Call for change

For many businesses, the Internal Audit function is essential to assessing risk, identifying fraud and improving processes. As a global organization serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture faces a complex challenge in carrying out this function due to the large scope of oversight and finite resources.

To enhance audit execution, our Internal Audit function has cultivated a leading analytics practice that uses more than 200 rules-based analytics solutions. A software platform that had reached its end of life and the use of niche, non-enterprise-class software (common to many internal audit functions) prevented the full integration of analytics across the entire audit process. These factors drove the need to develop a new technology capability to enable a proactive, insight-driven way of working.

When tech meets human ingenuity

The Internal Audit function looked to the CIO Applied Intelligence team within the global IT organization to collaborate on developing an innovative, intelligent solution. CIO Applied Intelligence’s aim is to bring greater insights to Accenture’s services using the enterprise-class analytics platform and data lake it developed for the company.

CIO Applied Intelligence and Internal Audit already had a long-running collaboration, including gaining an understanding of the analytics platform and the benefits it could offer. The analytics skill sets within Internal Audit allowed it to closely collaborate on the technical aspects of the project.

To begin, a CIO Applied Intelligence and Internal Audit team assessed the technology landscape established years ago and the respective constraints. Internal Audit lacked the ability to process very large data sets, limiting insights. Risk models were point in time, one dimensional and inflexible, making it challenging to include analytics in the planning phases of an audit. Full population data discovery and transactional-level analysis was not possible, often resulting in random sample testing. Finally, the technology was unable to support predictive analytics, a major area of opportunity.

The solution involved transitioning existing analytical assets to the already developed CIO Applied Intelligence analytics platform. The move allowed Internal Audit to join other Accenture functions in using a suite of leading analytical tools drawing on a common data lake aligned to Accenture’s data governance structure. These tools allow Internal Audit to prepare, transform and analyze data in ways it couldn’t do before. Additionally, the analytics platform significantly reduces complexity in developing analytics.

Transformation highlights include:

Audit selection

Dynamic audit plans, reassessed throughout the year versus an annual and static exercise

Audit scoping

Customized, data-driven audit scopes versus execution of checklist-based procedures

Fieldwork

Full population testing and risk-based coverage versus random sampling and manual tests

Post-audit

Collaboration between audit and the business to implement optimized solutions versus issuance of a finding with eventual follow-up

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People and culture

Teams from Accenture’s global IT organization and Internal Audit began collaborating with each other more than two years ago to understand the analytics platform and the benefits it could offer. The project team also included CIO Applied Intelligence leadership and business architects, along with the CIO Applied Intelligence Accenture Technology Center China solution delivery team. The project offered opportunities for the Internal Audit team to learn best practices and techniques on the CIO Applied Intelligence-developed technology, and for the delivery team to understand new business processes, risk scoring methodology and collaborate across Accenture to deliver analytic capabilities.

A valuable difference

The Internal Audit group is significantly changing the way audits are conducted. Audit plans are now dynamic rather than an annual exercise. Internal Audit can work in a data-driven way, generating new insights and managing risk across Accenture with new approaches.

Internal Audit’s existing inventory of analytics can now be consumed in a self-service manner through several interactive business intelligence models. These models feature historical risk modeling projecting risk across multiple dimensions of Accenture’s business, and can be processed within seconds compared to 48-plus-hour run times previously. The models allow self-discovery on full population data and risk analysis at the transaction level, driving more risk-based audit selections. These features all allow analytic consideration to occur in the early planning phases of an audit, driving more strategic scope.

In addition, the use of a single, shared platform allows Internal Audit to better collaborate with the business as advisory partners in sharing knowledge capital. This advantage will allow the team to significantly expand its advisory services and to drive value across both corporate Finance and the entire company, going beyond a traditional “exception-based “mentality. This upscaling in capabilities positions Internal Audit to be strong value partners of the business.

Looking ahead, the global IT organization has started pursuing robotic process automation and natural language processing further using the new platform’s capabilities. Emerging concepts, such as predictive analytics, are now being developed and integrated into the audit cycle. The application of predictive analytics on top of existing capabilities is uncommon to the audit profession, which has historically focused on rules-based analytics.

“With technology disrupting the status quo in many professions, Internal Audit must adapt to meet evolving expectations. This new, enterprise-class platform will allow full integration of analytics into all phases of the audit process, optimizing our overall value-add back to the organization.”

— Joe Gonski, Senior Manager – Internal Audit, Advanced Analytics, Accenture

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