The internal audit functions that continue to innovate and adapt their processes are those that provide the most value and aid in shielding their organizations from detrimental control failures. To accomplish this, audit leadership must create an operational framework that encourages ongoing, strategically focused change. Maintaining an increased rate of internal change that endures.

The size of your function, the scope and complexity of the changes you have determined will still be required for determining how you set up to manage the changes you wish to make. In our experience, there are two basic operating model options that leaders must decide between when deciding how changes will be managed in their function.

The first one concerns how you will handle the change in addition to your primary duty of providing ongoing assurance. You could ask coworkers to manage the change in addition to their regular duties, which is what we refer to as a “side of desk” approach. When the change is deemed to require little effort or in smaller functions, this is likely the best course of action. However, if your change is complicated, such as if you intend to implement agile or use a sophisticated integrated analytics approach for your audit work, this could become a problem. Where the change is more complicated, you might want to look into different resourcing models. For instance, forming a temporary team or allowing someone to take a break from regular audit work so they can fully concentrate on the change you want to make we have also observed larger organizations establishing permanent change capabilities in the audit function.

Whichever of these models is best for your situation, you must consider how taking people away from their audit work will affect the delivery of your audit plan. This includes how expecting colleagues to manage additional change activity from “side of their desk” may impair core audit delivery.

The second choice centers on who should carry out the change activity.

Avoiding the extensive use of consultants is beneficial for managing costs as well as for gaining team buy-in for the change you are recommending. In our opinion, change initiated by auditors is more effective. Instead of using consultants for the minute-by-minute work, use them to upskill your team and provide quick bursts of expert input and ideas. Additionally, if change is a strategic priority, communicate this by designating your best employees to lead the necessary change, while also remembering to recognize others who continue to perform audit work as usual and may even be asked to complete a greater volume of audit work to help free up resources. Complex change assignments are a fantastic way for your top talent to interact with the internal audit leadership team for an extended period of time while also demonstrating their capacity for flexibility.

Even if your operating model has you well-positioned for success, it’s crucial to also have a clear sustainability strategy in place to guarantee that all of your efforts result in the outcomes you deserve and that the value created is maintained. Although failure to maintain success is common, there are four easy steps you can take to lessen the likelihood that this will happen for the changes you have made.

Make sure your performance management system is set up to deliver lasting value.

Use your performance management system to fully integrate the necessary components of the change projects.

Include pertinent aspects of the change that have been made into individual objectives as the first step in this process.

For instance, if you have significantly altered your audit methodology, added data analytics capabilities, and successfully trained your team members on these changes, make sure that each team member is held accountable for their goals for implementing the new methodology in their work or adopting the new data analytics technologies in place and skills they learned through the training program.

Use functional performance indicators and rewards to focus the leadership team on value delivery.

To ensure senior attention is paid to the delivery of value and course correction where the change is not having the desired impact, think about establishing key performance indicators across the function for components of the projects you have completed. To make sure the focus is kept, these would be included in the function’s scorecard or measurement system for a while. This might be for a year or it might be longer.

For instance, one organization we worked with introduced measurement of the use of simple and complex data analytics in their audit work on a permanent basis to ensure that the approach became a core component of what they do. They continue to track this and include it in their functional scorecard today.

By establishing pertinent metrics in the functional scorecard in this way, you can also use your reward system to collect rewards for the leadership team and individual functions for generating long-term value.

Ongoing role for project sponsor.

Additionally, you must make sure that project sponsors who were involved in the change initiative’s delivery phase are unable to skip out on the crucial phase of benefits realization. The leadership team should request updates from the accountable audit director on a regular basis regarding the success (or failure) of the change’s transition into normal operations and the progress of the function’s anticipated benefits. How much longer should this last? This will depend on how confident you are that the modification has actually assimilated into the DNA of the relevant functions and that secure sustainable value delivery.

Consider establishing a Year 2 embedding project.

A year two “embedding project” in your change initiatives with a project manager, project reporting, activities to support embedding, and straightforward measurement of how the embedding is going may be something you want to consider for major initiatives. A heat map approach to tracking the integration of “product development” into the ongoing work of the internal audit function is one that we have used very successfully here.