There’s little good news related to the coronavirus pandemic, and our major focus should be on slowly recovering. This means waiting for a vaccine as well as re-opening businesses in a smart and safe manner.

At the risk of being ghoulish, at least one tiny sliver of a silver lining has emerged: companies are now more acclimated to accepting “remote work” than they were prior to COVID-19. This is because before we were forced to interact remotely, few people had fully imagined remote work to begin with, and even less had confidence in it. Now, however, we see that it works.

For ISO 9001 and AS9100 implementation, there is almost no need to perform the work on-site. The biggest challenge has been conducting internal audits, which Oxebridge has proven can be done remotely using the rules put forth in Oxebridge Q017, the world’s first standard on remote auditing methods. Since then we’ve done many such implementations and remote audits, even utilizing the RegDOX platform when sharing ITAR controlled information during AS9100 audits.

Then, to overcome the limitations of not being physically present at the site, we use a unique “photomapping” method to obtain visual information on the shop floor. It’s easier and faster than requiring audit escorts as an auditor meanders through the shop, and it results in real evidence and findings. And it doesn’t rely on carrying a wobbly, blurry phone cam to shoot video throughout the place.

The biggest benefits, however, are that remote implementations can be faster and less expensive. Let’s take the cost factor first.

Obviously — obviously — travel expenses are a huge part of any on-site implementation project. Typically they can comprise between 30-50% of the final costs, depending on your location. (Expenses in the Washington DC area, for example, can be triple those of a client in Alabama.) This means by opting for a remote implementation, the overall costs are reduced dramatically.

There’s also the possibility of obtaining a reduced day rate for the work itself. I personally drop my rate a bit because it’s far, far easier for me to commute from my bedroom to my home office and work on a client for 8 hours, rather than having 24 hours a day dedicated to hotel stay, travel, etc. When you’ve traveled for a client, you may only be on-site for 8 hours, but you’re essentially “captive” during your entire travel period. With remote work, that disappears.

(Oddly, I’ve seen some consultants and registrars raise their rates for remote work, which makes no sense. If you see that, run.)

For speed, what remote work accidentally reveals is how much on-site time is wasted due to … well, let’s call it what it is: bullshit.

Auditors are famous for burning up hours of an audit talking about themselves, retelling old tales, and spouting nonsense to try and fill up their audit time. Consultants aren’t immune from this either, and I myself have fallen into the trap when someone asks me about some article I’ve written, or the latest ISO scandal. (Don’t get me started….)

With remote implementations, there’s no break room to lounge around in and gab. There are no long jaunts to the restaurant for lunch. There’s no hallway banter or water cooler chatting. No endless trips to the coffee pot. You do the work, you finish. Done.

As a result, I have found we can accomplish a typical management review meeting in about 2/3 of the time, with similar results for internal audits. People wonder why it goes so fast, until they realize that so much of the on-site interaction was non-work related.

These reductions in cost and improvements in speed open up ISO 9001 and AS9100 to companies that might otherwise not afford it, nor want to chew up any extra time than what is necessary. This means more companies can gain access to improved customers by obtaining certification, which allows them to compete with their bigger (and better funded) competitors.

It levels the playing field.

There are risks, though. Some consulting programs are horrible to begin with, and worsen with online interaction. I’ve heard horror stories of how the consultant didn’t show up (log in) in time, had technical issues with connectivity or simple phone reception, or couldn’t be heard on the other side of the line. The bigger problem reported by multiple users was that the consulting output seemed worse than what they might have gotten in person, because they were not given an opportunity to see the work unfold in front of them. Instead, they were handed copy-and-paste, rushed documents or reports and given no opportunity to correct them in real time.

To overcome this, clients must be sure to engage with the remote consultant, and demand that documents and materials be shown as they are being worked — whether through document sharing or simple email. For clients with non-secure documents, portals like Dropbox can be used, which show the documents being updated, revealing if the consultant is actually doing something or not. (For secure documents, again, you need a portal like RegDOX.)

This “consultant oversight” is actually less than what one would do if the consultant were on-site requiring constant attention, escorting and handling. But it’s important.

So if there’s any benefit to this COVID-19 mess, perhaps it’s that it has opened up our eyes to new ways of doing work. In this case, it may allow companies to pursue ISO 9001 or As9100 that might never have attempted it before.

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