In 2021, we have taken a qualitative approach to understanding how the remote assurance and inspection process has worked in practice; the challenges being faced, and what the future might look like.
20 members of LRQA’s global audit and inspection team and 20 global customers were interviewed through May and June 2021, to understand how their experience of remote digital assurance has helped ensure business continuity and what this new future of blended service delivery may look like.
Here’s what we learned.
1. Our people and our customers have adapted quickly.
Whilst there was some initial uncertainty about how digital assurance would work, the vast majority reported that the experience has met or exceeded their expectations and is now simply a part of their regular assurance process.
That LRQA was already on the path towards digital assurance has been tremendously helpful - customers felt reassured, and there was a process and framework ready and waiting to be used. The LRQA Remote app helped customers feel that their information was safe and secure. Many recognised that LRQA was ahead of the curve in offering this service.
Digital assurance is now widely accepted as part of a hybrid delivery model.
2. The quality of the experience is high - but there are opportunities to improve further.
Overall, customers love the experience of digital assurance. However, the challenge is that there is no perfect standard of what should and can be done digitally, versus what needs to happen in person. It’s down to LRQA staff to work with their customers to develop a customised plan for the optimal mix of in-person and digital audits.
3. A clear set of benefits have emerged.
Since the pandemic began, many businesses have taken steps to become carbon neutral. Digital assurance enables LRQA to ensure that they are doing their part to support their customers in this mission.
For many - both customers and staff, there is one major benefit to digital audits: More time at home and an improvement of the work-life balance. Less travel has given people more time to do the things outside of work that matter to them.
There has also been a more streamlined service delivery, which has meant the process of assurance has become less disruptive to our customers, saving them time and money, through increased efficiency.
4. There's growing excitement at the potential still to come.
While the digital assurance process is still somewhat beholden to the skills of effective camera operators with steady hands, new and emerging technologies will make the process become increasingly easier. LRQA customers mentioned everything from continual monitoring, drones and robots, to VR technologies, to make the process more robust in the future.
Many also find the globality of the digital process exciting - not only are they now able to connect with LRQA experts around the world as part of the process, but they can conduct multi-site audits at locations in multiple countries from the comfort of their homes.
5. There's work still to do.
One challenge that we face as an industry is that some regulators are slow to adapt to rapid change. LRQA can play a role in working with them to demonstrate the level of detail that is possible in digital assurance, to help accelerate their acceptance.
We can build better frameworks, to help ensure both our staff and our customers are prepared and that the digital process is as efficient and effective as possible.
We can meet smaller challenges, like stabilising cameras to reduce motion sickness and ensuring we have a standard for camera resolution to make it easier on eyes and stomachs!
While we can’t control connectivity issues at remote sites, as technology evolves, with better 5G networks and greater broadband availability, we can embrace these improvements as part of our digital future.