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3 top challenges for IT auditors

20 / 06 / 2016
3 top challenges for IT auditorsIT audit departments have arguably never been more crucial within the corporate governance function, as technological developments bring a greater number of both opportunities and risks to businesses. 

The burden on financial institutions is particularly heavy, as they must deal with increased regulatory pressures from upcoming legislation, such as MiFID II. However, some new laws will affect all organisations, including the General Data Protection Regulation. 

Nevertheless, a recent survey from ISACA - a global association for IT assurance, governance and cybersecurity employees - ranked regulatory compliance as just the ninth biggest concern among IT auditors. 

So what are the other issues keeping professionals awake at night? Let's examine some of the latest research and see what the biggest challenges are in the IT audit department this year. 

1. Cybersecurity 

Unsurprisingly, cybersecurity is among the top concerns for many IT auditors. The ISACA study, released in conjunction with Protiviti, listed it in second place on their top ten technology challenges report.  

Meanwhile, a Deloitte survey of 22 financial institutions said cybersecurity was the largest threat to their businesses. This was the second consecutive year it topped the hot topics list. 

"Cybersecurity is not simply about fixing the vulnerability that was exploited, but wider crisis-management skills, including public, media and customer relations," the Big Four accounting firm said in the report. 

2. Change management 

Both studies highlighted the problems associated with strategic development, albeit under different guises. Respondents to the ISACA and Protiviti research said emerging technology and infrastructure changes were the number one hurdle for IT auditors to overcome. 

Specifically, professionals are worried about innovation, disruption and transformation, as their businesses evolve to tackle new risks. Meanwhile, Deloitte's survey saw strategic change climb from third to second on the IT audit watch list. 

The company said audit departments are becoming more involved in change initiatives, with up to 40 per cent of audit plan efforts focused on providing assurance in this area. 

3. Finding the right staff 

Resourcing, staff and skills challenges were the third biggest complaint among professionals polled in the ISACA/Protiviti study. This reinforces our own research into IT audit recruitment. 

The Barclay Simpson Internal Audit Market Report 2016 revealed that businesses are increasingly under-resourced in these departments. Furthermore, the search for specialists is on the rise, with only 30 per cent of positions advertised as 'general' IT audit roles. 

We've found that cybersecurity, data analytics/data assurance and disaster recovery experts are among the most highly sought-after candidates. Banks are also keen to identify IT auditors who can perform back-office functions and operations, particularly risk and compliance department reviews. 

Preparing for the future

These are just three of the top challenges that IT audit departments are currently encountering, but they're far from the only hurdles. Professionals also highlighted infrastructure management, cloud computing and big data and analytics as areas of concern. 

"Rapid change is the norm in today's business environment," said David Brand, Protiviti managing director and leader of the firm's global IT audit practice. 

"IT audit professionals have recognised the need to grow their knowledge and expertise while also updating their policies, processes, people and technology, all in order to arm themselves against the increasing challenges and threats presented by an ever-evolving technology landscape."

Organisations hoping to outperform competitors will require IT auditors with the right combination of experience, qualifications and skills to handle a range of problems posted by the digital environment. Those that invest in their headcounts now will be well prepared for changes as and when they arise.

Our 2016 Market Report combines our review of the prevailing conditions in the internal audit recruitment market together with the results of our latest employer survey.

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