Published: 10 Mar 2022

An audit is a core business tool, especially in challenging times, says the CQI’s Audit SIG Chairman William Rankin CQP FCQI, Senior Operational Quality Lead at Inmarsat. 

The value of audit is as important now as it has ever been. With the rapid advancement of technology spurred on by the recent pandemic, the approach to audit has had to adapt and modernise to support businesses and keep customers satisfied in challenging conditions. However, it can only do so with the support and engagement from leadership. 

So, what is the value of an audit and what requirements are needed to drive success for a business, particularly as our technology advances? 

The success of a business does not hinge on the fact that you may or may not have a successful audit programme. However, if pitched and deployed correctly, it can be a hidden jewel in the crown when it comes to retaining and growing your businesses.  

In an ideal world, you will have the infrastructure, systems, people, and capability in place to identify inputs and manage them to desired outputs. This in turn builds a healthy portfolio of customers who trust you.  

It doesn’t matter what industry you are in or what standards you are working to… an audit will always stand the test of time as trust is built both with your peers and customers.

That may sound simple, but we all know it is much harder to validate in real life. This is where audit can play a key role. 

Audit is a technique that has been around for a long time and auditors are often still branded by functions in a business as the ‘audit police’ or ‘someone looking to find problems’. These descriptions frustrate me, as this way of thinking should by now be a thing of the past.  

A valuable opportunity 

Audit is not a necessary evil but rather an opportunity that, if branded correctly, can significantly help a business when the right support mechanisms are in place. This includes bringing people along with you on the journey, especially the leadership.  

The ‘sell’ of audit is to coach, mentor and show what ‘good’ looks like to our teams: bring the desired requirements you are auditing against to life with good, simple case studies and demonstrable examples through the audit process. It should never be the intent to instil fear in a team if they are not meeting a specific requirement. Instead, we, as auditors, should encourage the positive opportunities and benefits that would result if they were to improve by making the necessary adjustments to meet that requirement.  

Standing the test of time 

It all takes time, but if you can engage with your peers to allay the perceived fear of what audits are about, and instead demonstrate the true value of how they can help, this will eventually resonate with your functions and teams across the business. Even as technology advances and processes/systems become automated, audit will always have a part to play. This is particularly true when it comes to ensuring requirements – for certification or other means – are being met, regardless of industry or standard.  

The beauty of audit is that it can be adapted to suit the desired scope, criteria and objectives. The pandemic has taught me that we can use advancements in technology to run efficient and effective remote audits and continue our journey to support our customers.  

Audit data or output is also key to engaging leadership and ensuring continued support. As customers continue to demand – quite rightly – that businesses are certified to industry standards, it is becoming increasingly important if a company is to win new business.  

Audit is a core tool to ensure we can either help in achieving certification or support its maintenance. It should go further and visualise how efficiently and effectively our processes are operating by presenting factual, objective data. This will help process owners and leaders make informed decisions when making improvements, particularly if investment is required.  

It doesn’t matter what industry you are in or to which standards you are working; if branded and deployed with the right support, an audit will always stand the test of time as trust is built with your peers and customers.