The internal audit department rarely has visibility into the work of individual business units. The unit managers typically revise their own systems on an ongoing basis in order to streamline processes, and never think to check with the internal audit staff for advice on these changes. Also, the internal audit department has access to a wealth of information about how other business units structure their processes, but rarely has an opportunity to relay this information to business unit managers, resulting in many lost opportunities for improvements.
Both of these issues can be avoided by assigning a senior internal auditor to the role of relationship manager with the manager of each business unit. This person is responsible for communicating regularly with an assigned manager, not only to impart improvement information but also to find out which activities at the business unit should involve the participation of the internal audit staff. For example, if a business unit is considering programming a new accounts payable system, the relationship manager can ask that an auditor be assigned to the design team to ensure that appropriate controls are built into the system. This approach is also an excellent means for improving relations between the internal audit department and the rest of the company.