Thirty years ago, South Africa’s professional landscape looked completely different to what it is today. The investigations industry has been revolutionised by the advent of auditing firms which conduct internal investigations, and innovative technology that both simplifies and complicates the sector.

Today, the private investigations and risk management sectors are led by businesses that have developed the basic principles to investigations, while embracing global technology advancements and industry shifts.

According to Kyle Condon, MD of D&K Management Consultants (D&K), market shifts offer immense growth potential if investigators are willing to evolve. “This is not unique to our industry. In every sector, Industry 4.0 and global transformation must be considered, planned for, and capitalised on to reach the organisation’s full potential.”

Security Service Consultants’ (SSC) MD, Howard Griffiths, agrees. “The key is to build a strong foundation of service, based on basic investigative principles – and then learn how to apply these effectively in today’s world.” When considering investigations in 2019, Griffiths confirms that his business has changed quite dramatically – most notably by the establishment of auditing firms and technology.

“If you go back 20, 30 or 40 years, you’ll find that there were no forensic auditing firms. As companies became more aware of compliance requirements, auditing firms developed forensics departments which offered the perception of ethics and morals. This shift definitely affected the pipeline for regular investigators,” he confirms.

“As we’ve seen quite recently, however, auditing firms such as KPMG are being hauled over the coals for being less than honest. This has driven the reverse-shift, as big businesses turn back to their investigations firms with good reputations for integrity, and far more affordable pricing structures.”

The second key factor in the development of the industry is technology. “With the digital revolution comes not only tools to use within day-to-day investigations, but access to immense information sources from the Internet, social platforms, and digital channels,” confirms Condon.

Griffiths agrees, confirming that modern techniques are certainly being applied in the industry. “In any investigative firm you have your on the ground investigators, but there’s another aspect now with the use of social media and the Internet. There’s a monumental amount of information that’s now (legally) available online, if you know where to look.

“Whether conducting Open Source Intelligence Investigations (OSINT) or Social Media Intelligence Investigations, highly skilled specialists dig into the information that’s readily available on the Internet; because people are na├»ve about online security. Then, of course, there’s the dark net too.”

The MDs stress the importance of traditional methods, which are still being used in the modern world.

“Despite global shifts, the basic principles of investigations are the same. While there is a lot more information that’s readily available, investigators must know how to work through that information to find what’s relevant. The principles are the same, but to succeed investigators must understand the modern world, and how to apply those principles accordingly,” concludes Griffiths.