Responders on LinkedIn were more succinct. "Same being needed and wanted" and "Both want and need." Even one person who agreed with me seem to feel the distinction was not warranted: "Agreed. Internal audit must be needed and wanted."
There is an important difference between want and need. And comprehending that difference will help internal auditors understand how they are perceived within the organization, their place in the organization, and how they can best market themselves and grow within the organization.
Let's start with the concept of need.
A need is a requirement — a necessity that occurs because something is essential or very important. For example, oxygen is a need. It is essential to life and very important to the pursuit of happiness.
For internal audit, the most basic type of need is when our clients need us because regulations require us. And, for some clients, that is it; they have satisfied the need and they have no further use for the department.
But there is another aspect of need related to internal audit, one most of us in the profession recognize and one that is recognized by many of our clients. Organizations need an effective internal audit department as a fundamental part of a strong governance structure. An effective internal audit department is essential and very important to the successful achievement of organizational objectives.
And this is where all that marketing starts to come in. We have to ensure our clients understand that need. We have to market ourselves so that our clients understand we are not just a regulatory nuisance, but a basic requirement and essential component needed to help ensure success.
Which then leads us to the concept of "want."
A want is a desire, wish, demand, or craving for something. Of course, if I need oxygen, then I also want oxygen. But the concept of want goes beyond requirement. I need/require oxygen; I want oxygen that doesn't smell like it just came from a sewer.
In the internal audit world, when clients want our services, it means they have gone beyond just needing us. If we are merely a need, anyone can provide the same service we provide. However, as a want, then the client sees the internal audit department as the best provider of that service. There is nothing and no one else that can provide the same value — no one but the internal audit department.
Take a close look at why your clients have an internal audit department. Is it only because of the regulations? Or does the client understand the broader picture that it needs internal audit to help ensure a strong governance structure and increased assurance that objectives are being met?
Or, best of all, are you on the far end of the continuum? Have you marketed yourself, provided value, and scored successes to the point where you have developed raving fans who want you?
It is that far end of the continuum where we all want to reside — the position where it doesn't matter if the client needs us or not.
They want us.