With the speed of technological change in our world today, Internal Audit functions cannot continue operating as they have done in the past. Instead, they must embrace technology and learn to take advantage of the many prospects that they present.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is now a key engine for audit workflow efficiency and efficacy.

End-to-End Robotic Process Automation in Internal Audit

Across the entire audit process, it’s now easier and faster to prepare audit documentation, generate automated workpapers, and deliver key findings to an audit committee, board, or executive leader. RPA can drive audit planning and operational processes for stronger compliance, analytics, and internal control of audit work. This includes enhanced workflows within:

  • Assessment.
  • Planning.
  • Fieldwork.
  • Reporting.
  • Issue Tracking.
  • Ongoing Monitoring.

A great example is the generation of control workpapers used in an Internal Audit or SOX project, as seen below:

automated workpapers

There are clear RPA opportunities at all stages of Internal Audit as long as firms have buy-in from audit staff and appropriate expertise with an automation tool of choice. For many organizations, that’s easier said than done.

Current Challenges

For Internal Audit functions still using Excel-based workpapers, generating consistent and accurate workpapers is a tedious, repetitive, and inefficient process when performed manually:

  • Workpaper Rollforward – Auditors will often leverage prior year workpapers and update data where necessary to save time. Because important control changes may not be captured, this method can result in workpapers being populated with inaccurate information.
  • Manual Generation – Given the volume that must be created, as well as the number of specific data elements that must be extracted from a Risk Control Matrix (RCM) and populated into each control workpaper, manually completing this process from scratch can take several hours for an audit team.

As market, customer, and competitive demands prompt organizations to level-up their audit processes, the Internal Audit function is now also poised to play a larger role in other key functions of the business, such as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives and advanced cyber risk management. Automation is a must-have to enable the organization to meet these demands.

Benefits of Automating the Process

Automating elements of the audit program affords numerous benefits, such as:

  • Time Savings – The bot can generate hundreds of workpapers in a matter of minutes as compared to days for a human to complete manually.
  • Eliminate Errors – The bot will produce higher-quality results by consistently executing the process without error, which is especially helpful in automating this high-volume, low-complexity audit task.
  • Greater Focus on Value-Add Activities – The Internal Audit team will have additional time to perform more thoughtful and analytical work that should translate into greater value for the project.

The above video demo illustrates the end-to-end workpaper generation process where the bot extracts key data (i.e., business process, control number, control description, control testing procedures, etc.) from the Risk Control Matrix (RCM), creates a new control workpaper for each unique business process using a standardized template, and populates the new workpaper with key data elements. 

This relatively simple, but practical, example represents just the tip of the iceberg in terms of opportunities to drive audit innovation through automation. By taking advantage of “quick-wins” such as this, Internal Audit can transform into a more efficient and effective function.

For more information about how Internal Audit can improve performance by leveraging RPA, contact CrossCountry Consulting today.

Editor’s note: Updated June 2022