Recently, I celebrated a birthday (no, I am not going to tell you which birthday), and my 6-year-old niece who called to wish me a happy birthday asked me if I was wise now. Considering her usual propensity to ask intriguing and seemingly irreverent questions, this was not unusual, but it prompted a line of thinking as to what makes us wise and when we become wise. Of course in the midst of this heavy pondering, work and life intervened, and the original question was pushed to the backburner, though not forgotten.
Questions are the bread and butter of my life considering I spend my waking hours as an auditor, and asking the right questions can go a long way toward making a good auditor. Of course, occasionally auditors do get asked questions, and this is what happened a few days ago when someone asked me a seemingly innocuous question but with deep implications, especially for someone in my profession. The question was simply this: “What does the future of audit look like?” Now, this might not seem earth-shattering on the surface, especially considering that we do not spend time on such topics in the usual course of things, for a host of reasons, including there is nothing much we can do about the future, and the future does not pay the bills today. But, like any good auditor, I did not let go of the question. It might have started out on the backburner, but it moved to the top of the list soon enough.
There is an old saying that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop, and this probably needs to get updated to reflect that an idle mind with access to a search engine is the devil’s forge, because one day recently I found myself with some time to kill and decided to go back to the question on the top of my list regarding the future of audit. In my personal context, I paraphrased to “What is the future of IT audit?” because, more often than not, I am involved in IT audits. So, I did what anyone with access to the internet would do, and I asked the internet what the future of IT audit would look like. Much to my glee, one of the top links led to an ISACA report titled The Future of IT Audit, which explored various advances one could expect, especially touching upon key skills shortages and the implications that emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc., might have in the field of audit and especially to auditors.
As I went through the report, I was kicking myself that I had not thought in the first place that I could find some of the answers by simply going to the ISACA website. I have been an ISACA member for more than 15 years, and if there is one thing of which I am sure, it is that ISACA more often than not has helped me stay ahead of the curve. Reports such as the Future of IT Audit and the Digital Transformation Barometer (a personal favorite) are testimony to this. In my 15-plus years of being an ISACA member, this has been reinforced to me many times, especially as I carried out audits and wanted access to resources such as audit and assurance programs or the COBIT framework, just to mention a few. This might seem like a plug for ISACA, but in all honesty, ISACA has been a key part of my life these past 15 years, and as ISACA celebrates 50 years of existence, I feel fortunate to be a part of this organization.
Having some free time also means that one is able to indulge in time travel, meaning that I went back to my first-ever meeting among ISACA volunteers here in Bangalore, India, where I live. I remember the passion and commitment these volunteers brought to the room and how they ran what was called an introductory program – in short, talking to a room of about 100 people about ISACA and the various certifications ISACA offered, especially CISA, which I was interested in. I am now a CISA and CRISC, and the rest, as they say, is history. In its 50th year, ISACA is going strong with around 450,000 engaged professionals and 221 chapters in 180 countries. As with the stock market, while past performance may not be an indicator of future performance, I am sure that the strong foundation that has helped ISACA thus far will continue to enable ISACA to stand the test of time, remain relevant and deliver value over the next 50 years. Being relevant and continuing to deliver value are the two fundamental tenets, in my view, that will determine the future for ISACA and its continued success.
While I am not sure how things will take shape in the future, I am sure that some of the foundational elements that have enabled ISACA to rise to this stature will continue to be important in the future. Of primary importance, of course, is the volunteer spirit that was responsible for bringing the founders together in 1969 to form what was then known as the Electronic Data Processing Auditors Association (EDPAA), because everywhere within the ISACA ecosystem, the volunteering spirit is what brings people together and keeps them together as chapters, regions and as ISACA in the big picture. Second is the trust that ISACA builds by way of everything that is does. ISACA’s Purpose and Promise calls for working to ensure that society at large continues to be able to use technology for the betterment of humanity as a whole.
Now, what does this mean to you, to me, and to us, one might ask? I think it means that each of us needs to take it upon ourselves to spread the message to take ISACA to the next generation (which is likely what happened to you when someone introduced you to ISACA in their own way). It also means that we need to give back and contribute in whatever way possible, be it by adding to the knowledge base or volunteering at whatever level possible (chapter, local, regional or global), so that the next time you have a child like my niece ask you if you are wise, you are probably able to answer in some way. In my view, wisdom comes from being able to take the insight from hindsight (yours or someone else’s) and foresight (from those who are better than you), and in being able to apply that to your situation. While this may seem difficult, it is made easier by being part of something larger than yourself and simply following the path others have blazed, and also making sure that the path can be shared with others who might benefit from it.
As ISACA celebrates its 50th birthday, it is time to ponder what the future could look like. Each and every one of us has a say in how the organization can take shape and continue to remain a thriving global association, not only to the professions and professionals it serves, but also to remain relevant in the bigger picture of society.
Happy 50th birthday, ISACA!