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Internal audit’s rise of intelligent automation

A four-part insight series on achieving intelligent automation goals and managing associated risks

In a business environment that’s changing at a faster rate than ever before, internal auditors play an increasingly important role. With the vast uncertainties presented by an onslaught of disruptive forces, the internal audit function must keep pace to help the organization understand and manage the associated risks, achieve expected results from automation, and continue to innovate to add value.

This four-part series of papers explores key opportunities for internal audit within intelligent automation initiatives:

  • Internal audit can help to integrate governance, risk, and controls considerations throughout the automation program life cycle as an organization establishes and implements its program.
  • Internal audit can help the organization identify opportunities to embed automation-enabled control activities within the impacted business processes and functions.
  • Finally, the internal audit organization can capitalize on intelligent automation innovations to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its own activities.

Assessing and leveraging intelligent automation

This paper is written for executives, board members, and internal audit leaders charged with overseeing and strengthening an organization’s overall risk posture. It highlights opportunities for internal audit to assist in intelligent automation initiatives benefiting all three lines of defense.

Internal audit’s opportunity with the rise of intelligent automation 

Intelligent automation, also known as digital labor, was once an intriguing but far-fetched idea, but it has now become almost a given in many organizations. Today, virtually all business sectors are investing in advanced technologies such as big data, predictive analytics, process robotics, cognitive systems, natural language processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to automate knowledge work. Automation isn’t new, but a number of factors are converging to drive rapid adoption of intelligent automation. First, the cost of the technology is becoming more affordable, even as it becomes more powerful and advanced. Second, organizations now have the ability to more efficiently integrate intelligent automation applications within existing processes and technology infrastructures, increasing the speed of deployment for these types of solutions.

The new forms of disruptive technologies under the intelligent automation umbrella come in all shapes and sizes, but together they offer an incredibly efficient platform from which to automate tasks and scale expertise—largely independent of labor growth. Intelligent automation is taking hold in front-, middle-, and back-office processes in a wide array of business units, with most organizations in the exploration and pilot phases and leaders moving to scaled implementation. Today’s intelligent automation innovations have the transformational potential to increase the speed, operational efficiency, cost-effectiveness, control, and accuracy of daily business activities, and to empower skilled human professionals to generate more impactful insights, enabling smarter decisions more quickly.

Governance, risk management and controls add value

Explore how the internal audit department can support an enterprise's intelligent automation journey with consulting or assurance services in every stage: plan, build, run, and monitor.

New risks from new technology 

Organizations that deploy intelligent automation—as most will, sooner or later—have to consider questions about governance and risk, beginning with ownership.The business, IT departments, centers of excellence,and vendors all have a stake in intelligent automation programs. As a result, programs need to establish unified oversight of key performance indicators (KPIs), key risk indicators (KRIs), and risk mitigation and risk acceptance processes. This oversight helps form the framework for developing and managing bots1 —the computer programs that are at the heart of intelligent automation—in a manner that supports the program’s strategy while maintaining consistency and security.

Most organizations know how to assess their employees’competencies to gain confidence in their performance.But do they know how to build and assess the competencies of bots, particularly those that use artificial intelligence for more complex tasks? Controls are needed to validate that bots continue to perform as intended and are maintaining the completeness, accuracy, and integrity of data. To be effective, these controls need to be considered and consistently applied throughout the automation program life cycle.

Parts three and four in this series will publish soon. Please revisit this page to explore internal audit's role in intelligent automation opportunities in further detail.

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Intelligent Automation Insights series

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Intelligent automation and internal audit part 1 of a 3 part series: Considerations for assessing and leveraging intelligent automation

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Intelligent automation and internal audit part 2 of a 3 part series: Adding value through governance, risk management, and controls

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Intelligent automation and internal audit part 3 of a 3 part series: To make your processes smarter, turn to your process guides

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