Network: support the change agenda

More now than ever, it feels as if innovation and change are all around us – in the external environment and within our own organisations and businesses. It is important we embrace internal audit’s role in understanding the change that our organisations are subject to, and think about how we can add value in what can be challenging times. 

Internal audit has a significant role to play in aligning our assurance work to the organisation’s strategy to ensure that we adhere to good governance and preserve the organisation’s culture in periods of rapid change. We are uniquely placed to provide an independent view on the quality of the change programmes from within our organisations. 

We can position ourselves as observers in implementation steering groups allowing us to exercise our curiosity, question management’s assumptions, conduct pre-implementation and readiness reviews and continuously monitor new processes while maintaining our independence from the decision-making process. This is often more valuable than waiting for change to be embedded and subsequently asking management to rethink their controls after they have committed to investment and technological development. It does not enhance our stakeholder relationships if we arrive late at the party. 

However, it is key that despite all the change going on around us we don’t lose sight of the business-as-usual processes that also need our assurance. Management relies on our opinion on the stability and resilience of existing systems and controls to enable them to move forward with innovation and change in other areas. 

The challenges that change can bring make it essential for me to draw on the expertise of others and so getting the right people around the table is fundamental to success in my organisation. It is critical to build an environment in which all diverse groups feel empowered, as it makes sense to have a team that reflects the diversity of our stakeholders and makes the most of everyone’s skills. 

I often remind myself to “phone a friend” and not to be afraid to ask for help, as it can be incredibly useful to get additional points of view on a challenging situation. I know I am more effective when I have people to bounce ideas off – particularly those who have different perspectives from my own. My network has therefore been invaluable, because these are people I can call on to provide advice and help me think through complex problems. 

More broadly, I feel that networks can be a differentiator as they help you to leverage the people you need to gain more impact as well as enhancing your professional skills and potentially putting you in the path of new opportunities. 

This can be hard to do if you don’t have the right network to draw upon. This is why, in early 2018, the Chartered IIA launched a survey to find out more about its female members and see whether there was any appetite for a group to help connect women in the internal audit profession. Thank you to everyone who responded, it gave the institute lots of food for thought and we are now ready to put those thoughts into action. 

With the backing of the Chartered IIA, a group of us formed Women in Internal Audit (WIIA), a network focused on the advancement of women in our profession. The steering committee has been working on a strategy for the network, including how we can connect talented women in our profession across different industries and geographies and address the diversity issues facing the institute’s members, particularly following the second release of the UK gender pay data. The Chartered IIA will contact all those who took part in the survey and others to get involved with the new network, so please support it and help us make it a success.

Based on the survey feedback, the theme for our launch event, which will be held in early June, is "authentic leadership". A panel of senior women from across our profession will discuss their styles candidly – looking at what works for them and their personal challenges, as well as answering your questions. We look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible.

Frances Hawkins is chair of the WIIA and EMEA deputy head of audit at Goldman Sachs. The WIIA launch event, sponsored by Hybridge, will take place in early June. Visit iia.org.uk/members/wiia for full details.

This article was first published in Audit & Risk magazine May/June 2019.