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Intelligent automation and internal audit

Intelligent automation and internal audit

Considerations for assessing and leveraging intelligent automation.



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Intelligent automation and internal audit

Technology is advancing at a staggering pace and is disrupting almost every business and industry. KPMG LLP questioned CEOs in the 2017 Outlook survey, revealing that 60% of CEOs worry that their organizations’ sensory capabilities and innovative processes will not stand up to rapid disruption. Intelligent automation, is a key opportunity to drive greater value, but also an area of emerging risk.

Today’s intelligent automation innovations have the transformational potential to increase 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. However, if an organization wants to improve its business processes by implementing intelligent automation, the internal audit leaders need to consider the risks associated to intelligent automation. 

Step one of recognizing the risks is get a firm grasp of what intelligent automation really is and how it’s been used to improve the organization’s business processes. Intelligent automation can be broken down into three primary classes, ranging those classes from simplest to most complex:

  • On one end of the spectrum lies the basic robotic process automation (RPA), which automate manual and routine activities that follow clear-cut rules, such as comparing records and processing transactions. 
  • In the middle of the spectrum lies enhanced process automation, technologies with the ability to process unstructured data, build and use repositories of knowledge, and learn from experience. More complex, less structured processes can be automated this way, although some human judgement will be required. 
  • On the far end of the spectrum lies cognitive automation (CA), targeting activities that require higher-level skill, judgment, and critical thinking. CA systems can combine advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, with data analytics to mimic human activities.

Internal audit can help to keep the organization in pace with understanding and managing the associated risks, achieve expected results from automation, and continue to innovate to add value by:

  • Integrating governance, risk and controls throughout the automation program life cycle.
  • Identifying opportunities to embed automation-enabled control activities within the impacted business processes and functions.
  • Capitalizing on intelligent automation innovations to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its own activities. 

In each of the three lines of defense lie opportunities for internal audit to assist the organization with intelligent automation:

  • First line of defense (business owners): assessing the impact of automation initiatives on the organizations’ changing risk profile.
  • Second line of defense (standard setters): Identifying opportunities to leverage intelligent automation within monitoring controls, regulatory compliance, regulatory policies, and reporting activities. Establishing appropriate procedures and standards to address the governance, risk, and control considerations associated with an intelligent automation program. And thirdly, implementing appropriate standards for risk mitigation. 
  • Third line of defense (Assurance providers): seizing automation opportunities to reduce costs, improve outcome quality, and drive additional value within the internal audit organization. 

In conclusion, internal audit has a critical role to play in enterprise-wide intelligent automation programs. It should be part of the development of the organization’s intelligent automation strategy and implementation plan across all three lines of defense.

Return to the Risk + Newsletter January 2018

© 2019 KPMG Advisory, a Belgian civil CVBA/SCRL and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.

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