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Preparing for a Painless Audit

January 10, 2020 by Erin Wright

By Erin Wright

Audits can provide useful feedback for improvement, and implementing digital tools could ease—and perhaps hasten—such visits.

If you’ve ever been involved with an audit, odds are you know what true terror feels like. Just hearing the word “audit” seems to increase anxiety and the need for Tylenol. And when an organization is preparing for an audit, it can put the entire company on edge. It doesn’t have to be like this, though. With proper preparation and the correct tools, companies can take their audits from stressful to useful.

The audit process varies depending on its purpose and who’s conducting it. Fortunately, while there are differences across companies and industries, there are some overarching principles that make audits a smoother process. Putting your organization into an audit-ready state, being fully prepared to host the audit, and preparing appropriate remediation plans can make the audit more pleasant for everyone involved.


The time you receive notice that you’re being audited is not the right time to start preparing for one. It’s true that there are additional steps you should take between notification and the audit itself, but putting your company into an audit-ready state has to be a constant effort in order for it to pay off. Efforts should start with standardizing your audit processes and making sure that everyone involved is trained on those processes. This includes training your subject matter experts (SMEs) on how to interact with the auditor. Getting comfortable with silence, answering only the questions asked, and knowing what information is within the scope of the audit are all essential.

Once you’ve prepared your people, you’ve got to prepare your documentation. The least headache-inducing way to do this is through an electronic system that tracks all documents and stores them in one, centralized location. If you’re still on paper, this becomes complicated. In general, periodically reviewing your documents and conducting mock audits are helpful practices, but they are essential when dealing with paper. They aren’t quite as efficient as operating in the audit-ready state that digitization makes possible, but they will still prepare your company.

When you’ve received word that an audit’s coming, the above steps will put you in a good position internally. But you can also take additional steps to start off on the right foot with the auditor. Providing some documents beforehand (e.g., your quality manual, training procedures, high-level organization chart, etc.) demonstrates transparency and lets you focus on resolving issues during the audit. Review the audit scope, and set expectations and limitations based on that. Even though you are the one being audited, you still have some control over when the audit will take place, its duration, how many auditors come, and what kind of access to documentation the auditors will have, as long as it’s not a regulatory audit.

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