DQS Survey Reveals: Companies are Open to Remote Audit
The technology for remote auditing is developing at a blazing pace. But are companies ready to make the transition? A comprehensive study, conducted by DQS, shows that they are: both companies as well as auditors are willing to go ahead with remote audits. DQS expert Frank Graichen believes the current Corona-pandemic will increase this willingness even further.
Is the market ready for remote audits? That was the question DQS set out to answer. A comprehensive survey covered more than 5000 clients of the DQS Group as well as over 500 auditors of management systems. Given that remote auditing is currently not being used widely, the results were remarkable:
- 58 % of the surveyed companies indicated a “very high” willingness to accommodate remote audits
- 76 % of the auditors are eager to conduct audits remotely
Frank Graichen, who is Head of Auditor Management at DQS GmbH and one of the initiators of the survey, is not surprised. “In the last two or three years, we have noticed that international companies have an increased interest in reducing travel costs and travel times.” The survey confirms that one of the main perceived benefits of remote auditing is indeed the reduced travel. “The current COVID-19 pandemic will only speed up this development, because it puts pressure on certification bodies to explore their options,” says Graichen.
Limitations of Remote Audits
At the same time, the survey also reveal a consensus that remote audits cannot completely replace on-site audits. Two thirds of the survey respondents feel that remote audits are not equivalent to audits on site. Whether a remote audit is possible depends amongst others on the complexity of the processes as well as the audit standard.
It also makes a big difference whether the auditor has visited the audited company in the past. “Doing a remote audit at a facility you have never seen before and with employees you have never met is definitely a challenge,” says Graichen.
Remote Audit takes more Time
One of the common misconceptions around remote auditing is that doing audits remotely would reduce the duration of the audit. According to Graichen, this is not the case. The preparation phase seems to require more time than is the case for on-site audits. “The auditor needs to determine beforehand which documents he or she will want to review and whether they are available electronically. The auditor will need a very specific audit schedule.”
Because videoconferences can make it harder for the auditor to maintain his or her orientation, they can be challenging for auditors. “We have tested remote audits in practice and noticed that they are usually slower than on-site audits, because the auditor needs more time to process the inputs.”
One particular risk is that auditees takes control over the audit, if they are the administrator of the web conference. Auditees can then open documents, move them across the screen and scroll through them at their pace. “If this happens, auditors become mere consumers of information and lose their active, dialogue-oriented role,” Graichen explains.
In general, Graichen sees remote audits as a meaningful addition to on-site audits, but not as their replacement. For example, they are perfect for document reviews, analyses of KPIs and follow-ups.