Two weeks ago I published the first article of this three-part series, Six Tips for Effective Internal Audit Program Management, in which I covered the importance of clarifying purpose and maintaining resources.
Last week I published part two which covers the importance of strengthening your auditors and using consistent methods to keep an effective audit program as your management system.
In this blog post, I reveal tips 5 and 6 to managing an effective internal audit program – scheduling audits to address business needs and improving your program through internal customer feedback.
5. Schedule to Address Business Needs
Some certification body auditors expect every process to be audited at least once a year, but ISO 9001 and TL 9000 just require the audit program
- to consider the status and importance of the processes and areas to be audited
- audit at planned intervals, and
- verify conformance and effectiveness.
Annual audits of some processes may be too seldom or too frequent; instead, business needs should dictate the intervals, which will probably vary across locations, departments, and processes.
The DESARA Group suggests that audit program managers allocate about 2/3 of the available auditor resources to performing scheduled audits of key processes at convenient times throughout the year. This would include thoroughly auditing processes that most directly affect customers (e.g. production, order management, customer support) and those with a high risk to the business (e.g., new product introduction, product design). Each quarter, plan to use a portion of the remaining 1/3 of audit resources to focus on high risk areas such as those that have had significant changes or those that are at risk of not reaching business objectives. Make sure that some of your strongest auditors have time in their schedules to respond to these sorts of special needs.
6. Sharpen the Program
The internal audit program can be thought of like any other business process in that it has:
- suppliers and inputs
- customers and outputs
- competent people with training needs
- documented procedures and records
- objectives and process metrics
Unlike production and other key processes that have clear, measurable objectives and process measures, the internal audit program can seem hard to evaluate. Some of the things that can be measured, like the number of non-conformities, tell us very little about the effectiveness of the program. What, then, should be evaluated?
The value of the audit program is determined by the managers who rely on the results. Would those managers be willing to pay for the services they get from the audit team? If you, as an audit program manager, are not sure, consider evaluating the program from your internal customers’ perspective. Create a list of ten or so satisfaction points and assess the program yourself and with your auditors. Get feedback from the management team. Decide what, if anything, needs to change and put a plan in place to make those changes.
Look also at the value of the audit program from the perspective of the internal audit team. If they are happy with the way things work and the benefits they get from participating, they will stay involved and build skills over the years. Identify the points of satisfaction for the auditors and make an honest assessment together, then use the feedback to strengthen the program.
Effective Audit Program Management
As an audit program manager, you have a valuable role in providing actionable information to management while keeping organizational attention on the importance of maintaining a strong quality management system. Your auditors count on you to provide the resources they need, to help them develop skills, and to ensure that the audit program itself makes effective use of their time. Through focusing on the purpose of the program and monitoring the results and feedback from both business managers and auditors, you can ensure that audits positively impact the business as a whole.
If this is something you’re looking to implement but are struggling to find the time, drop me a note or simply go old school and give me a call – (631) 909-3570 – to learn how The DESARA Group help!