Bots of Assurance: Automating internal audit processes can multiply the function's capacity to serve the organization.

Author:Pawlowski, Justin
 
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As important as it is, internal auditing involves a lot of repetitive work to provide assurance and achieve the department's objectives. There is supporting evidence to request, data to gather, workpaper templates to create, and controls to test. But imagine if these basic tasks could be automated.

That is the promise of robotic process automation (RPA). Many internal audit functions are looking to RPA to multiply the capacity of their teams. These departments are following the lead of the growing number of organizations that are using robots, or bots, to automate business processes-particularly repetitive and often time-consuming process steps.

RPA can help streamline processes by making them more efficient and more robust against errors. That may be one reason that 40% of internal auditors reported that their organizations currently use RPA in business operations in a poll taken during The IIA's 2019 International Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Audit functions can catch up with their organizations' use of RPA by deploying bots as a digital workforce to enhance their assurance capabilities. Moreover, RPA can free internal audit's experts from the drudgery of repetitive activities to focus on critical thinking tasks and managing exceptions.

WHAT'S IN A BOT?

RPA involves software that autonomously executes a predefined chain of steps in digital systems, under human management. Common capabilities of bots include filling in forms, making calculations, reading and writing to databases, gathering data from web browsers, and connecting to automated programming interfaces. They also can apply different logical rules such as "if, then, else" or "do while." And those bots don't sleep, tire, forget, complain, or quit.

With RPA, bots improve over time as people specify the underlying rules, but they cannot learn on their own. Conversely, cognitive automation learns and improves its own algorithms over time based on the given data and experience.

RPA solutions can deliver benefits such as:

* Increased efficiency, especially in situations that once involved repetitive and recurring manual work processes.

* Increased effectiveness and robustness of processes that previously were prone to high error rates.

Organizations are most likely to realize these benefits when they use structured data, which provides the predefined instructions bots need to handle work scenarios.

FIVE TYPES OF USES

Internal audit departments may be slower than their organizations, as a whole, to deploy RPA, but there are many ways they can put the technology to use. Although these applications may differ, depending on each department's circumstances and...

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