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Oscar Combs

Risk Management

Remote Auditing Saves Time, Money... and Keeps Your Distance

Remote consulting, auditing, and training here to stay

Published: Monday, April 13, 2020 - 11:02

With the emergence of the coronavirus (Covid-19), many organizations are doing their part to prevent the spread of infection by practicing social distancing. Some organizations have implemented no-visitor policies, which helps prevent the spread of the disease, but is not so good when it comes to receiving services from their suppliers, which may require onsite interaction.

This is especially true for consulting, auditing, and training services, which are typically performed by onsite visits. Traditionally, organizations have been reluctant to have these services delivered remotely using web conferencing technology, but Covid-19 has thrust remote service delivery into the forefront. This article will explain the benefits of using technology, such as web conferencing, to have consulting, auditing, and training services delivered remotely to your organization.

What is remote service delivery?

Remote service delivery provides services through a web conference platform, typically conducted through the internet.

There are many web conferencing platforms that organizations use to deliver their services remotely, such as GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, Zoom, WebEx, and Skype. With the ability to use web cameras for video, microphones or telephones for audio, and screen sharing, remote service delivery has become more acceptable and effective for organizations.

Most web conferencing services offer the ability to download the application to a desktop computer or mobile phone, for even more flexibility. This allows consulting, auditing, and training services to be offered just as if a consultant was onsite at your organization.

Why companies have been traditionally reluctant

Most of us prefer in-person interaction. There’s just something about shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eye that makes us feel secure and focused on the interaction. But to help prevent the spread of the disease, most people don’t want to shake hands. And to be honest, looking someone in the eyes and shaking their hand doesn’t make them more trustworthy or knowledgeable. It just makes us feel more comfortable.

At the same time, many of us are a bit reluctant to deal with someone who’s behind a computer screen—especially when it comes to our consultants, auditors, and trainers. We want to see who is talking to us. With the use of a web camera, web conferencing allows you to look straight into the eyes of those people.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), issued ISO 19011:2018—“Guidelines for auditing management systems,” which is a standard that all first-party, second-party, and third-party auditors use globally. ISO 19011 recognizes the use of remote audit activities and establishes guidelines and requirements when conducting audits remotely. Although an accepted practice, many organizations feel that audits must be conducted onsite. How can an auditor conduct an audit thoroughly without talking to employees, walking the floor, or reviewing records? This is where the use of the web camera, screen sharing, and audio features come into play.

The game changer here is really the ability to download the application to the auditee’s mobile phone. The auditee is asked to download the web conferencing application onto their mobile phone, which allows the auditor to become mobile and view the auditee’s facility through the web camera of that person’s mobile phone. The auditor is even able to look at equipment close up, interview employees, go into offices of other departments, and even see the overall working environment of the operation during the audit.

What about the documents that the auditor must review for objective evidence? That’s possible through the power of screen sharing. The auditee is able to share his screen, which allows the auditor to review records thoroughly, or records can be uploaded to a secure folder. The auditor is even able to take a picture of the screen to capture objective evidence. Although the auditor is operating remotely, the auditee is able to take the auditor through the entire organization with the use of technology. It’s like having your auditor in the palm of your hand.

Many adults still feel like they need to be in the classroom or have a trainer come onsite to the facility, so that personnel can see the instructor, interact with other learners, and ask questions. Web conferencing platforms allow all attendees to turn on their web cameras and see each other, including the instructor. Attendees are even able to ask questions, just as if they were in the class by using their microphone or the chat feature. Training material can be provided digitally for students or shipped directly.

As of March 25, 2020, there are more than 30 million students throughout the United States who are out of school due to Covid-19. To continue delivering instruction to students, schools and universities have turned to web conferencing. There is no reason why the consulting, auditing, and training industry can’t do the same.

Financial benefits

Covid-19 has shown the importance and validity of attending training remotely. There are also many financial benefits organizations should consider.

The ISO 9001 Group has been delivering consulting and training services remotely since March 4, 2011, and conducted its first remote audit on Jan. 11, 2018. We have been delivering services remotely at some level for more than nine years and have perfected its use to improve efficiency and reduce costs for our clients. There are several primary benefits of delivering services remotely.

One of the primary benefits is the reduction of risk for all parties involved. When a consultant, auditor, trainer, and even your employees travel, it increases risk for them and the organization. These risks may include car accidents, plane crashes, injuries, and exposure to chemicals and disease. These risks are drastically reduced with remote service delivery.

In addition to risk elimination, there are many time and cost benefits of remote service delivery. We have been able to eliminate travel expenses such as flights, hotels, meals, parking, and rental cars for our clients. Just imagine if your organization needs to send 10 employees to training. The travel expenses alone, not including the cost of the course, could conservatively exceed $15,000. With remote training these same employees can attend training from their home or office. Also consider the time these individuals would save traveling back and forth to training.

What about conducting consulting or auditing services remotely? Typically, an auditor must travel onsite for these services. If local, the auditor may have to travel up to four hours to conduct a two-day audit, estimated at one hour traveling back and forth over a two-day period. With remote audits, the cost savings can be passed along to the client. The same is true if the auditor had to fly to the client site to conduct the audit. All the time and cost associated with flying to the client’s site is eliminated. Conducting the audit remotely could save a client $3,000 or more just in travel time, flights, hotel, rental car, fuel, parking, and per diem.

Usually when consultants, auditors, or trainers come onsite, organizations provide food and beverage. The time and cost associated with organizing meals for employees or auditors to attend training can be expensive and time-consuming. Often after the onsite training course, the organization ends up throwing much of the food away. With remote service delivery, all of these expenditures and time are eliminated.

Conclusion

This period of time dealing with Covid-19 has demonstrated how technology allows us to have personal interactions while reducing undesired risks. We are in the 21st century, and remote service delivery is here to stay. If used properly it can assist organizations to operate more profitably and efficiently.

Discuss

About The Author

Oscar Combs’s picture

Oscar Combs

Oscar Combs is President and Senior Consultant of The ISO 9001 Group, a management consulting, auditing and training firm based in Houston, Texas. Oscar has over 25 years of experience working with management systems. Oscar has worked with clients throughout North America, South America, Europe, The Middle East, Asia and Africa helping companies manage risk and improve their business operations. He holds an MBA from the University of Houston. He is certified by Exemplar Global as a Principal Management Consultant and Lead Auditor. Oscar is also a Senior Member of the American Society for Quality and has served as the Programs Committee Chair for ASQ’s Houston Chapter 1405.