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Local Authority Internal Audit Virtual Forum

9 December  

Please note:

  • All Institute responses are boxed and highlighted blue
  • Where the CEO comments in that capacity, the box is blank but outlined
  • Where the Chair comments in that capacity, the box is highlighted in yellow
  • For confidentiality, the identities of all delegates/attendees are anonymised 

CEO welcome

Thank you for joining us for our session on data analytics. Our speaker today is Malcolm Zack. Malcolm is an experienced Director of Internal Audit with over 35 years’ experience across various sectors and organisation types. He has also served on the Institute’s Audit Committee and Business & Finance Committee and is a founding member of the Institute’s newly formed Data Analytics Group.

We are also joined by Liz Sandwith, the Institute's Chief Professional Practices Advisor in the UK and Ireland, Derek Jamieson, Regional Director in the UK and Ireland, and our chair Piyush Fatania, Internal Audit Manager for St. Albans City & District Council and member of the Institute's Council.

Chair's opening comments

Occasionally there are game changers in our profession. Changing how we do our work.

While data analytics is not new, its use has been variable across our audit landscape. Now as we predominantly work remotely, having access to systems and data to work efficiently has never been more important.

  • The mission for the Element internal audit team is ‘technology led – technology enabled.’
  • Be strategic, look at the bigger picture and think about how to build it into what you do.
  • Get help, work with others – data experts, firms, IT people, internal audit peers.
  • Share your vision with stakeholders – particularly the audit committee and board.
  • Highlight the benefits to management:
    • Increased data availability
    • Efficient and effective
    • Increased assurance
    • Gain new insights.
  • Create a plan – map out your journey.
  • There are lots of external tools available but look internally too – what can be leveraged – and don’t forget Excel.
  • Start small with a pilot and build up – be prepared to take a risk and accept failure.
  • Assess the data, is it ‘ripe’ to be used for analytics – not all data is useful.
  • Data analytics is not just about audit fieldwork.
  • Integrated interactive reporting enables readers to see the data too using click-throughs.
  • Integrated assurance by extending use of the internal audit tools to the second line.
  • Data analytics is not just about the financials – be imaginative – think data.
  • Although the financial are a practical start point..
  • Data analytics – The art of the possible

Click here to access the presentation slides from this forum.

Chair's closing comments

A great presentation which has given us lots to think about in terms of how we take this forward.
What came across quite clearly was your persistence and taking a stepwise approach to come up with a useful interactive report.

Institute's comments

Data analytics is non-negotiable. The recently formed Data Analytics group is a national self-help group for IA functions, of all sizes, budgets and sectors, looking to develop their capabilities. If you would like to join this group please contact Derek Jamieson at

Malcolm Zack can also be contacted directly via LinkedIn or email at

For those interested, on December 3 we put out a dedicated Talk to Internal Audit live stream on data analytics and why it's not negotiable. We were joined in that stream by three IA leaders - each with a different story to share - and covered some impressive ground. Be sure to give it a watch if you get the chance. You can access it here

During our earlier forums many of you shared your experiences of 2020, including some great solutions to the challenges that the pandemic has presented. We would actively encourage you to enter our 2021 Audit & Risk Awards. There are five categories to choose from and deadlines for nominations close on Friday 29 January 2021. For more details, click here.

Our next LA Forum meeting, 20 January 2021. We will focus on the subject of providing the annual head of internal audit opinion. A timely discussion for many of you as you think about the achievements and the challenges of the last year.  

Thank you for attending.

As always if you have any ideas or suggestions for what we might include in future agendas please contact Liz Sandwith

Chat box comments

Q Have you had any issues/challenges in respect of GDPR in relation to obtaining key data sets, eg right of access? I appreciate that we should have access to everything - but this needs to be supported by a justified business need.

A No, it’s all internal data, so internal audit have access rights.

Q Do auditors have to be IT savvy, or highly accomplished in Excel?

A No, we’ve all learnt to use the software on the job. Our Power Bi tool is intuitive. It comes with lots of free online resources and a user community. It is essential to be data savvy and imaginative but not IT savvy.

Q Could you explain a bit more how you arrived at the ripeness score for the areas you were considering?

A The actual methodology came from our co-source provider. It is essentially about scoring the ‘ease of use’ of the data using factors such as ease of extraction, tools required, available format, complexity of manual interventions, volume of data and data accuracy. With some work we could have created this ourselves, but we had the opportunity to leverage an existing approach.

Q You mentioned that you used an external firm to cleanse the data - why was this? I am asking as not all internal teams could necessarily do this/afford this.

Q What interrogation of the data was performed prior to the audit and did the data have to be cleansed?

A We only used an external firm once because the opportunity was available. We normally do the data cleansing ourselves. It is important to do this step, data always needs cleansing. Power BI is not an interrogation tool, we are starting to explore options for more analytic/interrogation. We had an opportunity to collaborate with our co-source on a piece of work, where we identified the questions and used their tool.   

Q Is the software expensive?

A Power BI is part of Office 365 and relatively inexpensive.

One attendee commented that “if you have O365 it is approximately £7.50 per month for Power BI.”

Q Some IA teams are moving to a methodology position of using analytics by default UNLESS there is a compelling reason why they can't on a particular engagement...rather than looking in their plans for the odd, occasional audit that best suits the use of analytics. Do you like this way of encouraging us - rapidly - to be more tech-driven?

A Yes, strategically that’s our goal, to be technology led, to always think data first. Some audits are more data rich than others but there’s always data, for instance using an electronic survey to gather information. All internal audit teams can use Excel to add insight and graphics to an audit report.

Q How many days did the review take from beginning to issue of the report?

A The example we used was our first one, it took longer than planned. The initial data gathering and cleansing, which was global, took c4 weeks, all together it was c2.5months. Other audits take far less time. Using data in this way works well with agile thinking too as you can be responsive to the data. The data cleanse process can take time but is paramount.