Photo credit: Yozayo

Published: 13 Oct 2020

Ana Mariano, Management System Consultant at Rosehall Management Consultants, Philippines, explains the benefits of remote audits and the skills required to execute them correctly.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many organisations around the world to step back and look at a revolutionary transformation that is impacting the quality profession – Industry 4.0. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) emphasises advances in communication and connectivity. As businesses introduce smarter technology and digital tools to improve their products, service offerings, and keep up with customer demand, the new opportunities for connectivity make remote audits more possible.

The International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) latest survey (2018) of certifications to its management system standards showed 878,444 organisations were certified to ISO 9001:2015, and this figure is growing each year. Of crucial concern is how these businesses will manage to sustain their quality management system(s) during these challenging times.

Unfortunately, albeit having risk management systems or risk-based mindsets, some individuals leading the internal audit team face the task of putting remote audits into practice for the first time. Lead auditors will therefore need to develop their teams’ skills and capabilities, so they are able to audit in this way.

Remote audits explained

A remote audit is similar to a face-to-face audit, but the difference is that the auditor uses electronic means to collect objective evidence because the auditor is not in the same location as the auditee. ISO introduced the remote audit methodology in ISO 19011:2018 – Guidelines for auditing management systems, explaining that remote audit activities are performed at any place other than the location of the auditee, regardless of the distance. As more ICT tools are introduced into remote audits, evidence of information reviewed by the auditor can be in any medium as long as the auditee permits (eg, video/audio recording, photographs, emails and text messaging). The remote audit brings with it some new possibilities and advantages, which include:

  • No more postponements due to an audit participant not being able to attend an in-person audit.
  • Lesser need for travel, which means reduced carbon emissions produced from transportation.
  • Auditors can audit multiple sites without leaving his/her location, thus saving time and increasing productivity.
  • Opportunities for mobility-challenged auditors or auditees.
  • Auditors can safely and securely observe hazardous operations from closed circuit television (CCTV).
  • Other ICT can be used for observation such as drones and mobile/digital cameras with live streaming capabilities.

Although there are many benefits for remote audits, auditors must ensure they develop the right competencies to carry out the following tasks:

  • The readiness to use ICT. An auditor may need to use more than one application while conducting a remote audit.
  • They should also keep in mind that while talking to an auditee on the computer screen using Zoom, Google Meetings, Skype, or Microsoft Teams, he/she may have to view documents being shared in real-time through another application (eg, Google Docs, Zoom, screen sharing or OneDrive).
  • Guiding his/her auditees through how to use some of the ICT tools such as smart phone capabilities, desktop application, and portable and built-in video capturing equipment/technology.
  • Assessing his/her teams on how well they’re using ICT tools and applications to conduct remote audits.

Remote audits are the future and are essential during these times, where health and safety is a prime concern for businesses.

We need to acquire the skills to adjust to this agile way of working, so that we are able to cope with the needs of an emerging, technological breakthrough that is happening right now.

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