Tools and processes are important when creating an effective compliance management program. Reliable, consistent outcomes drive confidence in the compliance system and in the methodologies and procedures implemented by the business.
The purpose of this article is to provide the steps you need to follow when creating your compliance system to ensure the design of the program determines the outcomes, rather than individual interpretation of observations and evidence.
The five steps to a compliance management program that delivers consistent outcomes are:
- Mobile tools
- Access to standardised commentary
- Guidance notes and materials
- Report templates
The methodology should describe the way the audit is performed. For example, you may require the auditor to take a walk around the location before starting the audit process, to see first hand operations as they are happening. Keen observations made during this walk around are invaluable during the actual audit. Either way, the formal audit process should be clearly defined and documented, and followed by every member of the audit team. Methodology is the baseline for consistency.
2. Mobile Tools
Compliance auditing frequently involves working away from an office environment or desktop PC while on site. These days there are a range of mobile tools on the market, such as Compliance Checkpoint, which allow the questionnaire to be set up and stored in a library for future use. Tablet and other smart devices are used to conduct the audit, record responses and observations, raise corrective actions, and prepare audit reports, in real time. The advantage, apart from making the audit more efficient, is that audit data is collected only once, and is available in digital form for instant reporting and analysis. This drives down compliance costs and promotes consistency as everyone is using the identical system and audit process.
3. Access To Standardised Commentary
Usually, the most time consuming part of the audit process is recording observations and comments. Compiling a list of commonly used words and phrases to describe what was observed, as well as typical auditor comments, for each question in the checklist will help to speed up the process and ensure consistency. Choose a technology solution that enables you to set up this text library and map individual items to specific audit questions.
4. Guidance Notes and Materials
Comprehensive notes and materials provide guidance for the auditor to help with: which documents and records to examine for evidence, indicators of good and poor compliance, reference samples, and explanatory notes on the underlying regulation or other compliance requirements.
Guidance notes also help the auditee achieve compliance and ongoing improvement, such as; links to training resources, images, videos and “how-to” guides. Your audit technology must allow you to provide unique help and guidance for every question.
5. Report Templates
Start by clearly defining the information you need out of the compliance audit system.
Reports and their content, should be tailored to the people who will be receiving the reports, and provide easy to read guidance, charts and a clear indication of issues for improvement that have been identified. Your process should enable a variety of report layouts, content and formatting to be established.
Ideally, this should be done at the beginning as it will help shape the system, the setup of your audit questionnaires, issue categorisation, methodologies, scoring mechanisms and a range of other building blocks. If you get these wrong it will be a complex task to re-configure the system, and the more history you have the more difficult it will be to rectify later.