Does Your Risk Team Have Your Back?

Think of a soldier having his parachute inspected. Before he jumps, he must understand and be ready to handle all likely events and situations – the uncertainties or risks he might face. It is also critical that all of his equipment functions exactly as he needs it. He needs someone else’s help before he makes the jump.

Norman Marks
Norman Marks
He needs more than just a map for the area where he expects to land. He needs to be prepared if the wind takes him over a lake or forest rather than a clear field. The soldier must be agile and flexible in his thinking, preparation, and equipment so that he can handle most scenarios, navigate poor weather, and take advantage of favorable conditions.

Business leaders who are making daily jumps amid uncertain business conditions need professionals who can help them be prepared for what might happen and who will improve the likelihood of favorable outcomes. These decision-makers also need assurance that all their equipment – business processes, information, people, and other resources – will be up to the task.

This is where risk managers and internal auditors come in. They help ensure that business leaders understand the risks and uncertainties, have sufficient business insight and intelligence, and are backed up by solid organizations, processes, and people.

A recent article in Fast Company describes how business leaders are facing unprecedented business conditions:
The pace of change in our economy and our culture is accelerating--fueled by global adoption of social, mobile, and other new technologies--and our visibility about the future is declining. From the rise of -Facebook to the fall of Blockbuster, from the downgrading of U.S. government debt to the resurgence of Brazil, predicting what will happen next has gotten exponentially harder. Uncertainty has taken hold in boardrooms and cubicles, as executives and workers (employed and unemployed) struggle with core questions: Which competitive advantages have staying power? What skills matter most? How can you weigh risk and opportunity when the fundamentals of your business may change overnight?

The questions are hard to answer and won’t get any easier, the writer notes, as credible forecasts will be hard to come by. What business leaders can do is make sure their company is as prepared as possible and has agility. CFOs should question whether the risk and assurance professionals in their organization are inspecting the parachutes. Are they helping ensure that leaders across the business understand the risks, are prepared to handle them – even if blown off course – and receive the information to appreciate their situation? (That information must be reliable, current, timely, and useful.)

Are the organization’s business processes, organization, technology, and people mired in molasses, or do they have the agility to enable change at a moment’s notice?

Norman Marks, CPA, is vice president, governance, risk, and compliance for SAP's BusinessObjects division, and has been a chief audit executive of major global corporations for more than 15 years. He is the contributing editor to Internal Auditor’s “Governance Perspectives” column.

Vendredi 9 Mars 2012

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