Majority of Internal Audit Groups Slow to Adopt Next-Gen Technologies and Upskill; At Risk of Becoming Obsolete, According to Protiviti Survey

Press Release

Teams lacking digital skills and technology tools were most impacted by the work-from-home environment

MENLO PARK, Calif., May 6, 2021 – According to Protiviti’s 2021 Next-Generation Internal Audit Survey, most of the chief audit executives (CAEs) and senior internal audit leaders surveyed reported that their teams are still in the early stages of, or have yet to embark on, their next-gen internal audit journeys. However, amidst the digital acceleration perpetuated by the COVID-19 pandemic and as internal audit teams face a more disruptive environment and demands to add value to their organizations, the positive news is that 66% of survey respondents report plans to increase their focus on innovation and transformation initiatives.

The benchmarking survey polled 874 executives in the first quarter of 2021, including CAEs and audit managers and directors across industries globally. Sixty percent have revenues of $1 billion or more. The survey revealed that only 14% of respondents identified their internal audit department as a “digital leader” – characterized as reaping benefits of next-gen internal audit practices given their higher reported levels of maturity in governance, methodology and enabling technology. These digital leaders clearly stand out as having greater skills and capabilities for aligned assurance, as well as an agile audit approach and technology and data usage. The survey also found 72% of digital leader organizations report having been well prepared for the shift to a remote working model at the onset of COVID-19, compared to only 51% of all other organizations.

“COVID-19 laid bare the urgent need for internal audit groups to adopt technologies and upskill in order to be a more strategic partner and advisor to their C-suites, boards and audit committees,” said Brian Christensen, executive vice president, global internal audit, Protiviti. “Internal audit must be able to leverage technology to deliver comprehensive analysis and insights on today’s constantly evolving risk environment – or they will become obsolete.”

Areas of Lowest Maturity

The survey asked respondents to rate their level of maturity for a variety of next-gen internal audit capabilities across governance, methodology and enabling technology, and identified the following areas as those of the lowest maturity:

1. Machine Learning (ML) & Artificial Intelligence (AI)

2. Process Mining

3. Automation

4. Advanced Analytics

With the four areas of lowest maturity considered part of the “enabling technology” function, the survey reveals a clear lack of recognition of the link between effective governance and use of enabling technologies. Even among these lowest ranked areas, there was a stark disparity between digital leaders and other respondents, with digital leader organizations reporting a maturity level of 6.4 for advanced analytics compared to non-digital leaders who reported an average 3.8 maturity level on a 10.0 scale.

Christensen added, “After a challenging 2020 that required many internal audit functions to reprioritize projects, it’s now time to refocus efforts on embracing the next generation of internal auditing as the new normal. As many organizations shift into a hybrid work model, it’s critical that CAEs establish a clear roadmap to access and develop the skills needed for a next-gen audit function. For internal audit groups who are lagging in next-gen technology implementation, establishing frameworks for getting where they need to be with advanced analytics and other emerging technologies is of paramount importance.”

Survey Resources Available

The survey report includes benchmarking results derived from more than 60 questions and discusses recommended steps for a roadmap to a next-gen audit function. The report is available for complimentary download here in addition to an infographic that highlights key findings and a podcast. A free 60-minute webinar will be conducted on May 13 at noon PDT featuring Christensen and Protiviti Managing Directors Jonathan Bronson, Nichole Minice and Andrew Struthers-Kennedy, to provide additional insights from the survey and discuss the implications for internal audit planning and priorities in today’s quickly evolving business environment. To join the webinar, please register here.

About Protiviti Inc.

Protiviti ( is a global consulting firm that delivers deep expertise, objective insights, a tailored approach, and unparalleled collaboration to help leaders confidently face the future. Protiviti and its independent and locally owned Member Firms provide clients with consulting and managed solutions in finance, technology, operations, data, analytics, governance, risk and internal audit through its network of more than 85 offices in over 25 countries.

Named to the 2021 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list, Protiviti has served more than 60 percent of Fortune 1000® and 35 percent of Fortune Global 500® companies. The firm also works with smaller, growing companies, including those looking to go public, as well as with government agencies. Protiviti is a wholly owned subsidiary of Robert Half (NYSE: RHI). Founded in 1948, Robert Half is a member of the S&P 500 index.

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Kathy Keller
Kathy Keller