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Understanding the internal audit function in a digitalised business environment

Nathanaël Betti (Louvain Research Institute in Management and Organizations, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)
Gerrit Sarens (Louvain Research Institute in Management and Organizations, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change

ISSN: 1832-5912

Article publication date: 19 October 2020

Issue publication date: 5 April 2021

2065

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to gain an in-depth understanding of how the internal audit function evolves in an increasingly digitalised business environment.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is based on 29 semi-structured interviews with members of management committees and internal auditors based in Belgium.

Findings

The analysis reveals that a digitalised business environment affects the internal audit function in three respects. First, it impacts its scope. The agility of the internal audit planning and the required digital knowledge are expected to increase and information technology (IT) risks gain importance, especially cybersecurity threats. Second, the demand for consulting activities performed by internal auditors is higher and third, digitalisation modifies the working practices of internal auditors in their day-to-day tasks. New technologies such as data analytics tools are being implemented progressively in internal audit departments and digital skills are considered a critical asset.

Research limitations/implications

This research was conducted in the European Union and gathers opinions of members of management committees and internal auditors. Future research could focus on other internal auditing stakeholders in other legal contexts.

Practical implications

The internal audit function needs to integrate IT and data analytics skills. In addition, the internal audit function should develop consulting activities to help organisations deal with the digitalisation of the business environment.

Originality/value

The impact of digitalisation on the internal audit function and its effect on internal audit practices is an underexplored area.

Keywords

Citation

Betti, N. and Sarens, G. (2021), "Understanding the internal audit function in a digitalised business environment", Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 197-216. https://doi.org/10.1108/JAOC-11-2019-0114

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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