Registration bodies face a dilemma. As they audit public and private organisations against a range of management system standards, they are constrained by the protocols within which they operate.
People carrying out the audits on behalf of those bodies will either attend site in person, or utilize technology to a limited degree. The consequence is low margin, high volume work and poor customer service. In short, the industry is stuck using 20th century techniques in a 21st century marketplace.
Delivering positive results around compliance requires the gathering of evidence that what has taken place is in line with a predetermined set of requirements. It is a systematic method, an attempt to measure what’s actually going on in the day-to-day world of businesses, establishing evidence which identifies compliance and non-conformities, and heading off risks. Often the sample size involves a small percentage of people in the organisation. It implies a situation as if people are pre-programmed robots all operating in a certain way – maybe a document, policy, picture, map etc of what is perceived to be real. Useful, but not the reality that delivers compliance and results.
Organisations are systemic, they are social entities with managers and staff interacting with each other at a level of complexity beyond the human (say an auditor) to fully understand what is really happening as they conduct their everyday business.
So the dilemma is this: do registration bodies continue to measure as they always have done, or do they embrace the methods available now to improve how they operate, and provide better value for money and better service, and finally move away from the ‘sausage machine’ production line that is currently the norm. The easy option is to accept the status quo, to accept poor value as standard and continue the ‘tick box’ mentality as a passport to trade.
But the present way of operating is holding registration bodies back, and lies at root of why so many internal and third-party audit failures have taken place, such as PIP when breast implants were withdrawn after it was found they had been fraudulently manufactured with unapproved silicone gel and the registration body was taken to court. The reaction to any risk or failure in the case of PIP was more regulation, more documents, and requirements.
This dilemma brings into sharp relief the role of the auditor, the observer of what is happening. Auditors are human beings and like all of us, see things from their own perspective. Their in-built inability to fully understand the complexity of how businesses operate and the millions of nuances within them reduces the ability to identify compliance and effectiveness risks. This lowers audit effectiveness, consistency and value from the investment made in internal auditing and the third-party certification.
At DeepFathom, we understand this practical dynamic. We remove the auditor – or at least position them as a value add, looking at the systematic elements and interpreting data for management reporting. We also focus on collecting evidence from the people who have the real world business experience of the ‘fact’ of reality which greatly widens the number of people sampled or involved in the audit in a truly confidential environment. Using an online platform, we can gather qualitative data from multiple people simultaneously and then quantify this to produce benchmarked information against what managers are seeking to manage and compliance requirements at the same time.
The approach we have developed has a number of benefits – it reduces costs and overheads, is more confidential, increases the value of reports and sample sizes are larger, and highlights where risk to compliance and effectiveness exists (think PIP). In the short term, this will require registration bodies to adapt some of their practices but still stay within the accreditation rules, but in the longer term it addresses the dilemma of which way to go. By moving to the online approach, you can genuinely improve management information based on risk and effectiveness, increase the value you bring and bring down internal and external costs.