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As quality professionals, we are usually the main point of contact for customer and regulatory audits.
This can take up a huge amount of time.
In fact, the Global Quality Survey 2020 found quality professionals are spending around an eighth of their working hours being audited.
So, how can we make this experience easier, faster, more productive, and even valuable?
We asked Kate Armitage, Compliance Director at Qualsys to share her top tips for being audited.
#1 Use your ISO certification to save you time
Sometimes the people who are auditing do not understand the context, the answers being given or why they need to ask something.
It is completely acceptable for you to say if something is not appropriate or applicable.
I was asked recently to show all of our ISO 27001 policies and procedures, and fill in a 15 sheet spreadsheet of all of the clauses taken from the ISO 27001 standard line-by-line.
So I had a conversation with them and showed their our ISO 27001 stage 2 certificate and our statement of applicability. In the statement of applicability it lists all of the requirements and key controls.
ISO certification demonstrates you already have controls and processes in place. It is much better to suggest a risk-based approach to the audit than to spend days and weeks duplicating documentation you've already completed in your ISO certification.
By challenging what documentation is really needed, you can then spend more time on what matters - quality improvement!
#2 Be an open book
You can save a lot of time by adopting an 'open book' policy.
Before the audit, give your auditor access to your management system so they can check everything beforehand. This means when the audit starts, you just need to show them the evidence and answer any additional questions.
This will save you all a lot of time. For example, what would be two auditors over two days, instead takes half a day with one auditor.
By giving them access to your management system, they can see activity, processes and procedures, but also it gives them time to understand the context of your business.
#3 Invest in an integrated business management system tool
This follows from tip #2. If you have a central business management system with not just your documented policies, procedures and processes, but also your inspection records, CAPA management activity, training records etc, not only will your entire business benefit from a single source of truth - your auditor will have much more confidence that your company has a proactive, sustainable culture of continuous quality improvement.
An integrated business management system makes your audits faster, easier and enjoyable.
#4 Challenge what's being asked
As a governance, risk and compliance software provider, we get audited by our customers all the time to make sure that our processes and systems are fit for purpose and resilient.
We often get asked to show a lot of specific details, and sometimes - either because of the terminology, or we approach it in a different way, we need to be able adapt and justify our management system processes and procedures. That doesn't mean rewriting and restructuring everything. Every management system needs to be different because every business is different. Don't be frightened to challenge what you're asked for and present how you do things.
#5 Adapt, evolve and innovate
In the COVID-19 quality industry survey, one of the top challenges reported by the profession was how to adapt and evolve audits for the new working environment. Many audits have been cancelled and this has stalled projects, investments and improvement initiatives.
For Qualsys, we would usually say "Come and sit with us and have a look" . Using technology for the audit - not just auditing software as part of your integrated business management system, but also video conferencing tools, can help keep your audits run as scheduled with minimal disruption when there are uncontrollable circumstances.
What you should do now:
Audits are faster, easier, more productive and valuable when you have an integrated business management software tool.
Request a 10-day trial, pricing information and an online demonstration here: quality.eqms.co.uk/integrated-quality-management-system-software-demonstration