Agile Quality Audits: Improve Responsiveness with AI-powered Insights
A 20% time saving on regulatory audits and a 10% saving on audits of standards like ISO 9001 – who wouldn’t like that? PwC believes that such time savings are possible by adopting agile audit methodologies in an organization. Additional benefits of quick and efficient audits include
- Real-time assurance instead of retrospective assurance
- Greater efficiency as there is an elimination of low-value work
- This leads to the freeing up of resources to conduct higher-value, complex audit-related tasks
What is an Agile Audit?
For those who have a brush with the software development industry in some form or the other, the term agile may not be entirely new. Agile enables developers to shorten the development lifecycle by increasing collaboration between teams and enabling shorter sprints with greater insights.
In auditing for product and process quality too, this concept is gaining currency as stakeholders are seeking more value from Internal Audit groups to improve outcomes including
- More efficient assurance
- Valuable insights into processes and controls
- A better understanding of risks
- Deeper and actionable insights
According to Deloitte, this is putting pressure on the audit teams, who are also expected to be more responsive to the fast-evolving needs and challenges.
Improve organizational responsiveness by scheduling and planning agile audits using ComplianceQuest’s Audit Management Solution. For more information click here.
Agile Internal Audit Explained
An agile audit allows the internal audit team to meet expectations by accelerating audit cycles,
providing timely insights, and cutting process times – all with a more efficient documentation process.
Typically, quality audits can be divided into three types:
- System Audits: These are conducted to evaluate a company’s management systems and ensure that all elements and processes are effective. This audit also ensures that the development and implementation of the systems consistently meet specified requirements. For example, a QMS audit will review its existing quality system to comply with company policies and the required regulations. (Of course, in sectors like life sciences, one needs a validated QMS solution like ComplianceQuest)
- Product Audits: In this, a company’s products are examined to ensure they’re compliant with government policies, performance standards, and company quality standards.
- Process Audits: This involves the review of all company processes to ensure efficiency within their established limits. This audit also checks operation time and responsiveness and the effectiveness of each procedure and process specifications.
Each of these can take anywhere between weeks to months to be completed and depends on the company’s size and complexity. The findings of the audits are documented after the completion of the audit.
If your audit management process is not agile, and if a CAPA is triggered only after a few weeks after a critical audit finding is reported – you’ll be wasting time. The key is to implement an audit management system that can help you prioritize audit findings based on certain parameters. It’ll be even better if it can allocate the number of days to respond automatically. The key here is efficiency when it matters.
An agile audit allows audits to be broken down into smaller pieces and reviews to be provided at the end of each short cycle. It can also be leveraged whenever several audits have been scheduled within a time period, when there is a need to improve collaboration between stakeholders, and when there is a need for more relevant and highly impactful reports with less documentation. In an environment where strategies, technologies, priorities, competitors, risks, and regulations are still evolving, agile audits can improve the effectiveness and response times of the auditors.
Agile auditing should be flexible and needs continuous planning and collaboration with the stakeholders so that in case of any potential threats or risks, the audit plans can be reassessed and adjusted. When multiple audits are planned, agile must be applied to the one that is most important, urgent, and ready for auditing. For the agile audit to be conducted effectively and produce the desired results, auditors and stakeholders must be able to set expectations clearly, define the level of assurance needed, and determine the risks that need attention. The reports of these audits focus more on the insights they provide rather than documenting the audit process.
The methodology involves:
- Large audit projects are broken down into shorter, more manageable phases called ‘sprints’.
- A time period of 1 to 4 weeks is fixed and the agenda for the audit is detailed to include the following steps:
- Creating a plan of action
- Undertaking the fieldwork
- Reviewing the findings
- Proceeding to the next sprint
Once the sprints are completed as specified, the findings will be reported by the teams and the audit wrapped up.
After completing the fieldwork, the review should focus on analyzing the findings to provide real-time insights after every sprint.
One of the key differences between the traditional and the agile methodologies is that the latter is cyclical and the findings of each sprint can be the basis for the next sprint.
Agile audits also empower the auditors to make quick decisions, improve team learning and effectiveness, increase collaboration, drive innovation, and strengthen quality.
Make audits a hassle-free experience by being prepared and using the right digital tools. Our blog on Improving Audit Management Efficiency explains how.
Agile Audit Best Practices
To ensure the effectiveness of agile audits, some of the best practices include:
- Incorporate Short-term Planning: While there is no gainsaying the value of having a long-term vision, having a short-term gameplan that drives the organization toward achieving its overarching goals is critical. Agile auditing enables faster responses to evolving business scenarios and solves problems quickly to keep the organization agile and efficient. Design short sprints with clearly defined objectives and goals and review if your needs are being met as intended.
- Have Stand-up Meetings: Meet briefly but often to plan future sprints and review the completed ones, discuss challenges and findings, successes and failures to course correct.
- Use Visualization Tools: Tools such as Scrum and Kanban boards will help plan and manage the sprints, determine hurdles, and provide better visibility into the audit process to improve its effectiveness.
- Set Clear Communication Rules: As there is close collaboration between stakeholders and auditors, clear communication protocols must be established for visibility and clarity.
- Track and Monitor: Establish metrics at the outset and track progress at the outset to ensure that the agile audits are indeed delivering on the promise. This can help with continuous improvement.
Find out how digital solutions can improve your audit management process by watching our demo video: Digitally Transform Your Audit Management Process
Automating Agile Audits with ComplianceQuest
Agile auditing is an involved process with collaboration at the core of it. It requires planning, multiple sprints, a correspondingly high number of reviews and reporting, communication, visibility into the process, tracking and monitoring, and so on. Automating the workflows will make the process more transparent and efficient. It will reduce the risk of errors while allowing the stakeholders to collaborate more efficiently.
A cloud-based audit solution such ComplianceQuest enables businesses to manage the entire audit workflow on one platform. It facilitates the building of a flexible, scalable, and configurable audit management workflow based on the specific needs of your organization. You can automate a rapid audit process or configure workflows for complex audits.
Audit sprints can be planned easily with a calendar view that allows managers to create, schedule, and manage different types of audits all in one place. CQ simplifies collaboration between stakeholders and provides data to identify gaps, take corrective action, improve change management, and achieve the expected results. It is also integrated with document and risk management which will improve the agile audit process by providing the required tools to report, review, and manage findings.
The findings can be shared with the stakeholders from within the system to enable timely action and continuous improvement while ensuring compliance.
Some of the key new features in our audit management solution are
- The ability to submit more than one response to an audit finding
- The CQ Audit Management solution automatically assigns the number of days to respond to an audit finding – with the help of our AI capabilities
- Custom settings are available to route all ‘Responses’ to ‘Finding’ for Auditor’s Approval
- Has the ability to track External Response for Internal/Customer/Supplier Findings