Part 5: Remote Audits – How to Prepare
You may have conducted hundreds of audits before, but your first remote audit will be a challenge. Proper preparation is the key! In this article, we will look at the different steps to prepare a remote audit.
This is Part 5 of a seven-part series of articles on remote auditing:
- Part 1 – Remote Audit Objectives
- Part 2 – Is a Remote Audit the Right Choice? The Risk Assessment
- Part 3 – Determine the Method
- Part 4 – Determine the Technology
- Part 5 – How to Prepare a Remote Audit
- Part 6 – Tips for Remote Audit Execution
- Part 7- Remote Audit Reporting & Follow-Up
Even more so than in the case of an on-site audit, a remote audit requires a thorough preparation. The auditor will need to determine who needs to participate, at what time, and through which channels. While this sounds similar to a traditional audit schedule, there really is no room for error: rescheduling a session with participants in different places can get very messy very quickly.
Another embarrassing mistake you will want to avoid is creating confusion over time zones. For on-site audits, there was no reason to include the time zone – it was always the time zone of the relevant site. But if participants to a web conference are in different continents, you will need to ensure everyone is on the same page.
As far as the duration of the remote audit is concerned, we can say from experience that a remote audit should not be shorter than an on-site audit. To the contrary, there are good reasons to schedule a longer audit duration, particularly if this is your first remote audit.
- Technical problems (e.g. connection issues) may cause a delay. It is wise to anticipate and plan extra time to compensate
- Auditors will need more time to digest information through the screen than on-site
- Participants will need frequent breaks, because web conferences are more tiring than a face to face dialogue
To deal with this last point, it is better to schedule multiple shorter sessions and spread them out over multiple days, rather than to have one very intensive day.
Something we have all experienced is problems with connectivity and sound quality during web conferences. It is essential to test the connection beforehand, and to ensure that all audit participants are familiar with the required hard- and software. The auditee will also need to ensure that there is a quiet environment for all participants, so as to avoid interference and background noise.
Finally, you will also need to determine whether sessions need to be recorded. While recording sessions can be useful to document the audit, there are data security and privacy issues to be considered. Not only will you need the consent of all participants, you will also need to discuss the security angle and establish the conditions for storage and deletion (see Part 4 and Part 7). When seeking consent, remember to specify whether you will be recording sound, video or both. If you rely on recordings to document the findings, make sure there is a way to determine who said what.
Remember however that if you and the auditee decide that the sessions may not be recorded, it is technically speaking still possible (but not allowed!) to take screenshots or capture the session in some other way. Needless to say, this would be a serious breach of confidentiality and professional integrity. In other words, the remote audit will require a certain level of trust between the auditor and the auditee.
Now that you know how to prepare a remote audit, let’s move on to Part 6 – Execution.