Audit trail

Every day I continue to learn something new, and in early January this was to be what it was like to be externally audited as a department! With my wife being a teacher I am used to hearing about the prospect of the dreaded Ofsted coming in to pass judgement on working practices and thought that working in marketing would mean I would escape this level of scrutiny.

However, this was not to be as we were chosen as one of the departments whom the British Standards Institute (BSI) would visit in relation to us earning an ISO 9001 Quality Management accreditation. Essentially, this is to ensure that our practices adhere to an international set of standards and are focussed on delivering customer satisfaction in some key areas:
  • Customer focus
  • Leadership
  • Involvement of people
  • Process driven approach
  • Systematic approach to management
  • Continual improvement
  • Factual approach to decision making
  • Mutually beneficial supplier relationships
Failure to pass would mean we were responsible for the business  not gaining this certification and would also mean how we work would need a major overhaul. We take great pride in what we do as a department and already had a strong set of processes in place for all of the services we offer. This means mapping everything from the process of compiling a marketing plan, to how to request, set up and manage social media channels and how to make a request for graphic design work.

In preparation for the visit we ensured we pulled together all of our 20+ processes into one document alongside an overview of the key objectives and responsibilities of our department, examples of all of our communications (newsletters, marketing council follow ups), analytics (for all of our internal and external channels) and live examples of our project management tools (currently in Trello).

The interview was going to last 1hr 45mins and would be attended by the Marketing Manager for Services/Infrastructure and myself. On the day we were the first of four departments to be quizzed and this took the following structure:
  • Talking through our Central Marketing overview document
  • Providing evidence of how we plan and work together (not in isolation) with the business
  • Evidence in everything of testing and learning/evidence based decisions
  • How we live monitor and measure all tasks
  • An in depth Q&A
We felt the interview all went very well as many of the above are areas on which digital in particular has a massive focus. The auditor was particularly impressed with how we clearly show we look outside of the industry to evolve and we demonstrated the benefits of having a centralised team with links to the business/regions. He commented that we had a well-communicated plan of activities and timescales with the whole team understanding thier role in achieving them. One thing that also really helped me was spotting this great Tweet the day before which summed up everything in a nutshell:
So, how did we do? Well - we passed with flying colours! Whilst detailing that we demonstrated a clear definition of roles and responsibilities the report concluded that we showed:
"A systematic, process based approach to marketing, provided as a centralised support function - January 2016"
This was a massive achievement for us to be recognised as professionals in our field with an international award that is valid for three years. Importantly, it confirms our commitment to our colleagues. Finally, the auditor commented that he was particularly impressed as Marketing is not generally an area to demonstrate this process driven approach (e.g. in the same way as health and safety departments do) and that he usually arrives to find a few bullet points written on the back of a beer mat! Extra kudos for us then and now the fun work begins of using our 'approved' marketing skills to promote our way of working to other departments!

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