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.