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IAF/ILAC/ISO Survey Shows Significant Benefits of ‘Remote Techniques’ and Tangible Desire for the Adoption of Remote and New Technologies

Marcus Long
Chair, IAF/ILAC/ISO Joint Strategic Group Remote Survey Task Force

Summary

  • Survey of 4350 beneficiaries and deliverers of remote audits, assessments and evaluations
  • 79% of respondents would prefer to see blended (remote and on-site) or remote used in the future
  • 80% agreed or strongly agreed that remote audits provide as much confidence as on-site audits
  • 91.5% felt that increased use of remote techniques will provide stimulus to the use of new processes
  • 97.5% agree/somewhat agree that new technologies and alternative techniques should be used

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a substantial shift in how many organisations operate to not just keep delivering services and products, but to try and do so better.

Organisations involved in conformity assessment, such as certification and accreditation bodies and standards developers, have been at the sharp end of helping their customers to keep getting the vital conformity services they need, such as certification and accreditation.

This has caused certification and accreditation bodies to make a dramatic shift from on-site to remote techniques. Most of these remote techniques were not new, but were governed by many pre-existing rules and procedures. What the pandemic has done is to cause this seismic shift and to provide the toughest of challenges as to whether what certification and accreditation bodies have been doing has been effective.

To find this out, in July and August 2021, the global accreditation organisations IAF and ILAC, along with the standards development organisation ISO, carried out a survey on remote techniques. The survey sought feedback from a diverse range of individuals, including both those who were subject to remote audits, assessments and evaluations and those delivering them.

In total, 4350 complete responses were received, giving a huge sample of opinion on remote techniques. Most importantly, the survey received hundreds of suggestions, ideas and proposals from users, auditors, assessors and other people who have been subject to or delivered remote audits, assessments and evaluations.

IAF, ILAC and ISO will be using this information to learn, improve and take forward remote techniques to deliver even more benefits from certification and accreditation. In addition, the three organisations will share the results and comments with all their members so the above benefits are not just made from the way IAF, ILAC and ISO respond to the survey but also their members, such as certification and accreditation bodies, all drive the positive change.

Key findings

  • Assuming no further pandemic restrictions, 60% say they would prefer a blended audit/assessment/evaluation. 19% prefer fully remote and 21% prefer on-site.
  • Building on the idea of future delivery, when asked to what extent organisations can benefit from remote techniques, 33% felt to a great extent, 57% to some extent, 8% not much and just 1% none.
  • This strong positive view of remote techniques in the future was built on the experiences respondents have had of remote: 71% were satisfied with their remote experience, 26% somewhat satisfied and just 4% dissatisfied.
  • The main drivers for wanting more remote activities in the future are seen from what benefits respondents felt they got from remote activities:
    • Keeping certificate/accreditation/recognition status – 98% (felt remote was beneficial or somewhat beneficial)
    • Reduced travel time and costs – 96%
    • Reduced travel risk – 95%
    • Reduced environmental footprint – 95%
    • Efficient use of personnel being audited/assessed/evaluated – 87%
    • Opportunity for witness activities in one or more sites/facilities – 82.5%
    • Keeping to strict time/schedule of the audit/assessment/evaluation plan – 82%

With over 400 other comments just on the benefits, there are many other perceived benefits which can be built on to take remote audits/assessments/evaluations forward. With 37% of respondents stating that current rules (standards, IAF and ILAC procedures, etc.) should be modified from the lessons, there is great opportunity for IAF, ILAC, ISO and their members to learn and improve.

Lessons

There is plenty of opportunity to improve the remote experience. The majority (53%) of respondents felt to some extent that preparation was more difficult and time-consuming with remote techniques. It is also clear that robust internet connectivity and IT security are necessary to deliver both confidence and positive results with remote techniques.

With hundreds of comments from those with real experience, the survey has provided a unique source of ideas to making further improvements. This will help take forward ever better audits, assessments and evaluations.