Audit Management: Internal Auditing and Addressing New Technology

By Renee Fry, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Gentreo

The rapid advancement of Generative AI is evident as companies across various industries are actively engaging in either adopting this technology or at the very least, exploring its capabilities. As companies both small and large adopt these new tools and technologies to enhance productivity and efficiency, internal auditors play a vital role in ensuring that the advantages are maximized while potential risks are mitigated. To achieve this, internal auditors must possess first an understanding of the organization’s plans and then interaction with technology.  Monitoring and tracking workers’ engagement with these tools consistently is critical.

The Changing Landscape of Technology

Artificial intelligence (AI) and its innovations are changing the way businesses operate and even how jobs are structured. For example, AI for some companies is now writing marketing copy or blogs and then employees are improving upon these first attempts. New AI tools are being released every day across many spectrums of business functions, all with the hopes of providing businesses and employees with new ways to improve productivity. However, innovation often comes with risks, especially when it comes to security and control. Given the rapidly changing nature of technology, company leadership and internal auditors must create clear rules and procedures that govern how technology is used within the organization.

Understanding the Organization’s Relationship with Technology

There is debate today as to how AI will change business operations.  Will it simply improve productivity by making tasks easier to complete or will AI replace entire functions? To understand the organization’s relationship with technology, both the leadership and internal auditors need to be able to address and answer key questions in how and when AI will be used. The questions below form the basis for creating effective strategies to maximize the benefits of technology while minimizing associated risks.

  1. Addressing Attitudes Toward Technology

How does your company’s leadership respond to new technology? Attitudes and perceptions matter as these can influence both short-term and long-term planning. Help set the foundation for how successful teams will be by making sure values and support for digital transformation initiatives are in place. It is equally important to know when initiatives are supported and when they are not. Making assumptions can lead to wasted time, resources and reputation.

  1. Evaluating Risk Tolerance

What level of risk is the organization willing to accept? Aligning the organization’s goals and objectives with key risk thresholds must be done early so as to save wasted time and money later. It may be a good idea to create a risk matrix and rating system to have a system that all can use a common language.

  1. Assessing Automation Readiness

Which organization processes are prepared for automation, and which are not? Getting the people on board was a good first step. Next, knowing what processes or tasks are suitable for AI is critical to avoiding lost time and money. Many times, automation can significantly improve operational efficiency. However, not all processes are equally suitable for automation. Internal auditors should closely collaborate with business process owners to identify areas where automation can deliver the most significant benefits.

  1. Recognizing Current Technology Utilization

How are employees already using new tools (both officially and unofficially) to streamline their work? There is a good chance many are already using AI tools, even if not approved. It might be helping with email or scheduling or writing marketing materials or now even product development. It’s crucial to identify and comprehend the different ways employees are utilizing technology. This encompasses approved tools as well as unofficial applications that employees may have adopted independently. This can be a challenge as it is often difficult to discern how work is being done, so internal auditors must help provide a way to say what technology is being used.

  1. Training and Adoption

Are employees adequately trained to use technology? Have policies been established to guide employees? Employees vary in their skill levels regarding technology. Some are ahead of the curve, while others are more afraid and more tepid in their desire to try new technology. Providing thorough training and support is crucial for successful technology adoption. Internal auditors should work with HR and IT departments to develop comprehensive training programs and access to resources on an ongoing basis.

Establishing Protocols and Learning Opportunities

Well-defined policies and guidelines that outline the appropriate use of technology and the necessary security measures to be followed are key. A good first step is learning about what technologies employees are interested in, whether it is technology being developed by leading companies or brand-new companies founded just to tackle business problems with AI. Establishing an environment that makes it safe to learn and explore all that is new can be helpful. This provides the opportunity to also introduce industry best practices at the same time.

Ensuring an organization’s relationship with technology remains balanced and effective is also a key role auditors play. From analyzing usage patterns, to identifying potential gaps or inefficiencies, and making recommendations for improvement, internal auditors’ roles involve both day to day and strategic work. Communication across all levels of the organization is crucial in helping all learn and implement technology-related policies and procedures. It is important to let all know that while AI and related applications provide opportunities for productivity improvements, security cannot not be sacrificed.

As the business landscape is being shaped by these evolving and rapidly changing technologies, internal auditors need to adjust and transform their approaches and even their own knowledge base. Navigating the often-complicated dynamics between workers and technology will most likely be a challenge for all companies. By evaluating attitudes towards technology, comprehending the organization’s risk tolerance, identifying current technology usage, assessing readiness for automation, and offering training and assistance, internal auditors cannot just help, but lead their organizations in harnessing the advantages of technology while minimizing the associated risks.

Renee Fry, CEO of Gentreo, www.gentreo.com, Gentreo provides next-generation estate planning for everyone to help through all of life’s inflection points.

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