Insight

ISO 9001 - would your business benefit?

September 2016


ISO 9001 - the internationally recognised quality management certification - tells the business world that you are serious about quality. In this article we will look at ISO 9001, why your business might need it, and how you get it.

What is ISO 9001?

ISO 9001 is a global quality standard that sets out the requirements for a quality management system. It is administered by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) in Switzerland. There are two current standards - ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 9001:2015. These standards give guidance and tools to companies wishing to ensure that their products and services meet customer needs and continually improve.

Who needs ISO 9001 and why?

There is no one identifiable business type that benefits from ISO 9001 certification; it is relevant to all businesses regardless of size or business sector. Even small companies that do not employ staff dedicated to ensuring quality can benefit, as there are many resources available from ISO.

There are many reasons to achieve ISO 9001 certification. These include: increasing business and customer satisfaction, developing a professional culture, and improving operational consistency.

Certification can sometimes open up new markets that you may previously have found impenetrable. Many public sector organisations such as hospitals and universities, as well as private sector companies operating in a supply chain structure, will insist on ISO 9001 before you can take part in tendering processes. This becomes even more important in global markets where quality standards can vary considerably.

Perhaps most important, ISO 9001 helps businesses to improve quality and maintain it on a par with customer and market demands.

Getting certified

You can just implement the requirements of ISO 9001 and stop there; there is no obligation to become certified. However, certification does announce to the world that you focus on quality and have taken steps to ensure quality.

If you do decide to seek certification you will need to appoint an independent certification body as ISO does not provide this service itself.

The author's own firm, SITAX, is currently certified to ISO 9001: 2008 by SQS, Swiss Association for Quality and Management Systems, one of the leading companies in this industry.

ISO 9001 certification varies depending on business sector but your certification body will help you navigate your way through this.

Your certification organisation will start by collating all the information necessary for your business to prepare for its certification audit. This will usually entail examining your business processes and control systems, as well as customer satisfaction data, employee training records, and IT security processes.

At the audit your assessor will highlight any areas you need to address in preparation for your second audit. This audit will determine the final outcome.

Achieving ISO 9001 certification is just the beginning of your journey towards improving the customer experience. The ISO updates its requirements regularly to reflect the ever-changing business landscape and customer requirements.

The latest set of revisions to ISO 9001 occurred in 2015. This sets out the requirements for a quality management system based around these principles:

  • Customer focus - attracting and retaining the confidence of customers is key.
  • Leadership - everyone in the business must understand what you're trying to achieve.
  • Engagement of people - competent and engaged people at all levels are essential.
  • Process approach - to achieve more consistent results you need to understand how your processes work together as a whole.
  • Improvement - all successful businesses focus on continual improvement.
  • Evidence-based decision making - basing your business decisions on an analysis of the facts is more likely to lead to the correct decision.
  • Relationship management - identifying your most valuable business relationships and having a plan to manage them will contribute to your success.

If you want your business to stand out by focusing on quality then ISO 9001 certification is well worth considering. More than one million certified businesses can't be wrong, which is why ISO 9001 is the global standard for quality.

Author: Ferdinando De Feo