Along with other challenges, Covid-19 outbreak has forced many organisations to take a look at how they conduct their audit function. Restrictions on site visits, audit meetings and travel have forced change to the traditional approach to audits, however with the many changes have also meant that the need for audits is ever more crucial in these times.
Organisations are shifting towards better methods to conduct regular audits. As with home bases working, many on-site audit exercises are being transformed into more convenient methods using remote techniques. Remote auditing can help overcome the challenges of visiting audit sites physically during the Covid-19 crisis, though looks like it will be here to stay in the long term.
What is Remote auditing?
Remote auditing is the method of conducting efficient audits from a remote location using advanced technology. Think about all the things you can still do without actually visiting the site such as evaluating records, documents, and interviewing workers. Sometimes this remote auditing is also known as virtual auditing, since it often relies heavily on the use of technology.
The aim of remote auditing is the same as onsite auditing – to evaluate evidence objectively to determine the extent to which compliance with the audit criteria has been achieved. Remote audits also allow auditors to save travel time and travel costs, and is often a more efficient use of site time..
How are remote audits conducted?
Remote audits can be completed using a range of technology platforms, including:
1. Live streaming technology such as Zoom, MS Teams, GotoWebinar, or Webex
2. Live streaming paired with mobile technology such as smartphones or tablets using WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime
3. Live streaming paired with SmartGlass technology and advanced VR headsets
4. File and data exchanges such as OneDrive, SharePoint, DropBox or GoogleDrive.
Benefits of remote auditing
Using advanced technology for virtual auditing has many advantages over traditional auditing practices. These benefits can include:Enabling a more flexible audit schedule, with audits back to back in different locations without the need for rearranging travel time between sites.
1. Time savings, particularly where records are available on shared drives prior to the audit.
2. Improving ease of access to global audit locations
3. Increased auditee engagement where auditees can join in the audit and audit meetings from wherever they are based.
4. Allowing auditors to spend more time on tasks that add value
5. Decreased carbon footprint and expenses by reducing travel
6. Enhanced quality of audit reports
7. Presenting a more organised approach to auditing, reducing “audit burnout”
Limitations of remote auditing
As with any other approach to auditing, remote auditing has its limitations, which can include:
1. Approval may not be granted by all certification and accreditation bodies
2. Suitability may not be compatible for all sites, circumstances or aligned with the scope of the audit
3. Unavailability of technology at all audit locations
4. Reliability of network connections
5. The communication difficulties with the lack of direct interaction with auditee
6. The skills required by auditors, and the training and experience in competently using virtual audit tools
Despite the limitations, remote audits are the future of audits, and look like they are here to stay. Remote audits have definite advantages over traditional methods, not least of which is the reduction in disruptions to the organisation being audited. Business managers find the remote audits an indispensable part of the new world after Covid-19 pandemic as they look for ways to keep people safe and to conduct business in a more efficient manner.
Remote audits offer a more efficient and productive method auditing for both the auditors and audit teams.