Pre-audit survey: a bespoke assessment before the audit

Is your organization ready for the certification audit? What is the extent of the work involved? While giving top management and their employees chance to talk with an auditor, the pre-audit survey offers a review and a clear insight into the strengths and weaknesses of an organization and its management system.

“The pre-audit survey has nothing to do with a mock audit,” explains Christophe Sappey-Marinier, Product Manager at AFNOR Certification. “It represents a voluntary initiative by the customer prior to a certification audit for a new standard or following a change in the company’s organizational structure or context.” The most common scenario for the pre-audit survey continues to be prior to an initial or renewal audit. Some businesses want to check their overall procedure or focus on specific issues.

In case of an initial certification, the pre-audit survey identifies opportunities for improvement, confirms the schedule for implementing the procedure and provides an overview of the audit techniques. It prevents organizations from failing the initial certification. “It was our first certification,” advises Aline Seaume, Quality Manager at the Institut Claudius Regaud, a cancer centre in the Midi-Pyrénées region. “It was therefore important to assess our quality system before the certification audit to identify any weaknesses. That is how we found out that part of the process map had to be improved.”
Another scenario is that an organization may want to find out whether its management system still conforms to requirements following a change (extended activities, creation of a new site, change in organizational structure, etc.). In this case, the pre-audit survey acts as a status report that reassures the organization at an important and vulnerable time. Finally, the pre-audit survey is also used by certified organizations to inject new driving force into their strategy, especially when migrating to new standards or addressing new challenges.

The auditor works alongside the customer in establishing the survey plan, which may relate to all or part of the system or focus on a specific process or site. The survey follows an audit-like methodology with employee interviews and an assessment of the management system against the requirements of the relevant standard. However, the state of mind behind this approach is very different, because it does not result in an audit outcome. Although the pre-audit survey is not a consulting service, it often generates thought-provoking and informative discussions with the auditor. At the end of the survey, the auditor draws up an initial report setting out the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and describing any identified nonconformities. Over the next two weeks, the auditor prepares a full assessment report that is clear, practical and instructive. The pre-audit survey is a valuable tool for ensuring that organizations are in compliance at the time of the audit or for improving the effectiveness of their management system.

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