5 ways internal audits position businesses for post-crisis recovery

November 11, 2021

As the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once noted, “the only constant in life is change.” For businesses that have endured over a year of ever-changing government regulations and never-ending uncertainty, this ages-old revelation rings too true. For those who use this as a driving force rather than a pervasive obstacle, there’s a clear opportunity to get ahead.

The key to an organization’s ability to recover from the impact of a crisis is preparation. Companies that quickly adapt to the transitory effects of crisis and have the long-term vision required for an immediate transformational response will reap lasting rewards that not only empower them to survive the next challenge, but position them for even greater success and growth. Internal audit (IA) is critical to this strategy.

Used mainly as a tool to evaluate compliance with regulations or requirements, the function and value of IA permeate much deeper than simply checking a regulatory box. These independent, objective reviews play an essential role in business resilience management and crisis preparedness, and provide practical guidance for leaders looking to accomplish the following:

1. Become more resilient in the face of unforeseen events.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents the most rigorous test of business continuity imaginable, giving rise to new challenges and gaps that may never have required such a level of scrutiny before. But this health crisis isn’t the first—nor the last—stress test businesses will face. There will always be new trials on the horizon, from cybersecurity threats and natural disasters, to financial crises and supply chain disruptions.

By assessing a company’s existing business continuity plan (BCP), redefining priorities, and providing recommendations to address any gaps, internal auditors can help businesses prepare for impending unpredictability.

2. Respond with agility to a changing business landscape.

With digital and virtual means gradually taking over how we work, communicate, and do business, concerns about an organization’s cybersecurity risks have increased. An internal audit can help detect gaps in IT security controls, identify vulnerabilities in business processes and procedures, and assess an organization’s exposure to external cyber threats.

3. Pinpoint areas for operational improvement.

Continuous operational improvement is a fundamental necessity for any business that wishes to succeed in today's environment rapidly changing environment. IA can add value by finding areas to streamline processes, refine objectives, reduce risk and exposure, and enhance procedures. Sometimes, even the simplest changes can play an enormous role in driving growth, reducing costs, and improving efficiencies.

Regular reviews should be conducted at planned intervals to deliver the most value, as each year, businesses face unprecedented challenges that require a well-coordinated response.

4. Identify new ways to keep staff healthy and safe.

Employee and customer safety has taken on a new urgency in the COVID era, forcing employers to think about workplace health and safety in ways they’ve never had to before.

Does your company office require modifications to allow for mandatory social distancing or capacity restrictions? Is there a process in place for dealing with an in-office COVID-19 case? How will the associated costs of office modifications or digital workplace tools impact your balance sheet?

By conducting an internal audit, employers can ensure their company’s health and safety measures not only produce the required effects, but that material resources are being allocated effectively.

5. Develop a customized workplace arrangement policy.

Returning to the office can be a controversial and challenging decision for a company. How can your business balance employees’ desire for flexible remote work options with the efficiency and ease of working together in person?

Internal audit can evaluate your company’s current workplace arrangement and provide guidance on a robust logistical plan so management can be confident with its decision to continue working remotely, return to the office, or offer a hybrid option.

Build organizational resilience from the core

The current health crisis has dramatically re-ordered business strategies, impacted revenues, reshaped customer bases, and upended supply chains. Within this rather volatile narrative, IA is a crucial component of proactive, forward-thinking organizations that strive for continuous process improvement, while seeking to reduce organizational risk.

As your business modernizes, we can advise you on emerging areas of risk and the strength of your internal processes by providing ad hoc or ongoing support. Whether your most pressing concerns are helping your company prepare for future challenges, safeguarding against cybersecurity threats, staying ahead of the competition, or creating a safe and productive environment for your staff, an internal audit will guide you in the right direction.

Contact us.

Pierre Taillefer, Partner, National Risk Advisory Leader

John Asher, Senior Manager, Risk Advisory Services

Allyson Haarstad, Manager, Risk Advisory Services

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