How To Get The Most Out Of Your Internal Audit

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Effective Auditing For Your Business

Internal audits are a great opportunity to evaluate and improve your business-critical processes. This effective quality management tool works to clarify what is working well within an organisation and identify areas that require improvement.

Why Perform An Internal Audit?

An internal audit is an assessment or inspection that is conducted within an organisation in order to help determine how efficiently its processes and procedures are performing. Internal audits as the name suggests are carried out internally by one or more suitable employees within the organisation and require a structured, disciplined and systematic approach. When done correctly an internal audit can be extremely beneficial for the business, staff, shareholders and customers for several reasons such as;

  • They can help organisations to identify small yet effective changes that can be made to save time, money, and effort.
  • The insights generated by an internal audits provide tangible opportunities for improvement in key areas of the business.
  • Internal audits serve as an additional quality control step which means that you will be able to pinpoint the root cause of any strategic or operational issues quickly and easily.
  • Conducting regular internal audits clearly demonstrates to employees and the outside world that your organisation takes issues seriously and in the case of ISO internal systems audits things such as – health, safety, quality, security and the environment.

 Tips For A Successful Internal Audit

To begin with, in order to properly conduct an internal audit the following will need to be decided;

  • Who is the nominated person or persons who will conduct the audit?
  • When will the audit be carried out?
  • What will the nominated person audit?
  • Who will the audit results be reported to?
  • How will you ensure that the necessary corrective actions are put in place?
  • Set Clear Goals

The clearer your goals are from the start about what you want to achieve the easier it is to create an effective audit plan and having smart, precise and achievable goals in place will help you to get the most out of your internal audit. As the auditor you will need to ask yourself the following questions;

  • What do we need to do?
  • Why are we doing an internal audit?
  • Are there any complex processes or procedures that should be divided up and individually audited?
  • Are we looking to cut costs, improve processes or mitigate risks?
  • Are there any areas with a history of problems or issues that could require more frequent or detailed checks?
  • Gain The Support You Need

Internal auditing isn’t always something that is welcomed within organisations from all employees and it can be difficult to make the benefits of carrying out such audits clear to everyone. Carrying out a successful audit is much easier when you have the support of employees throughout all levels of the organisation so be sure to make the reasons behind it and the benefits known to them.

  • Choosing Your Auditing Team

Most internal audits are carried out by an individual who has no conflicts of interest meaning that they have no direct responsibility or vested interest in the work or areas being audited. For smaller organisations this isn’t always possible so will require a degree of forethought but for much larger businesses it could be a good idea to select one auditor for each department to audit another department that is not their own.

The auditors themselves will not require any specialist knowledge of the process they need to audit but they must understand what the auditing process itself involves and be able to make an accurate judgement on whether the documented processes are being followed correctly.

Be sure to pick individuals who are diplomatic, observant, ethical, open-minded and decisive who are also capable of producing the relevant evidence documentation for the audit.

  • Focus On Asking The Right Questions

In order to successfully carry out an internal audit you need to take this opportunity to ask the right questions. Some examples could include:

  • What are our current processes and procedures?
  • From start to finish – how are they running?
  • Where are the main issues, obstructions, risks or problem areas?
  • What is being done to achieve production objectives that have been set?
  • How are agreements that have been made about processes being monitored and safeguarded?
  • Have we provided any instructions relating to operational processes to ensure that they proceed according to plan?
  • According to employees what is working well and what could be improved?
  • Accurately Record And Document Findings

An important part of the Internal Audit process is to record and present the results accurately and precisely to ensure that any relevant documents are maintained correctly.

There are three key parts to audit records and documentation:

  • Non-conformities: Individual problems that have been found during the audit.
  • Follow-up actions: Any corrective or preventative actions that arise during an audit will need to be completed by the agreed date and verified. In cases where this has not been achieved it might be necessary to give an extension or make changes to the corrective action.

Summary report: The summary report will contain your findings from the audit and confirm what you found and the actions that are needed to address those issues. This report will be crucial in future management review meetings to help identify recurring issues as well as opportunities to improve processes and procedures within the business and drive continual improvement.

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