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Mind of Jacka: Where Is Internal Audit Going?

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Apr 18, 2024

First, a warning. I don’t know if there is anything profound within these paragraphs. (Shoot, I’m not sure there is anything profound in anything I write.) Instead, this is more of a musing than anything. A mere bagatelle. A trifle. A triviality. A folderol. A gimcrack of verbiage. A gathering of wool. A dreaming in the day. A meandering in the night. An “Om”-less meditation. A sound and a fury signifying little to nothing. The results of a mind that has wandered off somewhere it didn’t know it wanted to wander…much like this opening paragraph.

For some unfathomable reason, this question popped into my head. Where is internal audit going? It’s not that subsequent thoughts resulted in anything earth-shatteringly wrong or right about what our profession is doing. No, just the question and the musing.

So, where is internal audit going?

Take a moment and ask yourself the question. I’m serious. Stop your reading right here and ponder that question before we go any further. Don’t think too hard, put too many brain cells on the task, or dig into the cliché driven claptrap of terms such as future, vision, or purpose (claptrap that I have often driven myself.) No, just give it a simple thought and think of simple answers.

Where is internal audit — the profession of internal audit going?

I was at GAM last month and it was a good conference. I saw a lot of interesting presentations. I also talked with some interesting people. Of course, I also saw some less-than-interesting presentations and talked with some less-than-interesting people, but that is the way conferences go. Nonetheless, there was much provoking of thought and good ideas to keep one entertained for quite a while (or, at least, until the next conference.)

Generally, when I leave a conference, I sense an overall theme — either one expressly provided by the conference or, much more likely, an internal one that comes from the presentations and conversations I chose. This time, not so much. There were a multitude of presentations on AI and cyber, followed closely in number by the presentations on the new standards. And, yeah, I guess those could be considered themes, but I didn’t feel any were pointing in a real direction for internal audit. I didn’t get a sense of winds of change or even whispers of nudges.

Let me quickly point out that none of this is meant to disparage the speakers I saw. Almost all were professional and informational. Nor is this an attack on the planners of the conference. It went smoothly and was of the same excellent quality I’ve learned to expect from The IIA. But of themes, I found none.

One minute I would talk with someone who was full of the internal audit spirit, speaking the tongues of objectives, controls, and risk, and it felt like we were on the cusp of a new age. Then I would talk with someone who was happy to spend their life doing compliance audits, and I would weep for the profession. I would talk to a new auditor who saw the limitless opportunities within the profession and watch their uncontainable excitement when faced with all the possibilities. Then I would talk to a very-seasoned professional who had seen it all, their cynicism rubbing off before I could even articulate the phrase “What’s the use?”

And the answer to where is internal audit going? All of the above. The future of internal audit is an amalgam of concepts and ideas, some shattering the earth, some just lying there, and others with the ability to lead us to wrack and ruin.

But here is the other side of the coin. Where is internal audit going? None of us know. All the futurists, prognosticators, mystics, and statistics take their swings. Some do an okay job at guessing where it’s all heading, but they are just guesses. Educated guesses, but guesses, nonetheless.

Which brings us around to a fact we all already know, even if we tend to kick it to the curb. None of us knows what that future will be. But we are the ones who will make that future. We are the ones who control the answer to the question, where is internal audit going.

Think about that future and where internal audit is going. And then be willing to change; be willing to leave the conservative mindset of internal audit behind and take a swing at something new, exciting, and better.

What’s the worst that can happen, you get outsourced? Don’t change and that will happen anyway.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Mike Jacka is co-founder and chief creative pilot of Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.