One out of three internal audit departments worldwide are now outsourcing at least some of their work to a third party, according to a new study.

The study, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Wisconsin School of Business, found that North American companies are leading the trend, with 56 percent of responding companies admitting they rely on outside services.

Dereck Barr-Pulliam, assistant professor of accounting and information systems at the Wisconsin School of Business, analyzed data from the Institute of Internal Auditors Research Foundation’s 2015 Common Body of Knowledge survey to come up with the numbers. He found that some large companies are using third parties when a particular specialization is needed, while smaller companies may lack sufficient expertise in-house to fully perform internal audit functions.

Barr-Pulliam examined the data by industry sector and found that financial companies, publicly traded organizations outside the financial sector, and not-for-profits were the most likely entities to use third party audits. The report recommends some basic steps for chief audit executives to follow before engaging third-party internal audit providers: have a sufficient understanding of the objectives the service provider will fulfill; communicate and document those objectives during the engagement process; provide adequate supervision to the service provider to ensure objectives are met; and clearly delineate which party is responsible for remediation and follow-up on issues noted in the third party’s report of findings.

The report is available here.