Virtual Internal Audits
Challenges And Are These Audits Effective?
Recently, we have been asked by our customers if there was a way to conduct their internal audits keeping in mind the recommended social distancing. I spoke with George Cipolla, Sr. Manager at Perry Johnson, to ask him about his experience in conducting virtual internal audits. George is a lead auditor with 20+ years experience implementing, maintaining and auditing quality management systems. His experience also includes performing third party certification audits.
George, in the past PJC has conducted internal audits where a client is remote. However, you’ve recently begin conducting more internal ISO audits virtually. What are the challenges you’ve faced performing audits this way?
The fact that this is a total paradigm shift for the auditor/consultant and the client presents the biggest challenge. It forces both sides to be more open and communicative in order to get to the audit findings. My experience is that the audit starts out somewhat awkwardly but within a short period of time both sides have worked out kinks and logistical hurdles and then we are off and running.
What type of equipment should a company have in order for an internal audit to be conducted virtually?
It’s helpful if folks are skilled in utilizing GoToMeeting or a similar platform. Alternatively, a conference call and sharing documents via the internet will work.*
Does the audit take more or less time than if you were on site? Also, are there advantages to conducting the audit virtually?
I find that I can often be more thorough off site. Sometimes when on site, there tend to be more interruptions by staff as well as other “noise” stimuli. In a virtual audit, no one interrupts, and the audit is more focused and thus more effective.
Do you see virtual audits replacing on site audits permanently?
I cannot see virtual internal audits ever replacing on site audits. I think that we can have a happy medium of either partial virtual and onsite audits or alternating each year with virtual audits.
Virtual audits are accepted by registrars. However, auditors and the Executive Committees will be looking for evidence that all audit objectives are being met during the internal Audit. These audits must be very detailed as they cannot be desktop audits but rather full system audits.
*High speed internet is a MUST not only in the offices but on the shop floor. The company being audited must have a portable device (laptop, ipad or a phone).