The global consulting firm Protiviti has published a new study on how the internal audit function is changing at companies around the world as internal audit teams collaborate with more parts of the organization while also trying to maintain their independence.

The report, Partnering Effectively Across the Organization, is volume nine of a larger series of reports from Protiviti on Internal Auditing Around the World. It explores the ways in which internal audit executives are connecting with others across their companies and gaining greater efficiency and greater visibility into organizational risks to help others in the business to manage and mitigate them.

“The call for both greater collaboration and an enterprise-wide focus on risk is accelerating internal audit's path to the ‘top table’ in the organization, where it can be a true partner to management and the board,” said Protiviti executive vice president of global internal audit Brian Christensen in a statement. “The internal audit departments included in our study have developed successful, forward-thinking approaches that are dynamic, proactive and making a strategic impact on their business.”

Protiviti’s latest publication profiles eight businesses from around the world and a cross-section of industries that have taken a fresh look at the broader role played by the internal audit function in their business, particularly amid today's increasingly rigorous regulatory environment and resulting compliance requirements. One of the most common themes of the profiles is that internal audit teams are collaborating regularly with a wide range of groups in the organization, bringing more value to the business, while also striving to maintain their objectivity and independence.

At the French software company Dassault Systemes, corporate audit director Etienne Grobon has put the power of collaboration to work. His relatively small internal audit team of four is strengthened and supported by a collaborative approach with other business functions throughout the company. “There is not a single person or department responsible for risk management at Dassault Systemes—it is a shared exercise,” said Grobon. “For instance, we rely on compliance officers within the finance function who deal with internal controls.”

When Grobon is notified of issues or presented with questions about operations, he has the flexibility to delegate the issue or question to the team best suited to address it. “Because each of these groups is small, they rely on each other,” he said. “We leverage other teams and avoid adding headcount so we can remain lean and efficient. It is an effective approach for sharing knowledge and resources.”

Another organization featured in Internal Auditing Around the World is the financial institution Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which has found an approach that allows it to collaborate with and rely on others in the organization without reducing objectivity and independence.

“When you rely on other groups, and collaborate, you still have to form your own opinion,” said CIBC senior vice president and chief auditor Anil Mathur.

One thing of which the CIBC internal audit team is especially mindful is the differing points of view on risk from other groups in the organization. “If you are working with a compliance team, its viewpoint on risk will be through the lens of compliance and regulations,” Mathur explained. “If you are working with a group focused on financial statements and Sarbanes-Oxley, its point of view will be influenced by numbers. An internal audit function must look at risk comprehensively. Perspectives are unique and different, and, as an internal audit department, you have to take in all that input to make sure you have not missed anything, but still reach your own conclusions.”

Internal Auditing around the World also profiles such companies as BHP Billiton and KPN, among others. To read this or past installments of Internal Auditing Around the World, visit www.protiviti.com/iaworld.