Using technology for more efficient, more effective auditing

Technology these days is moving at a lightning pace

There are new avenues for communication; education and management being developed before we often even begin to understand current technologies. We used to be educated off blackboards and write notes on paper with a pen. We used to call people on payphones. Having a mobile phone was a luxury and texting was reserved for people you didn’t want to talk to. Nowadays, hand writing is becoming obsolete and you rarely use a phone to talk to someone. Instead you might use FaceTime, Skype, Viber, Messenger, Whatsapp, facebook, Snapchat and whatever else might be the next big thing.

The iPad’s great, great grandfather

Evolution in technology has changed the way we work. Early in my career, we would collect information (whether it was for a survey, an audit or for verification) by taking notes on paper and taking pictures using a camera. A few years into my career, I worked with a tech savvy Geographic Information System (GIS) consultant who had other ideas (most of the GIS people I have met are techno-geeks and generally full of great ideas when it comes to collecting and analyzing data).

This particular colleague, was intent on driving the implementation of the “ruggedized PC” for field studies. The “ruggedized PC” (see figure below) when linked via Bluetooth with an equally “rugged” GPS camera was going to revolutionize the way we collected data.

Today it could be considered the iPad’s great, great grandfather. It was ahead of its time, but it was a bigger, heavier, slower and more expensive version of the iPad we know and love today.

RuggedPCGPScamera

I was converted, the thought of using this piece of technology to collect data was too exciting to pass up. The opportunities seemed endless, we were using this to undertake creek surveys but I was already thinking about how it could be applied on property surveys, corporate sustainability reporting and environmental risk audits.

However, back then, it was a nightmare:

  • Easy to download “apps” had not been invented and we had to develop the database for the surveys from scratch
  • Battery life was also an issue and
  • Our great, great grandfather of iPads was heavy and more cumbersome than the simple pen and paper.

Unfortunately, the tech savvy consultant eventually moved on and with no one driving it, the whole initiative was dropped. The idea was ahead of its time and now technology has caught up to the innovative thinking with the popularisation of tablets like the iPad.

The future is here – Paperless auditing

Australia is one of the most Smart Phone intensive countries in the world. Most companies in Australia are using smartphones and tablets to drive business efficiencies. New tools and applications for existing tools are evolving on a daily basis. Companies are moving toward a paperless, technology based future.

As professionals working in environmental management and sustainability, we strive to find efficiencies in systems that reduce energy use and impact. Technology has a big part to play in the ability to adapt in an ever changing world. Even in a traditional service area such as environmental auditing, the smartphone and tablets can provide opportunities to collect, analyse and communicate information more efficiently and effectively.

The traditional auditing processes involves a third party auditor outlining how a property or asset stacks up against relevant environmental laws, permits and company standards. A typical output would be a daunting paper report of which the majority would be background information and a table of corrective actions for someone to complete. This report might typically sit on a shelf for 11months of the year until just before the follow up audit when the corrective actions might be completed.

Just like the blackboard in the classroom, this paper report technology could be considered dated. Electronic auditing provides a streamlined approach that is aligned to many other business technologies. Using of e-mail or even social media to alert, inform and educate asset managers around environmental improvement and corrective actions is more relevant today than receiving a paper report. For environment and sustainability managers, an electronic platform provides higher accuracies for auditing results and the ability to track and benchmark asset performance to highlight areas that need more focus rather than undertaking a portfolio wide approach.

Some forward thinking companies have adopted this mobile and digital approach to auditing. They are realizing the benefits through:

  • Real time tracking and benchmarking performance,
  • Better communication by pushing corrective actions through commonly used mediums
  • Integration of audit results with other business systems
  • Increased efficiencies from less manual processing, analysis and overheads

Edge Environment can help you implement an electronic auditing process and system as part of our environmental risk management and due diligence service offering. For more information, please contact one of our team.

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