Data-driven audit management at Australia Post
“Uncovering opportunities to improve as an internal audit group is almost a nirvana, because people understand that internal auditors look in the rear-view vision mirror, back with hindsight. But if you can project yourself forward to what will happen and look at the revenue opportunities, then you will be in that pocket of the managing director.”
Head of Internal Audit,
For over 200 years, Australia Post has been connecting Australians to each other and the world—continually building new digital capabilities and services to meet the changing needs of customers. Australia Post delivers approximately 20 million items to 11 million addresses every day, employs over 35,000 people and has over 4,500 retail outlets. Australia Post is considered one of the most trusted brands in Australia.
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Blair Richards, Senior Manager, Internal Audit, Australia Post
Australia Post is the organization for postal delivery within Australia. We have an Australia Post Act that allows us to deliver certain classes of small mail. We’re a large organization. We’re about A$6.5 million, 35,000 staff, 4,500 outlets and about 100 facilities.
As a senior manager, I look after a number of business units. So, my role is to manage the stakeholder relations with those businesses, making sure that the reviews that we do are meeting their objectives, and that the findings that we do find are relevant to them.
And of course, there are no surprises. When you have a surprise finding and you haven’t talked it through and you haven’t talked it through early with senior executives, that’s when you have problems getting the findings through and the observations through. The key measure for me is, will they support the actions that make a difference to the business?
What does strategic-level risk look like for an organization like Australia Post?
The first one is safety. That’s the number one priority. Everything we do has to be done safely. We need to make a return on money, but do it safely. That’s the underlying theme of our entire business.
Clearly we need to replace our declining revenue. Our revenue is falling through mail product and it’s increasing through parcel product.
Uncovering opportunities to improve as an internal audit group is almost a nirvana, because people understand that internal auditors look in the rear-view vision mirror, back with hindsight. But if you can project yourself forward to what will happen and look at the revenue opportunities, then you will be in that pocket of the managing director.
How does continuous controls monitoring technology support your vision better than generic office software?
The beauty of continuous control monitoring is that you can set, and to some extent, forget. You have to be careful with that because you always need to make sure that the process hasn’t changed. But once you’ve fine-tuned your analysis, you can then, with confidence, start to look at what really matters.
So rather than looking at 1,000 errors you can look at 100. Rather than looking at 100, you’d look at 10. If we can get it down to 10 or 20 transactions, you can then have some really good gut feel that the process is working.
How has using ACL’s data-driven approach to audit management added value for you and your team?
What we do in internal audit for every review is we measure; we send a questionnaire to our stakeholders—the general managers, senior managers who are responsible for the process that we’ve audited. And they’ll respond back to us, so we measure the stakeholder acceptance of what we do.
When we do that, and you take out those reviews that we haven’t done analytics on, we’re about 80%, which is still very high—we’re very proud of that as a team. When we do reviews that have a major component of analytics in them, it jumps to 95%. Although it sounds like it’s only 10 to 15% difference, that’s the difference between good and great.