The newest study on the internal audit profession will suggest chief audit executives need to focus on developing talent to meet the mandate it faces to address fast-paced changes in business risks.

The Institute of Internal Audit will soon release its annual “Pulse of Internal Audit” survey, focusing on the transformation that the profession is experiencing as it becomes a more critical force within many business environments. 

This year’s installment of the study will show internal audit is making progress in becoming an important resource to the board of directors and audit committee, says Jim Pelletier, vice president at the IIA. The 2017 study focused on overlooked risks.

“We’re seeing really good trends in terms of internal audit attendance at audit committee meetings and seeing internal audit’s role growing outside traditional accounting and finance risks,” says Pelletier. “Boards are saying they need to be comfortable that they know what risks are coming, and who do we turn to to help get this sense of comfort? Internal audit is the key resources they turn to.”

Internal audit is facing increasing expectations from boards, the newest data says, but internal auditors need to get more engaged in innovations to meet those expectations, says Pelletier. “As we continue to evolve and meet growing demands, we need to embrace the latest technology,” he says. “Are we leaping forward or holding back?”

The data will also suggest internal audit can improve its ability to change directions as risks change, Pelletier says. “Internal audit needs to have a real-time audit planning process so it can communicate to the audit committee that it is able to take on the risks that are hitting the organization,” he says.

Talent is still an issue, however, as nearly three-fourths of chief audit executives reported they still have gaps to fill, says Pelletier. “All of these things require talent to get done,” he says. “We’ve been moving in this direction, but we need to push the accelerator. We absolutely need accounting and finance skills on the audit team, but we need diverse skills.” The data suggest internal audit is making some progress in attracting more IT skills, he says.

The complete results will be available via the IIA website as the association begins its annual general conference on March 12.