In times of coronavirus, remote meetings are the new normal. There are remote team meetings, client meetings, remote interpreting, online conferences or even virtual coffee breaks. I experienced another new aspect of remote business life when ACP Traductera had its annual audit of ISO 9001 and ISO 17100 in April.
Remote auditing is not an experiment enforced by the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is one of the legitimate audit methods described in ISO 19011:2018 Guidelines for auditing management systems, and is highly effective and helpful if the auditor cannot be present onsite for reasons of health and safety or travel restrictions.
A stable internet connection and the right communication tool are two technical prerequisites for a successful remote audit. We looked for a tool that allows access to all audited information, authenticates auditees, and provides video access to audited paper documents. Skype was identified as a suitable application for its group video call functionality and screen sharing options for any group member, and because both auditors and auditees use Skype on daily basis.
Although many of the communication tools suitable for a remote audit are used frequently now, I recommend that all participants rehearse briefly several days before the audit to test all the functionalities needed.
Even if everything runs smoothly, it is better to always have a back-up solution ready in case something fails during the audit.
I also recommend appointing a remote audit coordinator who invites auditees and connects them with auditors according to the schedule, informs about changes or delays, and solves technical and organizational issues.
Pros and cons
The remote audit does not differ much from an onsite audit. In some respects, it might even be more comfortable. The digital environment enables 100% focus on the content, especially if all presented evidence is in digital form. Thanks to screen sharing, the auditors can see everything clearly on their own devices and can even take screenshots of evidence for their reports. Of course, taking a screenshot must be subject to the auditee’s previous consent.
An ISO quality management audit is usually a big event in a company. Even those who are not involved know about the audit and thus feel somewhat nervous or are at least a little disturbed by the presence of auditors. A remote audit eliminates such an atmosphere because only the auditees are in contact with the auditors.
There are hardly any disadvantages, especially in a translation service company, where processes, data and documents are digital. I am sure it might be quite different if there were many paper documents or facilities and instruments involved.
The remote audit proved to be a viable alternative. Nevertheless, given the choice, I would prefer a personal onsite meeting with auditors over remote auditing.
If you are interested in more information, I recommend these recently published guidelines by the International Organization for Standardization on remote audits