In our previous blog post ‘Why digital?’, we looked at the rise of digital auditing, the drawbacks of traditional and digital auditing as another tool in the toolbox of the modern auditor. Here we look at a mixed approach in a little more depth through quotes from experts in the industry:
In an article for CQI.org, Rob Fisher, on discussing the history of digital auditing, commented, ‘When we introduced remote auditing it had never been heard of before. We are audited by BSI so they had to approve it to make sure that it conformed to their auditing techniques and met the standards. We know what the question sets are, we know what the performance drivers are and we can measure those against our objectives and targets. We use continuous auditing, which would traditionally require maybe 25 or 30 questions for staff to answer. But now they only have to answer five questions on a regular basis so that we continuously receive information about our sales and how our procedures and policies are working. The technology allows us to dip into any audit, any time, and see how we compare against previous months. The availability of information and the clarity of the documents are much better. The time from undertaking the audit, to getting the data into a meaningful document is instantaneous. That time is valuable.’
If we consider this alongside John Pymer of Certification International’ observation, ‘Remote auditing cannot be ignored now. It’s a logical progression to have the client’s staff anonymously complete the online survey first, so that when you make the onsite visit, you have all the
information to hand. Some of our clients have been very impressed. In some cases it has highlighted operational concerns that we wouldn’t have detected through traditional auditing.’
Lastly, we look at Richard Butterfield, business improvement director at Amey ‘I can get the same outcome with a sample size that’s 50 times bigger, with next to no cost and effort. For very, very low cost you can get a picture based effectively on the behaviours of a much bigger percentage of the population of the organisation. If you’re still doing site assessments you can be much more targeted and focused on the site assessments because you’ve got a picture of the whole landscape of the organisation that you’re subsequently going to assess onsite.’
From these quotes it is clear that digital auditing is extremely effective in building a more accurate overall picture and recognising operational concerns which can then be followed up by a site visit to dig down deeper into the issues.
It is worth noting that for all the extolling of the virtues of digital audit, it is by no means the finished article. Contingency planning regarding the infrastructure, security issues, reporting conventions and the format of results are all things that need considering before taking a mixed approach. Indeed, finding the balance between digital and traditional is of paramount importance – all the accurate data in the world can’t currently replace a hands-on experience, particularly when referring to the compliance aspect and the presence of correct documentation.
So where does this leave us? John Pymer sums things up nicely – ‘There must always be a mix of assessment techniques. The client can run an online assessment, then the analysed information can focus the audit team when they do go on site, which enables more constructive use of their time.’
The future of digital auditing appears to be bright and despite some resistance as a result of the embedded industry culture, the auditing process has inarguably been improved.