By talking to customers and industry analysts over the years, I’ve come to find value in an effective field audit. Prevention is always better, accessible, cheaper, and safer than remediation.
I believe that a well-designed field audit program must support and achieve the following at a minimum.
• Data access. Provide immediate access to all field audit data at any level, across the extended enterprise (corporate, franchisees, suppliers, etc.).
• Audit database. Establish an audit database across all field locations to enable real-time and historical data analysis, trend analysis, and root cause analysis on inventory losses, as well as safety and quality incidents. Everyone needs to be able to view this.
• Data automation. Automate and streamline field audit data management processes to minimize errors. Everything you can automate, the better. Anything you leave to your memory will be forgotten at times.
• Effective distribution. Enable field auditors to distribute their findings to managers and executives in a swift and easy manner. Too many times, I’ve seen field auditors conduct their audits, but then where do they go? They generally go to the safety director or personnel at corporate and that’s where it stops – there’s no corrective action put in place.
• Interactive review processes. Allow field auditors to review audit scores interactively with personnel and help raise these scores through training and continuous improvement programs. As you’re out conducting an audit, you should share that information with the crew or whatever entity you’re auditing. Share that information with them so they have real-time visibility of how they’re performing. You, as an auditor, are the first line of defense.
• Next-generation mobile auditing. Laptop or desktop systems can be cumbersome tools for field auditors who often must move around in places with intermittent or no network connectivity. As a result, organizations are increasingly adopting offline and mobile auditing solutions that enable auditors to conduct fieldwork on the go, without having to re-enter their data when they return to the office.
Four Recommendations for your Field Audit
A well-designed field audit can provide a wealth of insights to strengthen business performance in organizations. However, each audit is only as good as the processes, people, and technology involved.
1.Automation and integration. Save time and costs by finding a way to automate your field audit workflows. Auditors should ideally be free to focus on important processes such as analyses of findings and issues, rather than tiresome data entry and formatting tasks. Integration of field audits with other processes in the audit lifecycle is also important.
2.Mobility. Mobile audits simplify and expedite audit processes and fieldwork by doing away with papers and spreadsheets. Field auditors have the flexibility to enter data anytime and anywhere, while also capturing images and videos via camera enabled tablets.
3.Real-time visibility. Maintaining all audit work papers in a single point of reference makes it easy and convenient for field auditors to manage, store, access, download, and assign these documents.
4.Agility, adaptability, and auditability. A well-designed audit program must be auditable to ensure that the program is running as you expect. Agility and adaptability are other critical factors. Implement audit methodologies and systems that can adapt to, evolve, and scale up with your business processes and objectives.
At a time when businesses are rapidly expanding and new risks and compliance requirements are constantly emerging, it is critical to get real-time, on-the-ground insights into your operations.