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CLIENT CASE STUDY


Accenture digitizes its internal audit function

Digitization of internal audit provides new capabilities

Overview

As Accenture expanded in recent years, the company faced many challenges. Internal Audit had to continue to identify and assess risk while offering additional services for an increasingly larger and more diverse enterprise.

Opportunity

Given Accenture’s dynamic landscape, Internal Audit is increasing the volume of audits and advisory services to continue to provide value and, at the same time, increase risk coverage, while doing it more efficiently and effectively. “Our challenge,” says Bob Kress, Managing Director of Global IT Audit, “is to do more with less, and do it faster, while at the same time be cost-effective.”

Recognizing this challenge, Internal Audit is leveraging new technology, not simply to provide more of the same capabilities, but to enable it to provide new ones.

Solutions

Internal Audit’s digitization journey involves implementing a number of component solutions. The organization collaborates with Accenture’s internal IT brain trust to look at internal audit business processes, examine what can be automated and determine what technology would best support that business process or processes.

“Many organizations know they want to digitize operations, but can become overwhelmed with where to begin,” says Dan Kirner, CIO Organization Managing Director, Portfolio Applications Management. “It’s important to keep in mind that the starting point is with the needs of the business, and not the capabilities of the various technologies in the marketplace.”

Internal Audit identified four key areas for enhancement with new technologies:

Enhancing audit management with a new Global Risk and Compliance (GRC) solution

Internal Audit’s existing GRC solution was increasingly falling short in its capabilities to meet the needs of both the growth of Accenture’s business and Internal Audit’s expanding global organization. Aware that newer, more robust GRC solutions were available in the marketplace, Internal Audit identified a new Web-based solution, which it enhanced and implemented in collaboration with Accenture’s internal IT organization.

The GRC solution provides Internal Audit with a comprehensive, end-to-end audit life cycle management solution that mirrors Accenture’s operating model and internal corporate functions. It is used for general project and audit management, staff scheduling, audit issue tracking, reporting, document repository for audit support and evidence, and provides audit review and sign-off functionality.

Leveraging analytics to industrialize continuous audit

Internal Audit has been steadily increasing the use of analytics in its audit processes, particularly to monitor key processes, controls and transactions rather than using traditional sample testing of transactions and periodic review. As a result, Accenture is leapfrogging current techniques and advancing the company toward a leading practice of continuous monitoring and auditing.

The initial focus leveraged analytics to create a number of new internal audit capabilities, including automating monitoring that identifies risks on an ongoing basis for more effective controls; increasing audit coverage and assurance, promoted by auditing a full data population (vs. traditional “sample-based” auditing); and enhanced risk identification by analyzing data patterns across multiple transaction systems.

Continuous auditing applies analytics to enhance traditional Internal Audit activities and results. For example, analytics automate otherwise manual-intensive sampling procedures and can identify substantial cost-saving opportunities globally, isolating specific areas where business attention can drive the most significant benefit.

“We are using analytics to support audit work globally across all audit areas and we have expanded the use of analytics across more business functions,” says Dave Hildebrand, Accenture’s Business Lead for Continuous Auditing and Analytics.

Implementing continuous risk assessment with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Risk assessment is another key area identified for digitization. As Accenture’s business has continued to rapidly evolve and grow, Internal Audit found it needed to stay closer to the business and speak with Accenture leaders more frequently.

Together, Internal Audit and Accenture’s internal IT organization decided to use Microsoft Dynamics Customer Relationship management (CRM) solutions, which typically include a strong contact management capability.

Dynamics CRM is a good fit for Accenture because it is cloud-based, as-a-service, and offered a plug-in directly into Outlook, used by Accenture, enabling easy access to the Accenture address book and employee schedules. The software gives employees the ability to document their notes in a single repository while having access to other notes from other calls.

Increasing productivity leveraging Accenture social and collaboration tools

Accenture makes extensive use of technology to support collaboration and communication of Accenture people and their knowledge with teams—whether in the same room or thousands of miles away—to come up with the best solutions for clients.

These technologies include Microsoft Lync, Telepresence, videoconferencing, Microsoft SharePoint, the Stream (Accenture’s internal social and collaboration network), Yammer (an Accenture social network), and “Circles” (a place for people to connect on the Stream).

Internal Audit makes use of these technologies to more effectively support its work, especially to collaborate with teams around the world virtually rather than through travel. Teams can often meet remotely and share documents with audit clients through Microsoft Lync, for example.

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IT INSIGHTS: DIGITIZING INTERNAL AUDIT

As Accenture expanded in recent years, the company faced many challenges. Internal Audit had to continue to identify and assess risk while offering additional services for an increasingly larger and more diverse enterprise.

Results

Accenture’s Internal Audit organization’s journey of digitization has been one of incremental initiatives, as opposed to one big-bang program. As a result, Internal Audit is now providing a new level of services and has transformed operations, while also working more efficiently and effectively.

“We’re offering more services today than we’ve ever offered,” says Kress. “In the past, we focused mainly on performing traditional audits. Now, we’re providing advisory services, continuous auditing, performing risk assessments and conducting different types of audits.”

Audit components are assets to be maintained and upgraded to improve the ability to provide value to the business. Internal Audit is also operating more real-time: as it sees risk changing in the environment, the organization can adjust its assessment, audit and advisory services on a real-time basis.

Better Internal Audit capabilities translate into proactive and enhanced risk coverage for Accenture’s business. Internal Audit is able to perform more audit services due to the GRC application and collaboration technologies, helping increase productivity and efficiency, while reducing costs and improving the quality of audits.

Continuous auditing provides business value to Accenture by delivering full population coverage, efficiency and risk assessment through the use of analytics. Leveraging analytics supports the business to identify global trends and cost-saving opportunities, driving operational excellence and feeding predictive models. Analytics now support more than 75 percent of audits conducted and generated cost savings of approximately $1.6 million in fiscal year 2014.

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