Managing transformation projects

Transformation is fast becoming a common phrase in organisations. We explore what it means for the internal audit plan and consider questions for audit leaders to discuss with their stakeholders.

Catalytic shifts in an enterprise are often driven by changes in the macro-environment such as competition and regulation, the organisation itself through mergers/acquisitions or new leadership and as a consequence of technology for example digitisation and artificial intelligence.

Business transformation typically takes three forms: efficiency, foundation and strategic:


  • Doing the same but cheaper and/or faster.
  • Airlines exploiting technology to check-in for flights.


  • Change to core operating model, fundamental shift in the way business is done.
  • Netflix streaming movie content making postal DVD subscription method obsolete.


  • Changing the core purpose of the company.
  • Amazon leveraging its retail infrastructure to offer cloud services.

Complex change of this nature is typically achieved through a portfolio of projects with interdependencies or intersecting elements - a transformation programme. Whilst they require established change management capabilities, to be successful they also need strong collaboration, dynamic coordination of resources and compelling communication.


Internal audit is the department to turn to when embarking on a transformation journey; familiar with the organisation, expert advisors regarding risk and control, practiced at assimilating information not to mention a sense of humour when the going gets tough! 92% of chief audit executives (CAEs) saw internal audit's role as being important or very important in managing large program risks in PwC's first global study of internal audit in 2012.

The following year identified that the area where respondents were least satisfied with internal audit was large programmes/change management, the highest ranking at 42%. Fast forward to 2017 when the number of stakeholders reporting internal audit adds significant value to the organisation dropped to 44%; the lowest result since…