Updated: Nov 6, 2020
The who, what, where, when and why of Internal Audit Annual Planning Stakeholders
Annual Planning can be a long process, particularly when there are a number of stakeholders which we must engage with throughout the process. But there is no need for annual planning to be long or tedious. There are things we can do as an audit team to make our engagement with key stakeholders quick, easy, meaningful and even developmental, for everyone involved. In this post, we are going to discuss:
Who you should engage with during the Annual Planning Process and why;
When to engage with them;
What we need from them; and
How we can engage with them.
Who you should engage with during the Annual Planning Process
Everyone probably has an opinion on what audit should and should not look at and many of these opinions will be driven by personal objectives, however audit only has limited resources, so we need to be careful about who we talk to. Below is a list of recommended stakeholders audit should engage with and why:
CEO / COO - These people set the strategy and direction of the business. Understanding the businesses future plans is important if audit is to be aware of risk areas may lie and what should be on our audit radar for the next five years.
Department Leads (i.e. CFO, CIO, etc) - Those directly under the CEO / COO are responsible for implementing the strategy and objectives of the organisation. They are also the ones which see the challenges with implementing the strategy. The CFO understands the company's financial position, what areas are performing (or under performing) and what the results of the strategy are. The CIO understands the technical constraints being faced by teams as they aim to offer customer services or undertake projects to support the strategy. Each of these departmental leads is aware of the risks and challenges being faced in implementing the strategy and therefore, are integral to the business.
Audit Committee - Understanding the expectations of the audit committee and in particular, the Committee Chair, will help set priorities for the next year. What is the committee concerned about, what are the future risks they are thinking of, etc.
Risk Directors - Risk Directors should have oversight of the entire organisation and emerging risks. Additionally, they should be aware of any new laws or regulations due to come into effect which will impact the business. These people are critical in ensuring we develop a risk based plan.
Other stakeholders you may want to consider include:
Known Hot Spots - There are often areas of the business which regularly flag on audit's radar. Meet with the Directors / Leaders of these areas where there are known issues to determine if things have either improved or (hopefully not), become worse.
Big 4 Auditors / Networks - Our friends still working in practice often have a lot of knowledge about emerging risks or oversight about what is happening at some of their clients. Pick their brains to understand what is happening elsewhere and whether or not we should be concerned about it. Additionally, talk to auditors from other businesses. Again, this will help to see what they are thinking about.
Once we have identified our audit stakeholders, we should really note them down. We have built a handy template which will help you to list all your relevant stakeholders and maintain a log of who you have spoken to, who you still need to speak with, and where the minutes are documented. You can view the template here.
When to engage with our identified stakeholders.
Now! Many of these people are extremely busy (as are we), so be sure to book meetings with these stakeholders as soon as possible.
To ensure everyone knows their role and responsibility, a junior member of the audit team should be assigned responsibility for ownership of the Stakeholders Checklist. It is their responsibility to coordinate and book the meetings and ensure this is accurately reflected in the checklist template.
Audit can become unstuck if multiple people are organising meetings and communication between team members is not clear; particularly whilst everyone is remote working.
What we need from them.
We've already established these people (and us) are busy, so lets not waste time. Having a clear meeting agenda and knowing what you want / need from these people is critical to ensuring that we can effectively develop our audit plan and satisfy each of the stakeholders.
Your meeting agenda will vary depending on who you are going to meet with, however there are some standard questions to consider. We have built a standard meeting agenda template which will help you ensure you cover the minimum topics with each stakeholder. You can view the template here.
How we can engage with them.
Audit only has so many people to perform good annual planning, so this should be seen as a development opportunity for many of our audit team members.
For the Chief Auditor, it would be appropriate that they attend meetings with the Executive and Senior Leadership teams, however there is an opportunity for Senior Audit Managers to also meet with some of the senior leaders. Furthermore, the senior audit managers can also meet with the Risk Partners without the aid of the Chief Auditor.
Junior team members could accompany the Senior Audit Manager to take minutes and also help maintain a running log of suggested audit activity over the coming year.
A well laid out meeting agenda and understanding of what is needed from the stakeholders provides opportunities for junior members to step up and take a more active role in Annual Planning.
Are you doing your annual planning now? We have a week by week guide of what should be done, and when. You can follow the guide here.