My Superhero Name
I have faced many challenges in the course of internal auditing, with each one pushing me to develop both my technical and soft skills. New skillsets have also been gained and accumulated through months and years of experience. But wouldn't it be great if I could have some superpowers to aid me in my work?
Ability to Read Minds
One superpower I desire is the ability to read minds. With this power, I could tap into what process owners know about the process I am auditing, understand their pain points, and even identify control gaps or exceptions. This would eliminate issues of information being inadvertently left out and enable audits to be completed more efficiently. It would also allow for more targeted identification of risk areas and recommendations.
However, such an ability is wishful thinking, as none of us belong to any Cinematic Universe. So how can we achieve a similar ability?
Now that face-to-face interactions are encouraged, I consciously observe the physical gestures of my process owners—eye contact, body posture, and hand gestures. These cues can signal if the process owners are comfortable or if they have something additional to contribute during a conversation. If I detect signs of discomfort, for example, I take a few seconds to rationalise the situation (e.g., they may be distracted) and then try to refocus their attention on the original intent of the conversation. By paying attention to these face-to-face interactions, I realise that "reading minds" is actually about interpreting their expressions, gestures, and even their breathing patterns.
Ability to See Future Possibilities
Another superpower I would like to have is the ability to see future possibilities. Just like certain wizards from the movies, I would love to be able to foresee all potential outcomes and assess each one. This would greatly assist me in expanding the range of scenarios to cover all possible risk exposures. With a clear understanding of each route's potential success, I could make more informed decisions.
To harness this power, I adopt a mindset of considering "inputs" and "outputs" when auditing a new process. I focus on identifying the inputs required to complete the task and the outputs that will be developed. The benefits of being “new” to the process and role enables me to think of alternative ways and methods to perform the process and envision different routes to achieve the desired outcomes. This approach helps me consider various possibilities and identify any gaps and risks.
If you are interested in exploring more about this “ability,” my earlier blog post also has information about the concept of “thinking ahead,” which can come in handy when applied together with the abovementioned skill. You can refer to my earlier blog post here.
Ability to Time Travel
Lastly, if I could time travel, I would like to have the ability to review past risks and exceptions and determine whether they have been rectified. Such an ability would allow me to delve into specific areas with higher improvement opportunities by scanning through historical records. Since we are still far from the idea of “time travel,” why not rely on technological advancements to assist us in these endeavours instead!
Data analytics and continuous controls monitoring have proven to be valuable tools for internal auditors. Instead of randomly selecting samples, data analytics enable us to analyse the entire population of transactions and zoom in on transactions with potential exceptions for further investigation. Continuous controls monitoring helps us identify incidents in a more timely manner compared to the traditional auditing approach, which is based on auditing transactions from a fixed period in the past.
Having such tools in use does not mean that our job as internal auditors can stop here. By analysing the root causes of these exceptions, we can develop targeted solutions to address them. This allows us to go beyond the typical recommendations of error rectification or additional layers of review and approval and consider options such as upskilling and retraining users, fostering a risk-aware culture, or redesigning processes.
While it would be ideal for these superpowers to come naturally to us, they don't. Our skill sets are our "powers." By continuously honing these skills, we can become "super." It's important to remember that "with great powers, comes great responsibility," as the famous line from the Spiderman movie suggests. How we utilise and apply our superpowers—our skills and knowledge—must allow us to create value for organisations and positively impact our stakeholders.
The hardest part, though, is deciding on my superhero name! I'm torn between Captain IA and The Incredible Auditor. Hmm...
Natalie Goh has been in the Internal Audit and Risk Management profession for nine years. She was the Chairperson for IIA Singapore YPWG 2022 and is currently a member of IIA Singapore YPWG.