Budgeting for ISO Certification
If you’re researching the costs of ISO certification, hopefully you’re sold on the extensive benefits the likes of ISO 9001 can bring; access to new work, improved internal efficiency and increased client satisfaction are all proven.
However, the big question remains: how much does it cost to become ISO certified?
We’ll get to the answer straight away: it’s impossible to give an accurate cost without getting to know your business and its current state – there are just too many variables. However, the guidance below will give a good indication of the budget required – but as you’ll see, that largely depends on you.
Training and Consultancy – do you need it?
This is an important question, as ISO consultancy especially can cost more that the certification itself. A smaller business’ ISO certification audit will normally consist of two visits. This will be an initial day to see where you are, and what needs to be in place, followed by the formal Audit when you’re ready. Although your Certification Body (that’s us!) can offer generic templates and give non-specific examples, they cannot tell you how to do things as this would be deemed as consultancy, therefore destroying the objectivity of the Audit. If you’re seeking more hands-on assistant, then the only option is to also source an ISO consultant.
If you’re starting from scratch, with little documentation in place already and without a clue on how to get started, clearly your consultant will be likely be there for a few days. If you take the option of them writing your documentation for you, it’s easy to see they’ll be there longer than the 2 days required for certification (assuming you’re an SME). Suddenly then, the project cost can double easily. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use an ISO consultant, you just need to weigh up the cost vs. benefit. A typical scenario for smaller business may be the person responsible simply cannot spare the time to implement the standard; a consultant can take on that work load. In a larger business, a consultant can quickly up-skill the person responsible and help spread implementation throughout the organisation.
Whether you need training or not is also your call. Undoubtedly, an introduction course will give a better understanding of the benefits and requirements of the standard, leading to confidence in starting the process. As a guide, our 1-day ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 training courses are £395 (+ VAT).
Whilst we believe training can help turn what can seem like a daunting task into a stress-free experience, many of our clients are happy to start the certification process without it, or a consultant for that matter. Of course, it helps if you have previous experience of ISO standards or already manage your organisation’s policies and management systems.
ISO certification costs
Certification Bodies use specified guidelines on how long they should look to take on-site Auditing; things that affect this include the size of the organisation, their level of risk and how many sites they have. A typical office-based SME will experience the service as described previously; there’ll be two visits spanning a day each.
Our guidance is that an organisation with 10 or less full time employees can become certified to one of the ISO management standards from £2,250. (This is all dependant on number of employees and sites.)
When investigating costs for your organisation, it’s important to know exactly what you’ll be paying for. With some Certification Bodies using sub-contracted Auditors, there can be additional travel fees and associated costs to be mindful of. There’s also the often used ‘Annual Management Fee’, something not mentioned until you read it in black and white. It’s especially important to factor in these costs as ISO certification is dependent on ongoing surveillance visits to ensure you are still meeting the requirements of the standard; a £200 here and there adds up if you’re with that Certification Body for a number of years.
Ongoing cost considerations
As mentioned, retaining certification is dependent on you continuing to meet the requirements of your chosen ISO standard. Continual improvement is a key requirement; and is a major reason why the standards are chosen by buying authorities: it gives confidence that their suppliers are monitored.
Ongoing certification is based around a 3 year certification cycle once you’ve been initially assessed. The first two Surveillance Audits are a pared down version of initial certification, with the third being a full assessment once again. While you must be visited at least annually, some Certification Bodies will insist on more regular Audits. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide whether that frequency is a help or hindrance to your organisation. For reference, typically the cost of a Surveillance Audit is less than 50% of the initial certification costs.
The less obvious costs are worth consideration too. Implementing an ISO Management Standard takes an investment from management level down to those on the warehouse floor to be successful. Not only does someone have to take overall responsibility, reinforcing the merits of doing something different will take time and effort. On the whole, people don’t like change and it’ll require ongoing training and reminders to gain workforce buy-in. Of course, the gains from implementing a standard should outweigh the input, but it is a ‘cost’ nevertheless.
Factors that influence cost and time
- How committed and ‘quality aware’ your business owner/senior management are – usually the single most important factor
- The current culture of your organisation: its level of ‘quality awareness’, how much change will be required, and whether people are willing and open to change
- Why you want it
- The size and complexity of your organisation
- The gaps between you now and the requirements of the standard. For example, do you already have a structured and disciplined system in place to manage your business and deliver services/products consistently?
- Whether any of your systems are documented, and how well. Do you have any procedures, flowcharts, checklists, forms, policies or job descriptions? You definitely don’t have to ‘document everything’, but you do have to have some documentation of your system
- Whether your business activities include ‘design’ of services/products or not. If so, how complex they are (which in turn affects what documentation you need)
- What resources you have: the skills, experience and time available
- Schedule: when do you want certification by?
So, are you ready to get started? You may find it useful to find other peoples’ experience of implementing an ISO standard in our Case Studies section.