ISO Revisions Explained



The reality is, ISO’s standards will only remain popular if they stay relevant to the demands of the modern world. In ISO 9001’s case, it was first published in 1987 and initially took some time to gain traction as its clear bias towards manufacturing made it difficult to work with outside of this arena.

These teething problems were quite easily explained – ISO 9001 was developed from existing quality management standards born from the need to improve the quality and safety of products produced in factories. It wasn’t until 2000 that ISO 9001 really started to make sense for all industries, where the standard could then lay claim to being suitable for organisations of any size and in any industry.

The revision process

ISO standards – and there are 20,000 of them – are reviewed every five years to ensure they stay up-to-date. With the current version being called ISO 9001:2008, that meant the famous quality management standard had a global review in 2012 by ISO’s 100 or so National Standards Bodies. This resulted in an international consensus to revise it.

Standards are developed by Technical Committees (“TCs”) and their Sub Committees (“SCs”). The rather snappily titled ISO/TC176/SC2 (Quality Systems) are responsible for ISO 9001, with specific Working Groups called WG23 and WG24  developing the ISO 9001:2015 revision.

WG24 is formed of international experts that have been nominated by their respective National Standards Bodies. There are also ISO liaison members (generally from industry associations) who also take part. Meanwhile, WG23 is responsible for communication and support – important given that ISO 9001 is a truly international standard with millions of users.

With ISO 9001 being so popular, it was no surprise to see it would recieve some changes. In fact, it was already on the cards as a high-level structure called Annex SL had been approved to be used across ISO’s management standard suite in order to achieve greater continuity.

Whilst we have covered the specifics of ISO 9001:2015’s revision elsewhere, the format for the revision of an ISO standard is as follows:

  • Agreement on the need for revision*
  • “Systematic Review” and “New Work Item”
  • Agreement on the scope and objectives (“Design Specification”)*
  • Working Drafts (“WD’s”)
  • Preliminary drafting by international experts nominated by ISO member bodies
  • WD’s are very rough documents – not normally made widely available
  • Committee Draft (“CD”)*
  • Once preliminary WDs have reached an acceptable level of maturity, they are “uprated” to CD that is formally circulated to ISO Member bodies
  • NSB’s are expected to convene national interested parties to comment on CD
  • Draft International Standard (“DIS”)*
  • Published after approval of CD by formal ballot, and incorporation of pertinent comments
  • Final draft international standard (“FDIS”)*
  • Published after formal approval of the DIS, and incorporation of pertinent comments
  • International Standard
  • Published after approval of the FDIS
  • Subject to “systematic review” every 5 years

* = Balloted by ISO member bodies

All in all, a fairly exhaustive revision process! However, thanks to the global input from a wide range of experts and users, this is what gives ISO’s management standards such integrity. As a result, organisations certified to such standards rightly benefit from being the preferred choice as they have met rigorous requirements which represent current best practice.

ISO standards are also good news when it comes to supply chain management – they save enormous time and money from having to vet each and every potential supplier. Instead, ISO certification gives those involved in procurement the reassurance that they are dealing with a trustworthy company.

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