What is Process Audits?
Process audits are a type of audit that assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of an organization’s processes, procedures, and systems. The purpose of a process audit is to identify any weaknesses or gaps in the processes and systems that may lead to errors, inefficiencies, or non-compliance with regulations or standards.
Process audits typically involve a review of documentation, observation of processes in action, and interviews with personnel involved in the process. The auditor may also use checklists or other tools to assess the conformity of the processes with established standards or best practices.
The main objective of a process audit is to identify areas for improvement in the organization’s processes and systems. This may involve identifying opportunities to streamline processes, eliminate waste, reduce costs, and improve quality. Process audits also help organizations to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, industry standards, and internal policies and procedures.
To ensure that an organization can carry out its operations, organizational tasks or activities must be executed based on a system approach. In other words, the business activities of an organization must be conducted using a systems-dependent approach as opposed to a person-dependent approach.
For example, the IT industry is highly dynamic and requires resources to work in its ever-changing environment. Therefore, IT projects require a systems-based approach. A systems-based approach is primarily dependent on processes and formal documentation. This section deals with processes and the audit of processes. Let us first define what is meant by a process and an audit.
A process refers to a series of activities involved in converting an input into an output. For example, to develop software, the customer requirements form the initial inputs and these requirements are converted into the Voice of Customer. To execute a process, there must be a documented procedure that specifies how a particular work must be done to convert an input into an output.
Every process is based on the ETVX model wherein E stands for Entry, T stands for Task, V stands for Verification, and X stands for Exit. Entry signifies the stage when the process becomes applicable; task signifies what tasks are required to be completed using procedures; verification signifies determining whether the activities of the process have been checked and exit signifies the end of the process.
An audit refers to the process of determining the objective compliance of a process in converting an input into an output. An audit is always conducted based on a documented process that defines the procedure for conducting an audit. It is a formal process.
Conducting a Project Audit
Some points considered while conducting a project audit are:
- Each audit that is to be conducted in a Six Sigma project is planned using an audit schedule. The audit schedule is determined based on the stage of the project or based on the project timeline. The number and nature of audits are dependent on the duration and nature of the project.
- Every audit plan and schedule takes into consideration the project scope. This means that the limits of a project are taken into consideration while preparing its audit schedule. An audit schedule also takes into consideration the stage at which the project is.
For example, if a project has just taken off and is at the stage of requirements documentation and preparing the VOC, the scope of auditing includes only the Voice of Customer. Also, audits can be functional or non-functional. For example, the audit of requirements gathering is functional, whereas quality audit, HR audit, IT audit, etc. are non-functional audits.
- Every audit plan and its schedule take into consideration the relevant and applicable process directly or indirectly involved in the scope of the audit schedule. For example, the audit of requirements gathering and VOC must include examination of records about client meetings, implementation of corrective and preventive actions, etc.
- Every audit must be conducted by trained auditors. Usually, auditors are Green Belt certified or may have undergone some other auditing courses.
- During process audits, auditors make use of several tools such as checklists, forms, templates, procedures, several logs of the previous management review meetings, etc. Auditors are also required to verify the objective evidence. If a project uses metrics, auditors are required to validate these metrics.
- Process auditors must ensure that they understand their scope, their duty, and their roles and responsibilities as auditors. In addition, they must be aware of the decisions taken in the previous process audits.
- Auditors must document their findings and present the same in a proper format to the organization’s management.
- The findings of the auditors are compiled and the positive and negative findings are discussed. Thereafter, recommendations are made for improving various processes executed by the organization.
- An audit can be an internal audit or an external audit. An external audit is an audit that is performed by an external agency. For example, the audit done for ISO certification or CMMI assessment is an external audit, whereas an internal audit is carried out by persons who are working within the organization.
As a rule, internal auditors are not required to audit their project or their domain. They must be external to the domain whose audit they are required to conduct.