A month ago, I was writing about the future use of technology within auditing and assessing what this could look like.  I was reflecting on the futurist workshop I attended late in 2019, where participants talked about the range of incredible technological advances that had resulted in changes and increased productivity within the cotton, fishing and retail industries. 

At that workshop, I was aware that in my role as an auditor, I was not using technology anywhere near where these other industries were.  In fact, I recall saying I felt like I was a bit of a dinosaur compared to what I was hearing.  Not a dinosaur because of my age, but a dinosaur based on my limited knowledge of what technology could do to facilitate effective audit and assessment outcomes for client organisations.  At the time, I was not using any form of artificial intelligence, virtual device, instant app, augmented reality, or considering ‘big data’. To be honest, I had no real idea about how to learn the skills how I would need to make this sort of technology work in a streamlined and organised way. 

Fast forward to mid-March 2020 and what a difference a few short months can make!  Suddenly I am confronted with having to manage a range of technologies within specific timeframes for a structured assessment plan.  Where previously I had been able to talk and walk between the different timeslots in any assessment plan, now I realised that I had not factored in the time to adjust between one type of technology and the next.  For example, I had not thought about the amount of time it takes to get online to host one form of technology and then wait for people to join in, or the time it takes to stop and then re-start connections due to time restrictions and then swapping over to other communication devices.  

I also realised some client organisations were also struggling with the impact of technology in this process.  In one recent assessment, it rapidly became apparent that the organisation had one functional laptop that could reliably connect with what I was doing – but that meant the person who usually worked on that laptop every day could no longer do her work.  While jokes were made throughout the assessment about the unexpected physical exercise, lifting and moving the laptop in different directions so I could see their evidence for particular indicators, I realised the impact of remote assessments had caught me unawares. 

Before remote assessments became a reality, I had not really thought through what this would mean for the client organisations going through audits or assessment.  Now when I make contact with the organisation in the days leading up to a remote evaluation, I check on what technology they have and whether they have staff who can walk with me throughout the nominated timeframe.  Several organisations have told me they use different technology to other services, and this has resulted in needing to rapidly learn the basic mechanics for more forms of technology than I had initially envisaged.

At the same time, I have found people needed to be reassured about how the remote assessment will work and what my approach will be.  It seems to help when I use humour and providing calm explanations about what we will work through while respecting and showing compassion for what the organisation is going through with the COVID-19 fall-out. Sometimes I add that I might stuff up the technology as I am reviewing the evidence – but we will get there in the end.  I’m also mindful of the fatigue factor for the staff working with me through the use of remote technology.

I often hear the saying ‘May you live in interesting times’.  Well, we are progressing further into ‘interesting times’ at the moment, I think!  I suspect as we move further into the world of remote auditing and assessing, auditors and client organisations might experience a range of different situations and disturbances to what we have seen and lived through before now. Perhaps the question we need to be asking is how we, as individuals and community members, can more effectively and rapidly learn and grow through situations we had not thought possible or perhaps would never have wanted.  John Belushi says that “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” (or online shopping, as some of my friends would say).  How we manage the need to rapidly learn new ways of using different forms of technology may well be found in the way we look at it.

Thinking ahead:

  1. What are your thoughts about the impact of technological changes that are happening all around us now?
  2. How do you keep abreast of the different types of technology used by your organisation or business?
  3. What actions can you take to encourage people to contribute innovative ideas that could be used to enhance the organisation or business’s standing over time?