The need to audit our processes and compliance is perhaps now more important than ever as there are so many changes in how we are working, but how can audits be conducted well remotely?
At the time of writing this, we are lockdown for the Covid 19 pandemic. We are all adapting, realising that the end will not come quickly or finitely but will involve us adapting how we work and live for some time to come.
I have recently been involved in remote audits both conducting internal audits on client’s businesses and supporting clients in their ISO surveillance and certification audits for ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001.
Initially I would have been sceptical to be honest. I am a people person, and I love the interaction with people and teams in companies. However, I have been pleasantly surprised at how well the audits are going so in this article I am going to share some tips of what I have noticed help the audit to work effectively.
No different to an onsite audit – there must be an audit plan. However, the audit plan should also indicate when you will be live online and times for documentation review. It also needs to be planned if other people are required at different times during the audit so that the technology and invitations are set up for them. Where there is a significant requirement for documentation review, notice in advance can enable the audit to progress more efficiently on the day as the information can be sent in advance.
It is easier if you have been there before but if not, photographs and/or floor plans can help.
This is critical for both you and the other participants that you can access the technology required and have good connectivity. The technology required will be dependent on the type of company and type of audit. Choose technology based on what you need it to do e.g. View documents, View client screen, Site tour, Interviews etc. I have found that Microsoft Teams is very good for scheduling and inviting participants, video conferencing, sharing documents and screen sharing.
- Test technology in advance. A brief conversation a couple of days before the audit to ensure the technology is working and everyone is comfortable with the functionality can put all parties at ease before the audit.
- Sound Quality Not essential, but I recommend using a head set as it eliminates some potential background noises and clients have said they find it much clearer. I find it helps me focus as there is less distraction from background noises.
- Visual When your camera is on, what is everyone seeing in the background. If you are not in a situation where you have a good home office and there is a risk instead that participants will be viewing your latest washing pile or your background is full of distractions, most live streaming apps now have a function to blur the background. Also consider the sun location, a bright sun behind you can result in you just being a dark shadow. If you are using multiple screens, consider which way you are looking when you are talking or listening and what the other participants see. It is easier to engage with someone who is looking at you when you talk – even remotely!
3) Conducting the audit
Be punctual – Try to stick to the times for opening meetings, and for agreed times to meet back.
Conduct your opening meeting as normal, but you may consider including the following:
- Ensure everyone can hear and see as required and is comfortable with the technology being used e.g. screen sharing, muting, joining and leaving meetings etc.
- Set any ground rules: For example,
♦ if people need to have a conversation with others during the audit, mute the sound.
♦ if screen sharing is to be used, check if taking a screen shot is ok before doing this.
Agree Breaks, and times to re-join online. No one wants to watch you read documents, this can be done offline and then meet back online again at the agreed time
There are circumstances where remote auditing is not an option, however, in many cases they can be conducted just as effectively with the added benefits of reduced travel, costs, less environmental impact and improved flexibility. ISO 19011:2018 Guidelines for auditing management systems even includes specifications for conducting remote audits. Even when the lockdown is lifted, I think remote auditing will have a deserved place in the world!
Contact us if you would like to know more about completing your audit programme remotely or for further information on ISO management systems.