Compliance and regulations are an increasingly important factor in business processes and operations. In addition to introducing good quality control, these standards demand proven, documented, historic evidence and verification of how requirements are being met throughout the organization.
A vital part of this process is auditing: an objective, independent assessment of how a business is meeting its regulatory goals through a deep analysis of qualitative and quantitative data.
The Auditing Approach
There are two main types of auditing:
- Internal auditing from on-staff business auditors who can ensure your organization is meeting certain goals and standards, and
- External auditing from other bodies that independently verify historic and current findings against externally derived compliance measures.
Auditing should not be seen as an unnecessary administrative overhead. Start by putting policies, processes, and procedures in place, and ensure they meet audit requirements for quality and business outcomes.
This will reduce waste, let you take advantage of opportunities, and streamline operations. While auditing needs can be rigorous, a business that meets these requirements can gain a competitive advantage and enhanced bottom line.
The Problem With Auditing
For all of the good that auditing and quality management can bring to your organization, traditional auditioning has several inherent problems:
- Data is often scattered across different domains, systems, and people.
- Data is not stored in a consistent way that allows for easy consolidation and validation.
- Gathering qualitative information through surveys and interviews can be difficult.
- There is no “one source of the truth.”
- Accountabilities and responsibilities are unclear.
- It is difficult to match findings back against regulatory needs.
- Traditional auditing involves lots of manual processes, creating significant administrative overhead.
Fortunately, there’s an effective way of reducing these problems, through implementing an audit management system (AMS).
Audit Management Systems Explained
An audit management system is a collection of a collection of software, tools, integrations, and processes that make auditing much easier and more reliable. It will help you to manage the workflows, interactions, data gathering, reporting, and more of all activities involved with auditing and data validation. Audit management systems are designed to:
- Integrate with other systems and automate many of the “low-value” tasks in auditing.
- Collect qualitative and quantitative data from multiple sources, across systems, people, departments, domains, and storage.
- Create consistency between data from multiple sources, including deduplication, analysis, and validation.
- Provide a centralized repository for all audit history and data.
- Drill down into specific datasets to find the answers to questions being posed by the audit.
- Be a powerful tool for internal auditors for regular monitoring and internal compliance.
- Provide insight and information to external auditors to allow for easier auditing.
- Benchmark audit results against internal business targets and external compliance demands.
This results in much less administrative overhead, and makes audit management easier. Just the manpower savings alone can be significant if you implement an effective audit management system.
Areas for Improvement
An AMS can enhance other parts of your business in a number of ways. It can:
- Create continuous, ongoing audits — build auditing into the operational fiber of your business, so it becomes a part of regular work activities.
- Build audit profiles for specific processes — use intelligent business rules to create best-practice workflows for discrete parts of audit requirements.
- Produce detailed audit reports — create reports that provide the right level of insight to the target audience, by seniority, job function, department, or otherwise.
- Provide auditing across multiple areas — manage all audits from one place, including occupational health and safety, environmental, employee training, risk management, ISO standards, and more.
If you’ve found that auditing creates stress and overhead in your business, it’s time to move to an audit management tool. It will make the whole process easier, produce more accurate outputs, and ensure that you have the quality data you need for both internal and external auditors.
Tim Lozier is director of product strategy at EtQ.