Internal Audit and Enterprise Architecture

I had the opportunity recently to learn more about the role of internal audit in an organization. It was a very interesting and educational experience, and got me thinking a lot about the relationship between the two.

What’s the visual that comes to mind when we hear the word audit? People in the USA probably think of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service. They would also rather go to the dentist and have a root canal done without anestesthia than be audited. So, you can certainly argue that the internal auditors have their work cut out for them. The presenter pointed out, however, that the role of internal audit is changing with time. While a few years ago, they may have been viewed as a reactive police force, today, there’s a shift toward a proactive consulting organization. Rather than coming in after the fact and telling organizations whether they’re compliant or not, they’re now being asked at the beginning, “What do we need to do to make sure we’re compliant?”

There are strong parallels to what goes on in the world of enterprise architecture. First off, many organizations have the dreaded architectural review board, the reactive police force of architectural governance. Projects teams dread them. Somehow, we need to move from this model to the latter model where projects teams know they need to be architecturally compliant and are actively seeking out the input of enterprise architecture to ensure this is the case from the beginning.

Unfortunately, the challenge for Enterprise Architecture is that there is no corporate mandate for EA in the same way that there is for Internal Audit. While I personally thought David Linthicum’s posts on EA as a corporate responsibility were a big stretch, you could certainly argue that if enterprise architecture was a corporate responsibility in the same way as Sarbanes-Oxley, then there would be no debate on whether an organization needed Enterprise Architecture. I found it very sad that at the Gartner EA Summit closing session, when Gartner posted a predication that 40% of EA programs will be stopped by 2012, about 40% of the audience agreed. Note that prediction didn’t say “changed” or “restarted,” it said “stopped.” A publicly listed organization on the NYSE can’t stop the Internal Audit program, it is required.

Overall, my takeaway from this session was that EA and Internal Audit need to be best friends. If Internal Audit has an IT audit group, which most do, it needs to be working closely with the EA group, as both are providing governance. In one of my panel discussions at the Gartner event, I made the comment that EA is certainly about governance. It could be argued that EA activities are basically centered around two major activities: strategic planning and governance. While Internal Audit probably has less of a role in strategic planning (except where governance issues are necesseary), clearly, there’s significant overlap in the governance function. Determine how both groups can work together to ensure that projects aren’t bombarded with governance from multiple groups. The view of the governed is already very negative, we need to do what we can to change that view.

One Response to “Internal Audit and Enterprise Architecture”

  • Rob Eamon:

    The reference to S-Ox reminded me of how overboard some companies seem to go with that. If the motivation for S-Ox was to reduce the possibility of another Enron or other high-visibility frauds, then the efforts at some companies may be off the mark. Separation of duties is good in many respects, but companies don’t fail because a developer has a password to the production environment.

Leave a Reply


This blog represents my own personal views, and not those of my employer or any third party. Any use of the material in articles, whitepapers, blogs, etc. must be attributed to me alone without any reference to my employer. Use of my employers name is NOT authorized.