Continuous Monitoring: Using “Always On” Auditing for Efficiency and Business Value

Assurance is just the beginning of what board members and executives seek from their audit teams today. In an evolving landscape, auditors need to answer various emerging questions. What new requirements are on the horizon, and how will strategic initiatives need to adapt? What risks and compliance issues threaten business performance? Moreover, leaders increasingly seek this information in real-time throughout the year, not just during reporting periods and board meetings.

It’s a new type of role with new responsibilities, and the backwards-looking processes and pre-defined checklists of traditional auditing are no longer enough. To effectively serve as trusted advisors and demonstrate their business value, internal audit teams must take a more proactive approach, adopt more agile methods and expand their scope. Continuous monitoring can help.

While traditional auditing follows a rigid schedule and timetable, gathering data, compiling analyses, rinse and repeat, continuous monitoring is, as its name implies, “always on.”

While traditional auditing typically involves highly manual activities, continuous monitoring takes advantage of technology such as automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic processes that transform how data is collected and analyzed. This enables teams to work more efficiently and frees up these skilled professionals for higher-level work.

Finally, where traditional auditing offers a snapshot of a discrete moment (often well after the fact), continuous monitoring provides consistent insights in near-real time,  enabling audit teams to identify and address issues simultaneously. This advantage of ongoing reporting also improves visibility and reporting capabilities, establishing trust between organizational leadership and audit teams.

Amid rapid change and rising internal and external expectations, continuous monitoring is an audit team’s secret weapon for keeping up and navigating their shift from assurance specialist to a valued business advisor. Here’s a breakdown of continuous monitoring’s many benefits.

auditors enjoying a meeting

Continuous monitoring builds credibility and trust.

Board members and executive management want to ensure they make decisions with the most up-to-date, accurate data. Continuous auditing helps audit teams fulfil this charge and earn trust and credibility with these organizational leaders.

Continuous data collection and analysis enable errors to be detected right away and on an ongoing basis. This allows for far swifter correction and remediation than the older, periodic style. Automation decreases the risk of human error, and rules-based processes further optimize accuracy. Audit teams can think of it almost like a second layer of control, ensuring their accounts are watertight and stand up to scrutiny.

Furthermore, continuous monitoring collects more data. This provides audit teams, executives, and board members to whom they report assurance that they’re making decisions with the most complete, up-to-date information.

Continuous monitoring broadens the view.

With continuous monitoring, audit teams and leadership also have a significantly more significant scope of data to guide their decision-making. The audit management software used in constant tracking can tap into data from across the organisation: transactions, finances, processes, operations and beyond — enabling them to look broadly and dive deep when needed. Because this information is collected continuously, it can surface at any time.

This not only strengthens an audit team’s ability to identify issues on the traditional auditing checklist, but it also gives them an expanded view of the state of the business. Do irregularities in an acquired company’s transaction data indicate control failures or possible fraud? Could a subsidiary’s compliance violations impact business performance? As scrutiny rises in data privacy, cybersecurity, company ethics, and integrity, such enhanced visibility is essential.

Continuous monitoring gets ahead of risk.

As the purview of compliance and assurance expands into overall risk management, continuous monitoring gives audit teams superpowers for both immediate needs and future strategy.

Ongoing data collection and assessment enables constant risk awareness, so audit teams can work with their colleagues in IT and infosec to detect and address threats more swiftly.

Meanwhile, collecting data across many systems, combined with advanced analytics, enables teams to see patterns and connections across the enterprise. Could a rise in noncompliance actions in one department or division indicate greater trends across the organization? How well are internal operations mapping against risk frameworks and taxonomies, mainly as regulations in areas like cybersecurity evolve? These insights make audit teams valuable partners to their legal, risk management and executive leadership teams.

Continuous monitoring gives audit a say on performance

Now more than ever, board members and executives want to know which business areas are operating as they should be and where lags and gaps could pose more significant problems.

Audit teams are uniquely positioned to provide this insight. Their oversight, responsibilities, and activities span the breadth of critical business functions: processes, objectives, risks, controls, technologies and more.

Continuous auditing strengthens auditors’ ability to join conversations about business performance. With the data now at their fingertips, they can quickly indicate a program’s or process’s effectiveness or gaps in need of remediation.

Continuous monitoring increases efficiency.

Managing an expanding role and responsibilities takes time — something most audit teams don’t exactly have in abundance right now. Continuous monitoring can help here as well.

Digital audit management solutions enable accounts to be prepared faster without compromising accuracy. Automation streamlines and accelerates time-consuming manual tasks. Finally, a continuous monitoring system allows audit work to be planned proactively so that the team avoids the peaks and valleys of overwork before an extensive report or board meeting.

Continuous monitoring powers overall business insight

All this time saved and data collected, over time and across the organization, add up. In the long term, continuous monitoring provides audit teams with a robust foundation for their new role as trusted advisors.

Real-time data with a big-picture view enables valuable insight into risk, compliance and broader business issues: cost reduction strategies, operational efficiencies and suggestions for improving business performance, revenues, brand reputation and beyond.

In short: continuous audit brings auditors close to business processes, so these teams overseeing their organization’s critical internal audit functions can strengthen their ability to deliver insight and business value.

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