Thanks to many common place technologies, conducting remote audits has become more effective and offers a potential solution where security, travel or other factors may impose restrictions upon traditional in-person and on-site audits.
While remote audits may not follow the traditional approach as an on-site audit, they can still offer a meaningful examination of compliance. After all, the remote audit will still enable the gathering of audit evidence and evaluation of same, albeit through alternative means.
For a remote audit to be successful planning is key, it requires the support and collaboration of the Auditor, the Auditee and the Client. Support functions, such as Information Technology (IT) may also be required to aid and resolve any technical issues. Here at ADAMAS Consulting, we implement the following methodology to mitigate any potential challenges and ensure the audit is successful as possible:
1) Agreement on the platform to be used. With a variety of technologies out there, making sure all stakeholders can access and navigate within the agreed platform is key. WebEx, Teams or Skype are all widely available and offer the potential for voice, video and document sharing on screen. Testing is paramount; no one wants to spend the first fifteen minutes of the opening meeting trying to resolve connection issues; and it must work for everyone regardless of location.
2) Agree on the mechanism for document sharing. Concerns rightly exist for the sharing and control of documents; be those concerns centered around data protection requirements, or security and control. Documents can be shared through validated electronic Document Management Systems (eDMS), shared drives, or through secure email.
Agree on access permissions and duration of access, it is helpful for audit report writing if access can be maintained for a short time post-audit. If strict concerns exist over the provisioning of documents, screen sharing capabilities may also help to alleviate concerns whilst still enabling the Auditor to glean the information required.
At ADAMAS, we utilize an end-to-end encrypted document sharing platform meaning we can share confidential audit documentation very efficiently and securely, our platform is:
- HIPAA/GDPR compliant
- Follows a ‘Zero Trust’ model – access is granted only to the relevant data storage area and data is fully quarantined from the rest of ADAMAS’s project and business data
- All file access activity is logged
- Data is backed up in real-time by our platform service provider
- Data residency is within the EU
3) Request sufficient documents in advance. Reviewing documents prior to the audit allows the Auditor to understand processes in advance and ask more directed or succinct questions during the audit. Communicating remotely is not without its challenges; being direct and concise with questioning can aid the understanding and sharing of information. Pre-audit document requests also alleviate some of the burden of audit requests made during the audit activity, when participants are otherwise occupied.
4) Set some ground rules for participants. When sharing meeting invites, set the expectations; be mindful to mute your line when you are not speaking; avoid rearranging papers on your desk and find a quiet place to attend the meeting. Dialing in from your open plan desk, or from a crowded café may not be the most conducive environment!
5) Consider contingency measures. Technology is great, when it works. We may not be able to foresee every eventuality, but that should not prevent a back-up plan being prepared. For example, telephone dial in numbers as an alternative; secondary connection methods (4G mobile telephone hotspots) and access to IT support can help to mitigate potential issues. Also, having support staff to aid the audit facilitator is just as important for a remote audit as an onsite audit.
6) Offer guidance and instruction. Remote audits are different; we can explain the differences, the demands and the requirements. It helps everyone understand what is required to make the audit successful.
At ADAMAS, we are very conscious that even in these difficult times our Clients’ have an ongoing need for compliance oversight and current travel restrictions make this very challenging. ADAMAS is well placed to assist with conducting audits and quality assessments remotely.
ADAMAS understand that remote audits may be unfamiliar to some; but over the recent years our Consultants have gained wide experience with their conduct and successful delivery. We are adaptable and flexible and recognize that time zones may need to be considered. We can leverage our Consultants geographical localities on the American, European and Asian continents to mitigate these challenges and draw on their experience and knowledge to support you.
To find out more about what ADAMAS can do to support your audit program during these challenging times, please feel free to call us on +44 (0)1344 751 210 in Europe, +1-919-341-3361 in the US; or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, please check out our guide ‘Quality Investigator Site Assessment (QISA)‘ to learn even more about our other remote compliance oversight service offerings.