September 1, 2022

Five Questions You Need to Answer to Make a Success of ISO Certification

ISO 9001 certification is a well-trodden path, with over one million organisations in over 170 countries having completed the journey. It can be used by any organisation, large or small, regardless of its field of activity.

ISO 9001 sets out the criteria for a quality management system, which is a framework for continuously improving the performance of business processes and their output.

Businesses pursue this standard with differing goals in mind, but the establishment of an effective quality management system brings a range of benefits to any organisation willing to embrace quality improvement at the core of their operations – not least of which is the opportunity to enhance the customer experience and therefore ultimately the bottom line.

This standard is based on a number of quality management principles, including a strong customer focus, the motivation and engagement of top management, a process-led approach and continual improvement. These principles are explained in more detail in ISO’s quality management principles.

Using ISO 9001 helps ensure that customers get consistent, good quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.

With many businesses coming to terms with a new commercial reality and altered working practices post-pandemic, implementing ISO 9001 is just the starting point of their journey as they seek to manage operational risks and provide greater surety to both customers and essential business partners. The key thing for business leaders to grasp is that certification to a recognised standard is just the first step – the real long-term benefits come from the embedding of quality processes and their ongoing improvement.

Within this context, additional standards, such as ISO  27001, which sets out best practices for information security management systems, are becoming ever more relevant and desirable.

In this article, we’ll look at the five key questions leaders need to answer positively to make a success of ISO certification.

Is improving the way that you do business the key reason for seeking ISO certification?

There may be a host of ancillary benefits that come with ISO certification; your customers may place a high value on it, many of your competitors may already be certified, or your marketing team might relish having a new, positive message to communicate.

Maximising these secondary advantages makes good business sense and can increase the return on the investment in certification, but the real benefits come from following the steps required to get to the point of external assessment. The development of the organisation’s QMS, its documentation, and the embedding of continual improvement and review into business-as-usual are where real gains are to be made.

Is the leadership team fully committed to ISO certification?

Do the senior leadership team members in your organisation support this initiative, and will they continue to do so not just through implementation but into the future? While delegation and empowerment of employees are essential in operationalising the QMS, ISO demands that senior management take overall responsibility for the system and its ongoing success.

Leaders should take an active role in the implementation process for the QMS and in embedding the philosophy of continual process improvement. Those leaders who ‘walk the talk’ enable effort and focus across the broader organisation and ensure that business-as-usual pressures do not overwhelm the undertaking.

Are there sufficient resources to commit to making a success of ISO certification?

Once embedded, the QMS should become part of how the business operates on a day-to-day basis, but to make a success of implementation, there needs to be a recognition that a significant proportion of the implementation team’s capacity will be diverted from their day jobs.

Ensuring that the team has the time and headspace required, and backfilling or supporting their roles to safeguard ongoing operations and customer outcomes, is essential to get the most out of the process. In addition, individual reward and recognition need to be realigned to the success of the QMS for those most heavily involved.

What plans are in place to involve and engage the entire team?

While not all members of staff will be heavily involved in the development of processes and the implementation of changes required to meet certification standards, it’s essential that they are kept informed and engaged on the journey.

Team members who feel a degree of ownership of the revised systems and processes are far more likely to put the required effort into making them a success than those who do not understand the reasons for change or who feel that change is being forced upon them.

Can you make a genuine long-term commitment to the QMS?

This is heavily linked to the question on the focus and commitment of the top team. Certification usually has a time period of three years, after which external auditors will re-assess the organisation to ensure that internal audits are being conducted, documentation is up-to-date and, most importantly, that there is demonstrable continuous process improvement and that the QMS remains central to the way that the business operates.

While passing this periodic audit is important, the organisation also needs to commit significant resources to the QMS long-term to fully reap the benefits of operating it.

Conclusion

Applying a standards-based framework to your business can sound intimidating, but there is little to fear and much to gain in taking such an approach. Concerns about the rigours of audits and the documentation requirements are easily overcome with the right advice, support, and mentoring.

With active support from the top, engagement of the organisation as a whole and a recognition of the resources required initially and in the long-term, the true business benefits can be realised.

To learn more about ISO and how Finativ can support you, please contact us and we’ll be delighted to discuss this with you further.

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