Social distancing measures, introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic, have forced ISO auditors to embrace remote auditing. In some ways, this has made the process more straightforward, but it also creates new challenges for organisations trying to retain their ISO certification.
Remote audits are here to stay
While the increase in remote auditing was initially out of necessity, the practice will remain popular long after social distancing measures have been relaxed.
This is because remote inspections offer many advantages to auditing bodies – not least because they are more cost-effective.
Most aspects of the audit can now be completed from the auditor’s home or office, meaning a considerable reduction in travel and accommodation costs. Although there will still be some elements of the audit that require a site visit, this is unlikely to take more than a single day.
Remote auditing also makes it easier for auditors to communicate with isolated personnel or access multiple sites at once, making it a very efficient alternative to in-person inspections.
But what does this all mean if you are hoping to gain ISO recertification?
It means that you need to be prepared for remote external audits. You need to understand how these will work so that you are fully equipped.
How a remote audit differs from an in-person audit
If you have undergone an external audit in the past, you will be familiar with the process, but there are still some key differences between remote and in-person audits that you need to consider.
Remote audits require more preparation in advance
Remote auditors are likely to request lots of documentation in advance of the audit. You’ll also need to prepare your teams and ensure everything can be accessed remotely.
Documentation must be digitally accessible
You can’t simply grab a file from a shelf to present to the auditor; you’ll need to make sure they can access everything remotely. This may mean lots of scanning and photographing.
The auditor will not be present the entire time
The auditor may well collect the required documents and information from you and then go offline for two or three hours to review everything.
It will be harder to read body language
Because the auditor won’t be physically present, communication will feel quite different. It will be harder to read their body language to understand if they are happy with the answers you have given or need you to elaborate.
Presentation of evidence will be different
The way you present evidence will be different. For example, you may have to conduct a site tour virtually, using a webcam or other device.
Adequate technology will be required
Because everything is remote, you will be heavily dependent on technology. You’ll need to ensure that you have adequate connectivity, software, equipment and cyber-security.
Personnel will need to be available at specified times
The auditor will need to speak to key employees and leaders during the audit, so you will need to make them available at the appropriate times.
Questions may be presented in bulk instead of gradually
During an in-person audit, the auditor will often ask questions as they go through your evidence and documents. During a remote inspection, they will go offline to review everything and then come back with a list of questions or comments.
You will need to be more proactive
The more proactive you are in preparing for your remote audit, the easier it will be for you, your team and the auditor.
Remote audits may be faster but are no less thorough
A remote audit might be more efficient than an in-person audit, but don’t expect it to be any less detailed. You still have to prove that you are meeting all the standards.
Ways you can prepare for a remote audit
The thought of a remote external audit might be daunting, but don’t worry, there are some ways you can prepare for success.
Check systems are up to date
Make sure that everything is correct and up to date on your systems, especially if you have had recent changes in personnel or organisational structure.
Make documentation digitally accessible
Scan any relevant documentation so that it is ready to be emailed or brought up on screen during the audit.
Ensure adequate connectivity and technology
Make sure you have adequate connectivity, cyber-security, software and equipment to ensure the process runs smoothly.
Test technology in advance
If you aren’t familiar with the technology or software you will be using, test it in advance.
Familiarise your teams with the process
Make sure your teams understand what will be expected of them and what they will need to prepare for the day.
Ensure familiarity with the systems
If you are not the person responsible for ensuring systems are updated, then familiarise yourself with how it works and where to find everything you need.
Make relevant personnel available
While key employees don’t necessarily need to be on-site during the audit, they do need to be contactable.
Understand how remote audits differ from in-person
Read through our points above to understand how a remote audit will differ from in-person audits.
Don’t wait until the day to find out there are gaps in your processes or missing documents. Be proactive in getting everything ready.
Undertake a mock audit
Mock audits are a fantastic tool for ensuring you retain your ISO certification. Even if you have had external audits in the past, a mock audit is beneficial.
10 ways a mock audit will improve your chance of success
The Systems Link can conduct a full mock audit which acts as a dress rehearsal for your external audit. Because our consultants hold the same qualifications as ISO auditors, they complete the mock audit in the same way.
A mock audit will increase your chances of recertification by helping you:
- Understand what to expect during your external audit
- Prepare the right documentation in the correct format
- Reduce anxiety and uncertainty within the team
- Identify and address any gaps in systems or processes
- Identify improvement opportunity
- Demonstrate continuous improvement to external auditors
- Eliminate potential issues such as missing documentation
- Impress external auditors by being proactive
- Feel more confident about your external audit
- Ensure everything is in place for your recertification
Book your mock audit
If you’d like to book your mock audit or you have any questions about how remote auditing is going to impact your organisation, then get in touch.
The Systems Link specialises in ISO frameworks, ISO certification and internal auditing. Whether you’ve already got an external audit coming up or just want a gap analysis to find out how close you are to being ISO ready, we can help.
Contact us on 0113 418 2579 to find out how we could help your organisation grow and thrive.
[LS1]Add Infographic: 10 differences between remote and in-person audits
[LS3]Infographic: 10 benefits of a mock audit