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Building a Better Auditor: Be Data Curious

Blogs JT Erwin, CIA, CFE Apr 04, 2023

Data has become the lifeblood of modern business operations with companies of all sizes and industries relying on data to make informed decisions, develop strategies, and gain a competitive advantage. With the rise of digital technology and the proliferation of data, internal auditors must learn to harness this resource to effectively stay relevant and provide value to their organizations.

Internal auditors have embraced data literacy as a critical skill in the modern business landscape. With the vast amounts of data generated by companies, auditors must be able to analyze and interpret data effectively to identify potential risks and opportunities for improvement. By leveraging data analytics tools and techniques, auditors have gained deeper insights into business operations and provided valuable recommendations to senior management. In addition, data literacy has helped auditors to streamline their work processes and reduced the risk of errors and inefficiencies. Overall, the adoption of data literacy by internal auditors has enhanced the value of their work and enabled them to play a more strategic role in the success of their organizations.

However, data literacy alone is not enough to maximize the value created by internal auditors. To not only remain relevant, but to stay ahead of the curve in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, internal auditors need to embrace data curiosity.

What is data curiosity?

Audit professionals are generally naturally curious individuals, as their role involves examining complex systems and processes to identify potential risks and opportunities for improvement. They are driven to ask questions and seek out insights, making data curiosity a natural fit for their work. Data curiosity in internal audit refers to the eagerness and drive of auditors to explore and analyze data to gain insights into business operations, identify potential risks, and make informed recommendations to management that are not immediately obvious from the initial data analyzed. Curiosity involves a proactive approach to understanding and utilizing data to add value to the organization.

How to embrace data curiosity to advance your audit skillset

Data curiosity is a critical skill for internal auditors in today's data-driven business landscape. By embracing data curiosity, internal auditors can cultivate the key attributes needed to advance their careers.

One way that data curiosity can advance an internal auditor's career is by enabling them to gain a deeper understanding of business operations. By analyzing data related to key business processes, auditors can identify inefficiencies, opportunities for improvement, and areas where the organization may be exposed to risks. This not only enhances the value of their work, but also positions them as strategic partners to senior management.

Data curiosity also puts to work the auditor’s innate good judgment and intuition with things that don’t feel right. By questioning data that appears anomalous or inconsistent, auditors can uncover potential fraud or errors, helping to protect the organization from financial and reputational damage. This can lead to greater trust and respect from management, as auditors demonstrate their ability to provide valuable insights that protect the organization's interests.

As auditors become more curious about data, they tend to ask better questions. This can help them to uncover deeper insights and identify trends that may not have been apparent at first glance. By asking better questions, auditors also can gain a deeper understanding of the business and the factors that drive its performance.

Asking better questions leads to better stories. By analyzing data and asking critical questions, auditors can develop compelling narratives that highlight the key risks and opportunities facing the organization. These stories can help to engage senior management and other stakeholders and build support for recommendations to improve the organization's operations.

Ultimately, better stories lead to bigger impact. By using data to tell compelling stories that highlight risks and opportunities, auditors can drive positive change within the organization. Whether it is identifying cost savings opportunities, improving efficiency, or mitigating risks, data-driven insights can have a significant impact on the organization's success.

In conclusion, embracing data curiosity is essential for internal auditors who want to advance their careers in today's data-driven business landscape. By gaining a better understanding of business practices, employing good judgment on things that don't feel right, asking better questions, developing better stories, and driving bigger impact, auditors can add significant value to their organizations and position themselves as strategic partners to senior management.

JT Irwin will be speaking on “Data Analytics and Automation: Elevating the Value of Internal Audit" at the 2023 Analytics and Automation Virtual Conference on April 20.

JT Erwin, CIA, CFE

Senior audit consultant at First Horizon Bank in Metairie, La.