IAF Members' news

From Remote to Transformative Technology Techniques

Marcus Long

The COVID-19 pandemic saw a dramatic shift in the assurance world, as certification bodies and accreditation bodies reacted swiftly. This meant an almost complete shift from face-to-face on-site activity to the use of remote techniques.

The shift aimed to do two key things: firstly to manage the health and well-being of all those involved in audits, assessment and evaluations. Secondly, to robustly maintain the status of the certifications and accreditations.

This change maintained the certificates of hundreds of thousands of sites, ensuring organisations were kept up-to-date with their performance based on the standards they work to and vitally ensured the safety of all those involved in the audit and certification process.

The success of this response was based on two core strengths. Firstly, the accreditation and certification community was well prepared for such an event. In the case of IAF, two documents were vital in this preparation: IAF ID 3: Informative Document for Management of Extraordinary Events or Circumstances Affecting ABs, CABs and Certified Organizations and IAF MD 4: IAF Mandatory Document for the Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Auditing/Assessment Purposes. Secondly, the huge effort from accreditation bodies, certification bodies and others to make the new way of working successful. This meant not just getting what they do right but making sure all their stakeholders came on the journey and accepted the change.

The universal acceptance of this change was seen by the survey carried out by IAF, the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2021. The survey supported a highly successful mobilisation of a new way of auditing, assessing, and evaluating. But vitally for the future, it was a couple of underlying matters that are perhaps far more significant. In particular, two points:

  • The positive manner in which those being audited have taken to remote auditing makes it very clear that they are open to change based on technology and new ways of working.
  • Organisations such as certification bodies are embracing new techniques and ideas for auditing to take assurance services further in the value and benefits it offers.

To demonstrate this, the Independent International Organisation for Certification (IIOC) has produced a paper exploring ‘Transformative technology techniques‘ which ‘enable Assurance Services to meet evolving industry needs’.

In this paper, IIOC showcases two key elements:

  1. What its members do to deliver remote auditing.
  2. How IIOC members have pushed further forward with the development and use of new technologies and techniques.

Embracing the positivity of remote techniques will enable a smoother introduction of other new techniques as organisations such as IIOC members push auditing and certification forward. Future assurance will use data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, internet of things (IoT) devices and other technologies to provide organisations with real-time predictive and continuous assurance. Every new method of providing assurance services needs to be acceptable not only to the customers who rely on it, but to all other stakeholders, including the regulators, and the accreditation bodies, that govern and enforce their use.

Working together for acceptance is one of the key steps, requiring open and constructive dialogue across the conformity assessment community and all stakeholders.

Remote is the first step, the next steps will provide an exciting leap forward.

The paper can be downloaded here to find out more about how the next step in assurance services is happening now.

Categories: IAF Members' news