Technology appears to be the way forward for auditing but not just as an addition or in the form of remote auditing. A different auditing model is required, one that doesn’t just perpetuate and reinforce the current model of auditing the past. Consistent , real time evidence collection and analysis software scooping data from a large number of sources that consistently collect behavioural, compliance and effectiveness data – that’s the way forward.
This would allow the auditors to gather wide ranging information from auditees from within and without the organisation about what is really going on in the organisation day-by-day. This could then be supplemented by site visits to see what goes on at ground level. This type of data lives more in a behavioural realm – you don’t audit process maps and documents, you collect real world, behavioural evidence of what people experience in terms of other people’s behaviour and the impact on business performance. It is with this kind of information that managers can steer their processes into the future.
But how to go about it? Input devices and auditing software used in conjunction can collect data from auditees on the impact of other auditees’ behaviour – making every person an auditor and auditee simultaneously. The original auditor’s role is to identify the experiences they need feedback on and the level to which it demonstrates organisational capability. When responses are analysed, this could provide risk profiles of system or process performance which show the manager of the organisation the potential risks and what areas of improvement there are to ensure the processes don’t fail – this being far better than a simple ‘everything is ok’ or a tick.
This auditing method doesn’t flag where the problem is , rather it indicates where the risk is emerging helping to pinpoint the start of the root cause analysis.
You may be asking, ‘Isn’t this too costly and unrealistic?’
In our previous blog post ‘Why digital?’, we looked at the rise of digital auditing, the drawbacks of traditional and digital auditing as another tool in the toolbox of the modern auditor. Here we look at a mixed approach in a little more depth through quotes from experts in the industry:
In an article for CQI.org, Rob Fisher, on discussing the history of digital auditing, commented, ‘When we introduced remote auditing it had never been heard of before. We are audited by BSI so they had to approve it to make sure that it conformed to their auditing techniques and met the standards. We know what the question sets are, we know what the performance drivers are and we can measure those against our objectives and targets. We use continuous auditing, which would traditionally require maybe 25 or 30 questions for staff to answer. But now they only have to answer five questions on a regular basis so that we continuously receive information about our sales and how our procedures and policies are working. The technology allows us to dip into any audit, any time, and see how we compare against previous months. The availability of information and the clarity of the documents are much better. The time from undertaking the audit, to getting the data into a meaningful document is instantaneous. That time is valuable.’
If we consider this alongside John Pymer of Certification International’ observation, ‘Remote auditing cannot be ignored now. It’s a logical progression to have the client’s staff anonymously complete the online survey first, so that when you make the onsite visit, you have all the information to hand. Some of our clients have been very impressed. In some cases it has highlighted operational concerns that we wouldn’t have detected through traditional auditing.’
Lastly, we look at Richard Butterfield, business improvement director at Amey ‘I can get the same outcome with a sample size that’s 50 times bigger, with next to no cost and effort. For very, very low cost you can get a picture based effectively on the behaviours of a much bigger percentage of the population of the organisation. If you’re still doing site assessments you can be much more targeted and focused on the site assessments because you’ve got a picture of the whole landscape of the organisation that you’re subsequently going to assess onsite.’
From these quotes it is clear that digital auditing is extremely effective in building a more accurate overall picture and recognising operational concerns which can then be followed up by a site visit to dig down deeper into the issues.