Technology has expanded internal audit's reach considerably in recent years. With the advent of sophisticated analysis and communication tools, practitioners can now gather and examine data without ever leaving the comfort of their office--a process sometimes referred to as "auditing by email." But internal audit needs to be careful with technology, despite its convenience and capabilities, ensuring the tools do not lead to a cessation of fieldwork. Auditors who hide away in their offices and perform work from afar risk missing potentially key insights and communication opportunities.
In the past, nearly all operational engagements required physical visits to examine source documentation. Site walkthroughs and client face time were assumed--in fact, on-site activity often comprised a large proportion of engagement schedules. Today, many auditors can extract transactional data directly from enterprise resource planning systems and get all the information they need remotely. The transition to electronic data has made retrieval of original documents a less time-consuming and arduous process.
Nonetheless, internal auditors need to ensure the technology does not, in some ways, work against them. Communication is key, and it is more likely to occur regularly with internal audit staff available on-site. Ongoing communication helps the audit team understand the client's business, build relationships, and improve the design of audit procedures. Plus, it reduces the possibility of blindsiding clients with unexpected news.
Removing client interaction and physical presence on engagements can deprive internal audit of potentially valuable information. Without the...