The International Organization for Standardization, also known as ISO,was initialized in 1947 to set quality standards for businesses worldwide. Up to date, the member countries of ISO have developed 22,700 requirements, guidelines, and features that set the terms of quality assurance for every kind of business. Although compliance with ISO standards is voluntary, the organization’s standards are highly regarded, such that every business worth its salt has ISO certification.
Benefits of ISO Conformance
The main benefits that businesses stand to gain from ISO conformance include:
Better information security
Increased customer satisfaction
Improved quality management
Better work conditions
An environmentally sustainable business
ISO standards ensure that businesses have products and materials that adhere to the highest standards of quality. Failing to conform to ISO standards is risking customer safety and satisfaction. Additionally, you risk being fined or facing lawsuits.
Types of ISO Standards
There are over 22,600 ISO standards for many industries. The most common standards are:
ISO 9001:2015, a standard for general organizational Quality Management Systems (QMS)
ISO 14001:2015, a standard for Environmental Management Systems
ISO 27001:2013, a standard for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS)
These standards apply to both small and large organizations. Some ISO standards are written for specific industries. For example, manufacturing, shipping, rail, medical, technology, and cocoa bean production have their own specific ISO standards.
ISO Compliance Versus ISO Certification
The distinction between ISO compliance and certification comes down to audits. While ISO compliance doesn't require you to have an audit, ISO certification requires that you have an external audit by a professional who's approved by the Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO).
While ISO compliance and certification may be voluntary, some manufacturers only deal with third-party suppliers who are ISO certified. This guarantees the quality of their products, services, processes, and the security of their systems, information, and networks. ISO certification has many perks, including international recognition. In many industries, you can conduct business without ISO certification.
One benefit of the ISO standards is that small businesses that can't afford the cost and time to prepare for an audit can forego the additional expenses and hassle and just settle for compliance.
ISO Frameworks And Controls
ISO has a number of frameworks designed to help businesses improve their management in areas such as quality, safety, assets, business risk, environmental impacts, and IT security.
Frameworks are structures that organizations use for improving their operations or processes. Frameworks are general and tell organizations what to do but don't explain how to do it. Many frameworks used by businesses allow them to support internal controls and mitigate risks.
Frameworks also lay out effective measures for financial reporting, risk, and revenue performance. Some of the common framework types include quality frameworks, control frameworks, program frameworks, risk frameworks, and cyber-security frameworks.
Standards are the best governance practices applied by companies. Standards are a collection of regulations, guidelines, models, frameworks, internal controls, and processes for managing IT functions and business. They set compulsory requirements for businesses. They guide audit and assurance professionals on the acceptable performance required to meet professional duties and requirements.
The International Organization for Standardization creates standards, which it defines as guidelines, specifications, and requirements that should be used consistently to make sure materials, processes, products, and services are suited for their purpose. ISO has published over 22,700 standards.
Does Your Company Need ISO Certification?
ISO certification, in most cases, is voluntary. However, there are industries that require ISO certification to do business. If you're not sure whether you need ISO certification, here are some questions you should ask yourself:
Does my line of business require ISO certification? Remember that ISO rules vary depending on the industry in question. For example, in the automotive industry, ISO 9001 certification is required.
Are other businesses in your industry ISO certified? If your competitors are certified, you should consider certification if you are to stay in business.
Do you do business internationally or plan on expanding on an international scale? If that is the case, ISO standards are respected worldwide.
Are your clients concerned about privacy and data security? For example, getting an ISO 27001 certification proves to your customers that you are dedicated to protecting their personal information.
Are you in a business contract that requires you to have certification for a specific ISO standard? Some businesses only form partnerships or contracts with ISO certified organizations.
How To Get ISO Certification?
The process of ISO certification is time-consuming. It can take you up to three years before you are ready for an ISO audit. ISO recommends a “Plan, Do, Check, Act” approach. First, develop a management system for your business and determine which ISO standard you'll be certifying. Implement the new system and train employees on how to use it.
The next step is to check whether the system is working and to make the necessary adjustments—document everything from the first step to the last. Finally, choose an ISO certification company to be audited.
ISO compliance and certification is essential for any business that values its customers and wants to remain competitive in its respective industry. While adhering to ISO standards may be voluntary, some industries require this compliance and certification. To be on the safe side, whether or not your industry requires you to observe ISO rules, you should get either compliance or certification as a measure to improve your productivity and marketability.