In a growing global economy, companies need to track and manage the quality of their corporate functions, business units, and suppliers NOW more than ever.
Doing that requires having an Audit Management System that works for the entire Audit team. In this series, we will uncover the key areas in the auditing process where having an efficient system will be the difference between conducting audits and having a streamlined Audit Management System.
If a true quality culture is paramount to your business, it’s essential to properly audit your internal business and external partners and suppliers to ensure the quality of the materials, processes, and/or services they provide.
An auditing process that is not streamlined and efficient can cause significant stress, putting a burden on internal resources and increasing the financial weight on the company. Such burdens negatively impact numerous departments and resources, including business CAPA managers, internal auditing departments, and compliance personnel.
On the other hand, an effective Audit Management System that incorporates smart design and makes appropriate use of automation is integral to the success and optimization of a company’s quality initiatives. Therefore, streamlining the process by which you resource, plan, execute, distribute, and trend on your audits is critically important to your operational standards.
Below are the five pieces of the puzzle that can make or break the success of your company’s auditing program.
1. Audit Planning
Having a firm understanding of the audits you’re conducting within the year is the backbone of good annual planning. It’s essential for your organization to properly plan for staffing and audit assignments by creating an operative system that allows you to manage your list of annual audits.
Scheduling audits consists of two major areas: identifying the scheduled start and end dates and assigning the collaborative audit team. Soft locking dates and allocating appropriate resources sets the stage for a successful audit and serves as the preliminary milestone of your audits.
Preparing for an Audit:
Once an audit has been scheduled and assigned, lead auditors can prepare for audit conduct. During the initial audit prep stages, the assigned team will take on a variety of responsibilities, including notifying auditees of the projected timeframes, informing them about what they can expect from the auditor/audit, and determining potential key areas for them to focus in on.
Also, auditors begin to prepare checklists and questionnaires comprised of areas of interest and key themes they will highlight and address as part of the audit.
2. Audit Distribution
Audit distribution can play two important roles: the distribution of both the audit preparation documentation and the final audit report.
Take advantage of automatic audit distribution by using a viable solution or system that can generate draft and final audit reports and disseminate them via email to recipients. As audit distribution lists can be quite extensive, be sure to use a supporting cast such as co-auditors and audit support resources to define the distribution list and help the process along.
Using Audit Templates for Audit Report Creation:
Utilizing pre-defined templates for the audit reports provides an effective means of establishing the content of the reports. This provides a “head start”, ensuring that auditors don’t always start from scratch for each report.
Today’s systems are capable of automating distribution and tracking the status of those distributions. This helps streamline communication and correspondence between those auditing and those being audited.
3. Audit Execution
Audit execution, also referred to as audit conduct, is the act or phase of completing the audit either onsite during the execution phase, or back in the office during the report writing phase. It also consists of documenting the audit findings witnessed during the audit conduct.
Laying the foundation of the audit report, the first step of the audit execution is to define the executive summary and additional detail. Next will be to document, classify, and detail the audit findings, providing a full picture of the audit report.
Affording Online and Offline Audit Capabilities:
Empower your auditors to create reports using both online and offline capabilities to gain greater on-site flexibility. Having the ability to take portions of your audits and document findings offline is a useful tool to have in your back pocket.
Additionally, allowing auditors to catalog their findings based on areas affected either online or offline is pivotal in keeping the team connected and ensuring that these quality issues are not missed. Building a system that allows for offline capabilities can be just what is needed to give auditors an edge.
Allowing Collaboration Between the Audit Team:
Allowing for collaboration between multiple auditors is vital. Having co-auditors and a supporting audit team can play a central role in helping to execute and compile reports in a timely manner. Building a system where auditors can work collectively and collaboratively to create the audit report can drastically improve consistency and efficiency for your auditing team.
4. Audit Report – The Review, Creation, and Distribution Factor
Audit reporting can be a cumbersome, labor and time-intensive process that can quickly drain a company’s resources, time, and effort if not done properly.
However, by both implementing an enterprise-wide solution and incorporating templates to allow for baseline text to be edited, you can save time and increase operational efficiency within the auditing department and beyond.
5. Audit Response
While critically important, audit execution and audit reporting are only half the battle. The second half is receiving and managing your auditee’s responses to the issues witnessed. Obtaining an effective response from your auditees ensures that inadequacies are answered via detailed responses that are actionable, verifiable, and effective. Having mechanisms in place so that auditees are empowered to respond to these findings is vital to ensuring that your system closes the loop on this core quality process.
Preparing timelines for responses and action plans and using a reliable auditing system will ensure the timeliness of replies and actions. Additionally, it allows organizations to track and trend on these key performance milestones, which are critical to success.
Auditing just one auditee is a time-consuming, resource-intensive, and burdensome process, so replicating that to all the audits you plan and prepare for in a year truly demonstrates the importance of an efficient enterprise level auditing system.
An audit management program that allows for effective planning, execution, response management, and reporting of audit-related data is the backbone of operational efficiency and quality management in any organization.