Auditors as relationship managers

The audit department tends to be a free-standing business unit that arrives for scheduled audits, investigates and makes routine recommendations, and then departs for other projects. There is no ongoing communication with the various departments, unless there is an ongoing or upcoming audit project.

This lack of communication represents a wasted opportunity, for the audit staff has a broad base of knowledge that it can share with the business unit managers. Also, these managers may make changes to their internal systems that the auditors might have advised against, had they known about the changes.

The level of communication can be ratcheted up considerably by appointing the more senior of the internal auditors to the role of relationship manager. Each of these managers is required to establish and maintain ongoing contact with a business unit manager. The subject of the resulting discussions can address many topics, such as the latest best practices that might benefit the business unit, or news about an adjustment to a new billing system being implemented by the business unit. Not only does this approach improve relations between the internal audit department and the rest of the company, it can also improve the operations of the business as a whole, and reveal the value of the audit staff to other employees.