Internal audits can be performed in so many different ways that it can become pretty tough to pick the best techniques for an internal audit. To name a few techniques: department based audit, employee based audit and clause based audits. Even though these techniques have their own unique advantages they all treat the processes in silo’s.
Most of these techniques make use of some sort of checklist to guide the auditor. This list allows the auditor to simply check whether or not evidence is present that the process is being followed. This is a good approach to check if the processes are followed but doesn’t say anything about the overall performance of the company with respect to the applicable norms.
This same techniques can be used to check compliance to certain standards. The compliance check is an important exercise and should definitely be performed at least once a year (depending on the frequency of changes of the different standards). However, for the company to gain insight in the added value of the processes it is important to also audits with respect to the interactions of them. This additional analysis shows the effectiveness of the process. Like when the required output from the sales process doesn’t align with the production process.
When the audits are ready, the most important activity is cross checking the outcome of those audits. The common denominator of the audits is one of the best input for improvement actions. A good example is when 8 out of 10 sales employees don’t follow a certain procedure. We would go over the procedure/process and that specific internal audit and perform a 5-why root cause analysis to see why all 8 employees break this procedure. When the root causes are clear and they are pretty similar for the entire workforce changes can be made to the procedure.
Internal audits are very important to check the effectiveness of the company but make sure they aren’t performed in separate silos and perform cross audit analysis to really gain insight into the effectiveness of the procedures. The second lesson is: apply a diversified audit strategy. Every audit technique has his own advantages. Make sure you use them all.