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A synthesis of empirical internal audit effectiveness literature pointing to new research opportunities

23 May

This co-authored paper with Ulrich Hahn was accepted for publication in the Managerial Auditing Journal in January 2014 (forthcoming in MAJ first edition 2015).

Purpose – Ten years after Bailey, Gramling and Ramamoorti (2003) presented research opportunities in Internal Audit (IA) this paper provides a synopsis of what academic literature says about IA effectiveness. A new set of research questions that may help to bring the best out of IA is proposed.

Design/methodology/approach – Empirical studies based on internal auditors’ self-assessments (“inside-out”) and empirical studies based on other stakeholders’ perspectives (“outside-in”) are reviewed through an “effectiveness lens”. The “outside-in” perspective is regarded as particularly valuable.

Findings – First, we identify common themes in the empirical literature. Second, we synthesize the main threads into a model comprising macro and micro factors that influence IA effectiveness. Third, we derive promising future research paths that may enhance IA’s value proposition.

Practical implications – The “outside-in” perspective indicates a disposition to stakeholders’ disappointment in IA: IA is either running a risk of marginalization (IIA, 2013; PWC, 2013) or has to embrace the challenge to emerge as a recognized and stronger profession. The suggested research agenda identifies empirical research threads that can help IA practitioners to make a difference for their organization, be recognized, respected and trusted, and help the IA profession in its pursuit of creating a unique identity. This paper wishes to motivate researchers to explore innovative research strategies and probing new theories as well as benefitting from cross-fertilization with other research streams.

Originality/value – This paper summarizes the state of research on IA effectiveness and proposes a guide for future IA research. It provides pointed questions that may further advance the understanding of what constitutes IA and how IA can enhance its value proposition.

Keywords – Internal audit, effectiveness, positioning, relevance, profession, relationship, board, stakeholder, new research opportunities

Paper type – Literature review, conceptual paper