The Client: A Leading Agriculture and Biotechnology Solutions Provider

Overview

As a world leader in the agricultural sciences field, the client is deeply committed to a culture of efficiency, traceability, and integrity across internal and third-party audits. The client grows a variety of crops across locations as a part of its testing processes for agricultural solutions. Every year, over 500 field audits need to be performed in each of these locations to assess compliance with the company’s on-field testing policies, and monitor the crops and plantations. Given the large number of field audits, the client faced significant challenges in audit planning and scheduling, and managing the data and evidence collected. Auditors typically used paper-based tools to prepare checklists for audits, record their findings on the field, collate these findings, and prepare reports. This manual and inefficient approach made the audit process costly and non-scalable while also reducing its credibility and traceability. 

MetricStream was selected by the client as their preferred GRC solutions provider based on MetricStream’s stellar track record in leveraging its robust GRC platform to create tailor-made GRC solutions for customers. MetricStream offered the client a streamlined and seamless audit management solution that could be used across devices (laptop, tablet, and mobile), allowing for significant efficiency, cost-reduction, as well as traceability across the audit value chain.

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Solution

The client chose MetricStream Audit Management Solution to enable a streamlined, automated, and efficient approach to audit management. Using the solution, audit managers can automatically pull audit requirements and schedules from the centralized database onto their laptops or tablets, assign tasks, and closely track the status of each audit through powerful reports and dashboards anywhere, anytime. Field auditors can leverage the solution’s mobile auditing capability, enable tablet-based field data collection, capture evidence using native tablet features such as cameras, voice recorders, and GPS, and accelerate report preparation, review, approval, and publishing processes.

The solution was implemented at the client location over four months, and provided the following core capabilities:

Integration with client’s existing audit database: The MetricStream solution’s  integration adaptors, called “Infolets,” connect to the organization’s audit database to capture and organize information such as audit schedules, tasks, calendars, and requirements, as well as the type of audit that has to be conducted, the details of the planting site that has to be audited, field manager profiles, and auditor profiles. Based on this data, audit managers can automatically generate a new audit project.

MetricStream has provided the client with a one-stop solution to manage the end-to-end audit cycle.  The solution has become a single point of reference to plan, manage, and track each stage of the audit project.

Mass updates of audits: Given that every season there are almost 500 audits, each with about 5-6 audit tasks, it can be challenging and exhausting for the audit manager to update audit tasks and assignments manually. The MetricStream solution helps them overcome this challenge by supporting and triggering automatic mass updates of auditors, audit leads, and audit tasks, as per the audit plans.

Performing audit fieldwork using checklists: The MetricStream solution supports audit fieldwork using the checklist methodology. It also provides the ability to create conditional questions for each checklist so that, based on the responses entered by the auditor, the solution can automatically skip over certain questions.

The solution improves the efficiency of fieldwork by automatically populating audit findings based on the responses to each question in the checklist. This allows auditors to save time and effort, and avoid data entry redundancies.

Moreover, for each type of audit, the solution provides access to a specific checklist of questions. For example, in a pre-flower field assessment audit, the auditor would have to answer questions such as - Is there a written contract in place for land use? If required, was the state agency notified of planting? After planting, was the remnant seed appropriately managed? Was the planter cleaned?

Field data collection using tablets: Once the audit tasks have been assigned, the auditors can go onsite, and record all their findings on their individual tablets. The tablet application allows auditors to view a list of all their tasks and assignments, access their audit forms and checklists, enter their audit findings across different locations, capture supporting photos/ images, and then push the results back into the MetricStream Web application. The tablet application also simplifies the process of checking that the seeds have been planted in the right location by automatically capturing the GPS coordinates of each location, and validating it against the task form.

After the auditors submit their audit forms through the application, the task is automatically closed, and the data is routed for review and approval. If all the audit criteria have been met/ passed, the application automatically generates an audit report.

Issue management: Issues found during an audit are automatically routed by the MetricStream solution through a systematic process of root cause investigation and resolution. The solution tags each issue with a unique ID, allowing audit managers to track its progress from one stage to the next. It also enables a systematic and work-flow based approach to the complete issue management lifecycle, right from issue identification, to root cause analysis, to corrective and preventive action.

Reporting: Multiple customized audit reports and dashboards in the MetricStream solution enable audit managers to closely track the status of each audit in real time. They can quickly determine the number of tasks that are open, closed, or cancelled, and then drill down further if required. The solution also provides multiple interactive Infocenters through which audit managers can easily navigate to the information of their choice.

Challenges

Before upgrading their audit management solution, the client faced a number of challenges:

  • Use of unwieldy and cumbersome spreadsheets and paper-based tools to capture audit findings
  • Loss of time and effort in not only recording data on the field, but painstakingly re-entering these findings in the centralized audit database, as well as attaching field evidence
  • Manual and inefficient approach to sifting through multiple audit worksheets and comparing, analyzing, and calculating data to prepare audit reports
  • Complexity of tracking the progress of hundreds of audits across multiple locations

Why MetricStream?

The client chose MetricStream for the following reasons:

The MetricStream solution seamlessly integrates with other organizational systems, capturing and aggregating audit data in one centralized framework.

MetricStream GRC Platform can be leveraged to harness the power of tablet and mobile devices for field auditing as well other GRC related activities.

The solution enables workflow automation which eliminates the need for cumbersome manual systems and paper-based processes.

The platform can be extended beyond audit management, to other processes such as compliance management and risk management with minimal cost, time, and effort.

Benefits

  • Cost and time efficient audits:
    The MetricStream solution has automated various workflows such as integration of audit information from external systems, mass updates of audit tasks, audit findings management, and audit reporting. As a result, auditors have been able to save substantial time, effort, and costs.
  • Greater transparency and traceability of audit processes:
    The MetricStream solution offers a single, centralized system to manage the full range of audit activities across the enterprise. Almost 160 internal and third-party auditors can easily and securely connect to the Web-based solution to capture and submit their audit findings. Simultaneously, audit managers can stay updated on the progress of audit tasks across locations through the solution’s real-time reporting tools and dashboards.
  • Convenient tablet based field data collection:
    MetricStream’s tablet audit application provides a quick and secure way for internal and third-party auditors to go to field locations or sites, and collect and record audit data, thereby ensuring accurate data capture and reporting. The application’s intuitive and easy-to-use interface enables auditors to adapt to the tool quickly.

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