What does it take to achieve ISO certification? This can be a tricky question to answer, but it is important to remember that the majority of organisations have more in place than they think. As a Certification Body, we often find our clients are already doing good things, it’s just some processes are not properly formalised or documented.
For a typical SME we suggest that, in terms of resource, it will take half a day of week of somebody’s time over an 8-10 week period to create a working Management System that has been internally audited.
The person responsible should have a good understanding of how the business works and have influence on the management team. This is important, as it is a requirement of the standard that the management team is involved to ensure vital for wider buy-in from staff. This requirement is being further strengthened for the ISO 9001 quality standard‘s revision due in 2015.
The first step is, of course, to purchase a copy of the standard so that you can view the requirements you will need to fulfil in order to achieve certification. In conjunction with attending a familiarisation or introduction course, this will give you a good understanding of the scale of the task ahead of you, your strategy for implementation, and the availability of in-house resources before being able to determine whether you need external support.
Certification vs Consultancy
The bulk of our clients require ISO certification in order to fulfil a tender or supply chain requirement. Therefore, the world of ISO is often a completely new experience. As a consequence, which direction to take can be muddled by the sheer range of results on your average Google search results page!
If you do feel some external input might be useful, remember that customers, business partners, trade bodies or regional Chambers of Commerce can often be a source of (free) help and inspiration.
If you do decide to look into these avenues, or decide that an ISO consultant is the way forward, ultimately you will still need to engage with a Certification Body (that’s us!). It’s their job to come and deliver a third-party audit and – assuming you are compliant with the requirements of the standard – provide you with the vital certificate.
The right approach
The idealists will hope anyone endeavouring to achieve certification does so because they want to improve their business. In the real world, we are aware and understanding of the fact that the main drivers tend to be supply chain pressure or marketing and export opportunities.
Nevertheless, ultimately, success in this context is about using your chosen ISO standard as a management tool – or system – to help you manage all critical risks and opportunities in the spirit of continual improvement. It should not really be a surprise that a Management System can only be an efficient and effective investment if you commit to using it as a tool to help you take decisions and decide on strategy!
Unfortunately, in the real world, far too many are not implementing a standard in the right spirit. As a result, this often turns out to be the route to a costly Management System as it is reduced to maintaining a bureaucracy designed to deliver a certificate, rather than a System to help you manage the issues that really matter.
To avoid this, management should lead in engaging employees so that everyone is bought into why you are implementing an ISO standard, what the benefits will be, and how they can help in making the initiative a success.
FACT: 42% of the global workforce say they’re disengaged at work
The certification process
With these preparatory steps, achieving certification should be a stress-free experience. The ISO certification process also includes a ‘dry run’ to ensure that, when it counts, you are ready to take on the formal audit with confidence.