6 Key Considerations for Planning a Remote Audit

by Breda Kearney | October 15, 2020 | Auditing , Blog , Internal Audits , ISO 13485:2016 , ISO 19011:2018 , ISO 9001:2015 , |

6 Key Considerations for Planning a Remote Audit

COVID19 has changed the way we work, with the majority of people now working from home due to travel restrictions and social distancing requirements. In the world of ISO auditing, one of the biggest changes has been the move from predominantly “On-Site” to “Remote” based audits (Auditor and Auditee are in different physical locations).

Remote audits are not a new practice, but they were typically only used for low risk audits. However, as we adapt to living with COVID19, we are more and more reliant on remote auditing and it is important that auditors appreciate the additional challenges and criteria that need to be considered when preparing and planning for the audit.

Here we have summarised the 6 key criteria that need to be considered when planning for an effective remote audit

  1. Internet and Technology Requirements – Remote auditing is reliant on the availability of a good and stable internet connection. If the bandwidth is weak, it may slow or reduce the quality of the auditee’s audio and/or video thereby impacting the ability of the auditor to efficiently collect audit evidence. Its also important that the auditor and auditee are competent in the use of technology – for example, the use of webcams, microphones, document sharing tools, software programs including videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Adobe Connect and so on. Its recommended that the auditor and auditee have a test run prior to the scheduled audit date to reduce the risk of any unexpected delays during the audits.
  2. Selection of Audit Methods – The auditor has a range of audit methods that can be used during remote auditing: Phone Calls/ Video Conferencing are suitable for opening meetings, one-one interviews, and closing meetings. Video conference with screen share can be used for reviewing documents and data with the auditee. Live or captured video images obtained from fixed video cameras or mobile devices can be used when the auditor needs to see a process in action or observe a particular work practice. It’s important that the auditor confirms the feasibility of the proposed audit method with the auditee in advance of the audit – particularly the use of live stream videos in a production environment.
  3. Accessing Documents – During the audit, the auditor will access and review procedures, documents and records using online document sharing systems –these documents typically contain confidential information. It’s essential that the auditor agrees the procedures for handling these documents with the auditee in advance of the auditee – the priority must be on maintaining confidentiality. Its important to note that reviewing documents online can be much slower compared to reviewing a printed copy – this additional time must be taken into consideration when planning the audit. Lastly not all documents/records are automatically stored online – therefore the auditee must have the ability quickly scan and upload any documents that required by the auditor!
  4. Privacy Concerns – Its important that the auditor and auditee agree in advance whether recording of audio, video, images and screenshots of personnel/documents/records are permitted, considering any legal, data privacy and security requirements.
  5. Auditor Skills – Auditors must be comfortable accessing, using and troubleshooting the technology tools selected for use during the audit. Strong communication skills are also required – A challenge with remote auditing is that its difficult to read the auditees body language or observe their reactions. Its also more challenging to build rapport with the auditee and to build trust. Therefore, effective communication skills are essential.
  6. Audit Duration – Remote auditing is typically slower compared to an onsite audit. This is because, it generally takes longer to scroll through and review documents online compared to reviewing hard copies. Also, time can be lost due to IT issues such as internet downtime, unexpected interruptions or delays and accessibility issues.

It’s also important to build in regular breaks as remote auditing is more tiring than onsite auditing due to the continuous use of computer screens and the additional attention and energy that is required to engage with and build rapport with the auditee. This additional time, needs to be accounted for in the audit plan. Typically, for an onsite audit that takes 2 days to complete, an additional 0.5 days may be required.

Additional Information / Services

To learn more about auditing or remote auditing & gain a formal, internationally recognised qualification as an Auditor, it is worthwhile to check out either of the following courses:

Or if you are interested in getting a quote for an outsourced internal audit or supplier audit, you can request a quote here.

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