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March 17th, 2017

5 Red Flags That Excel Checklists Are Holding Your Audits Back

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Many companies are reluctant to embrace a change in auditing technology. Current methods may be working okay. Or perhaps companies are worried about pouring time and money into onboarding a new solution. “The old standbys of paper checklists, Excel spreadsheets and PDFs may not be fancy,” these companies reason, “but they get the job done.” When companies settle for piece-meal solutions, they miss the substantial benefits of digitized audits.

Employees are complaining about admin overhead

The last thing you want is to create a barrier for your employees to conduct the audits. Those audits uphold your quality and safety standards. Ironically, many employees see new auditing technologies as a burden, simply because they’re something new and different. However, the result of  auditing technology is actually a significant decrease in those time-consuming tasks.

Adding notes and pictures to a paper audit frequently require someone to scan, upload and email out those attachments. Then you need someone else in the office to manually enter the results of the audit into an Excel spreadsheet. It creates an incredible amount of unnecessary labor and a gap in communication time. With a more integrated auditing system, you can add those photos and notes directly into the digital audit, and send it off automatically. When employers reduce this friction in auditing, employees have a much easier time not only completing the necessary checks, but communicating any issues to superiors or clients.

Your analytics aren’t integrated into your auditing system

If you’re still exporting information to Excel, or worse, manually entering data, it’s time for an upgrade. Each document by itself communicates basic information like compliance or non-compliance. However, leverage the collective knowledge of your organization requires looking for trends across multiple audits. A higher-level view also allows you to identify process issues. You could uncover areas where employees need more support or information. For example, a client of SafetyCulture realized that in their grocery stores, many of the marketing materials were out of date. Rather than the store ignoring new signage, the issue was that the home office hadn’t shipped the materials early enough. This company now ships all marketing materials a bit earlier to ensure stores receive and display them at the appropriate time.

You spend too much time tracking down old files

Whether you’re trying to do something as simple as referencing an outstanding issue or something more formal like trying to be OSHA-ready, you don’t want to be spending time looking through digital or physical files. Store digital audits in a centralized location where you can easily find what you’re looking for with a quick date-based or template-based search. Make sure you can segment these audits by location, area of emphasis or auditor as well. When someone needs to see the site safety records for Q2 of last year, the last thing you want to be doing is digging through a filing cabinet trying to decipher smudged writing to answer a simple question. A little upfront investment in proper audit organization and digitization will pay off down the road.

Your company is primed for a growth spurt

If your company is growing in the number of projects you’re taking on, or in the number of employees coming on board, there’s no better time to implement a new auditing technology solution. Many employees, especially of the younger generation, have come to expect more technologically savvy solutions. We no longer have to equate “technologically savvy” with “complex” or “difficult to use”. You can find robust auditing tools on the market that are still easy to use and that your workforce can get up and running quickly.

One issue many companies see with quick scaling is decreased communication and visibility from each site. Mobile technology is a perfect solution to that problem. Conducting audits on a mobile device allows employees on site to show via photos or notes exactly what is happening at any given time on a site. They can also automatically send off reports from the field to key stakeholders. Avoid data entry and compiling a report back at the office. 

By the time you get the audits, they’re no longer relevant

The most important efficiency gain with digital audits reaches is when communication becomes instant. With paper-based audits, or even emailed Excel templates or PDFs, audits can take hours or days to get back to the relevant parties. Auditors in the field have to go back to their offices to attach photos or add extra information. With a digital auditing solution, you include all of that information in the report. Then you can set these reports to email automatically to clients, supervisors or analysts for real-time communication. If hours or days go by before you receive a site audit, you forfeit your ability to be proactive. Nearly every employee on-site has a mobile device. On that device they can conduct audits and send digital reports in real-time. There’s no excuse for information lags anymore.

The simple fact is that many businesses, large and small, rely on manual data entry, paper-based forms, or ad-hoc solutions. Hanging on to these old methods puts the businesses at a disadvantage because these inefficiencies take too much time. Worse, you miss out on a holistic view of the organization. With an integrated auditing system, you can discern safety and quality trends at every location, in every process.

As you plan for what comes next in a post-crisis world, take some time to assess your processes. If these 5 red flags are holding your organization back, use these free checklists to get started with digital processes to get you safely back to business.

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