How to streamline internal audits with data analytics

In this case study, Dimago's Pierre Naudee tackles internal auditing using Alteryx.

Multinational mining conglomerate Anglo American says it’s had considerable success implementing audit data analytics solutions by Alteryx in the company. During the first year alone, 35 percent of Anglo’s audits were supported with data and data analytics. Anglo also managed to upskill 12 team members to become data-savvy auditors, independently developing analytics.

In a recent webinar hosted by CFO South Africa, Anglo’s data analytics lead Stijn Litjes and Alteryx South African operator Pierre Naude shared insights and lessons from the mine’s digital journey.

Stijn kicked off the webinar by explaining that Anglo had never really used data analytics in the past. The mine uses German-engineered ERP software solution ABAS, but that program lacked the data analytics capabilities to monitor risk and controls continuously.

The absence of a reliable, integrated, and interactive platform that provided real-time, insightful data meant that Anglo was exposed to the risk of errors, fraud, and reputational damage.

Stijn went on to explain some of the pain points Anglo wanted to solve using data analytics. This included:

  1. Not being able to automatically and adequately monitor business performance and compliance.
  2. The high cost of operating and assuring controls due to the manual nature of control operations.
  3. Printed reports were out-of-date and not recent enough to support timely risk mitigation.
  4. Having inaccurate, unreliable, or incomplete information.
  5. The complex IT landscape made it hard to spot weaknesses and inefficiencies using traditional manual controls.
  6. Lack of transparency on alignment and performance of key controls across the business unit.

Though it was implemented a year ago, Anglo’s new audit management system is continuously being designed and built. “The new system hosts audits for the whole group, including risk management,” said Stijn.

He emphasised the importance of using proper technical data solutions, saying, “Some people I speak to say they are doing data analysis using Excel. I don’t really consider that data analytics.”

Pierre agreed:

“The tools are out there, and we want to help people drive these changes in their organisations.”

Data analytics can be used throughout the internal auditing process, but there needs to be an agreed approach on how to run these projects. Companies must start by identifying which audits will get the most value from data insights, and which audits are suitable for data analytics. “So you set your requirements, identify data sources, you discuss internally with the team and clients, before designing and building your solution,” explained Stijn.

Building a data analytics system in any company is an intricate process. Stijn said that companies need to be agile during the build and design phases because they often discover new information in the process. “You need to kick the tyres and refine those analytics as you go to get a fairly accurate view.”

Pierre said that data analytic solutions are not exclusive to big companies. The system can be tailored and implemented in smaller businesses. Prices start just below R100,000, which includes Alteryx designer costs, enablement, and consulting time.