The Chal­lenges of Au­dit Man­age­ment for the Qual­ity Pro­fes­sional


Qual­ity pro­fes­sion­als un­der­stand the many con­no­ta­tions that can spring to mind from the word 'au­dit'. There are many de­scrip­tions that go along with this word, too many to list here. For qual­ity pro­fes­sion­als, au­dit man­age­ment is one of the most crit­i­cal and cen­tral parts to their role which, of course, can then mean that it is one of the most chal­leng­ing and time-con­sum­ing.

When analysing re­sources and tasks that qual­ity pro­fes­sion­als need to con­duct for au­dits, a num­ber of chal­lenges quickly emerge from con­ven­tional au­dit man­age­ment ap­proaches.

Tra­di­tion­ally, au­dit man­age­ment sys­tems are com­prised of a com­bi­na­tion of spread­sheets and other man­ual pro­cesses. The man­ual steps re­quired for these sys­tems add to an al­ready lim­ited au­dit time pe­riod open to qual­ity man­age­ment pro­fes­sion­als.

In the plan­ning stage, man­ual steps can mean a num­ber of time-con­sum­ing tasks in­clud­ing plan­ning the au­dit cal­en­dar, pulling to­gether the ap­pro­pri­ate scope item doc­u­men­ta­tion, no­ti­fy­ing (and re-no­ti­fy­ing!) peo­ple of their in­di­vid­ual ac­tions, as well as find­ing and print­ing any check­lists which are to be used.

This may work when a busi­ness is small but this sys­tem be­comes al­most im­pos­si­ble to scale as the busi­ness grows. Crit­i­cally, it also lacks the closed-loop en­vi­ron­ment nec­es­sary for ef­fec­tive qual­ity man­age­ment and au­dit­ing.

Plan­ning and sched­ul­ing au­dits can also be de­cep­tively com­plex – in fact, feed­back from qual­ity man­age­ment pro­fes­sion­als’ class it as one of the big­gest au­dit man­age­ment headaches.

Another chal­lenge is that the an­nual au­dit cal­en­dar can have small but in­trin­sic vari­a­tions year on year. An­nual au­dits are sched­uled but there may be au­dits that arise on an ad-hoc ba­sis. Man­ag­ing the re­sources to make sure ev­ery­thing gets done can be a ma­jor stum­bling block for qual­ity man­agers, par­tic­u­larly when it re­quires in­put and com­mit­ment from other peo­ple (of­ten out with di­rect line man­age­ment): co-or­di­nat­ing oth­ers' time man­age­ment and en­sur­ing they are prop­erly trained to com­plete an au­dit is dif­fi­cult. This be­comes even more com­plex with in­for­ma­tion held across dis­parate sys­tems.

Con­nec­tions be­tween mul­ti­ple sys­tems can help qual­ity man­agers main­tain an ef­fec­tive au­dit man­age­ment sys­tem. As au­dit find­ings will likely lead to cor­rec­tive and pre­ven­tive ac­tions and a num­ber of fol­low-up tasks, it would be ex­tremely valu­able to the qual­ity pro­fes­sional to view and an­a­lyse non­con­for­mances and find­ings at the touch of a but­ton. With­out an au­to­mated sys­tem, it can be dif­fi­cult to gen­er­ate the sub­se­quent au­dit re­port and re­view trends be­cause these si­los of in­for­ma­tion are al­most im­pen­e­tra­ble with­out an ex­ces­sive amount of time and ef­fort.

With­out this, the busi­ness is un­able to see the big pic­ture of their au­dit man­age­ment pro­gramme and is miss­ing the op­por­tu­nity for con­tin­ual im­prove­ment. In ad­di­tion, it adds com­plex­ity and un­nec­es­sary chal­lenges to the role of the qual­ity man­age­ment pro­fes­sional.

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