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The ISO 9001:2015 Update:

Should You Wait for the 9001 2015 ISO Revision?

With the new ISO 9001 revision set to release in late 2015, some organizations may consider delaying certification because they believe the process of updating will be outweigh the advantages of gaining ISO 9001 certification now.

iso 9001

ISO 9001:2015 is set to replace the existing ISO 9001:2008 standard, which is still required for current ISO certification. The new standard can be purchased here.

Is waiting :

  • A good idea
  • A potential disaster
  • Somewhere in between?

Before we answer that (and we surely will) let’s explore the reason the upgrade is happening and what effect it promises on small and medium businesses that are certifying to ISO 9001 for the first time over the next two years, and a little for those who are re-certifying in that time.

I Am Using ISO 9001:2008. What Does This Mean for Me?

While planning activities are encouraged during the DIS phase it is recommended that organisations should exercise caution as the DIS may still be subject to further technical changes until the FDIS is published.

-International Accreditation Forum (IAF) Draft of Transition Planning Guidance for ISO 9001:2015. The IAF sets the standards for those certification bodies who issue an ISO 9001 certification (essentially ISO registrars).

Some Background

The last ISO 9001 revision was published in 2008 with relatively minor changes compared to earlier revisions from 2000. So the last significant ISO 9001 revision will have taken place fifteen years prior to the release of the new standard – which means the entire ISO 9001 support/delivery structure (i.e. suppliers for training, consulting, auditing, tools, etc.) have had a lot of time to familiarize themselves with the old standard and develop quality management systems that perform as auditors expect them to. This of course, also means a lot of time invested in creating ISO 9001-compliant systems, procedures, reporting and training that organizations undergoing ISO 9001 registration can access.

There have been a significant amount of changes in the business environment from that time. These include:

  • Even more globalization with sourcing of materials, manufacturing of subassemblies, and final assembly increasingly an inter-country experience
  • The rise of service-based industries embracing the ISO 9001 (and related standards) as they become the major activity for mature economies (i.e. in the USA, Western Europe and beyond)
  • The increase in electronic communication and control and the availability of new forms of communication and management tools these offer and require
  • Influences and demands from more diverse groups such as locales where products or services are made, stored, transported or delivered are being felt as well as more customer and supplier involvement (via outsourcing)
  • A faster changing economic, social and environmental stage also brings higher levels of potential risk that may impact the ability of a company to deliver a consistent quality level

What hasn’t changed are the benefits offered by ISO 9001 certification offers to organizations, including:

  • Access to new markets
  • Fulfilling customer requests for a measurable quality program
  • Protection from employee turnover
  • Support for expansion (via documented, transferrable procedures)
  • Increasing internal operational efficiency
  • Improving existing quality and preventing quality concerns
  • Improved customer satisfaction

Yet, for the new standard, any systemic changes (to the extent that they may be different) are yet to be created. What form they will take, depends largely upon the final design of the new standard and how “evolutionary” versus “revolutionary” it becomes.

The Dangers of Delaying Certification

Maintaining an ISO 9001 certification clearly benefits both large and small businesses, and, conversely, delaying certification only adds the risk of losing accreditation and losing customers. Certifying and recertifying to the current ISO 9001 2008 standards helps businesses avoid potential gaps in certification, maintain quality business practices and reduce the learning and implementation curve that comes with the 2015 revision. Here are some of the key issues that come into play for organizations that might take the “delayed certification” route.

Lost Marketing and Business Opportunities

An ISO 9001 certification is a great marketing tool for businesses, which means that organizations that aren’t compliant with this standard are missing out on new business opportunities and an increased ROI. This is true both for organizations wishing to certify for the first time and those that need to recertify. Because an ISO 9001 certification requires a high standard level of quality, customer satisfaction improves, which plays a key role in business success. Organizations that aren’t certified can miss out on the additional advertising benefits of a satisfied customer working with an ISO 9001 company, including social network promotions, positive reviews, and old-fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations.

Additionally, an ISO 9001 certification helps organizations reduce waste and increase productivity, so time spent in noncompliance potentially means lower profit margins. If a company has just begun learning how to become ISO 9001 certified, any time spent delaying the certification wastes business opportunities. The business generated from quality management (and the positive marketing that is gained) it is especially important for newer businesses. Also, for new businesses, an ISO 9001 certification helps establish credibility early on so that they can begin growing their company and building their brand.

The Instability of the New Standard

It is also risky for a business owner to jeopardize all of the revenue that an ISO 9001 certification brings to wait for a standard hasn’t yet been released. The new standard is still changing. A draft of the ISO 9001 2015 standard has been published on iso.org, and organizations are still providing feedback while the standard is being revised. Some significant changes that have been previewed include:

  • A change in the structure and sequencing of ISO 9001 so that the standard aligns with the new high-level standards that are agreed upon by all ISO management system standard bodies.
  • A movement away from a corrective or preventative action approach and towards a general risk management model that incorporates risk-based thinking into the quality management system.
  • Terminology changes like “documents” and “records” to “document information,” which caters to both print and electronic documents.

But because the draft (and official release date) have yet to be finalized, nothing can be certain. The new standard is set to be published by the end of 2015, but if it is delayed, organizations may find face unexpected challenges with their certification.

Stages for ISO 9001:2015 Revision

The ISO 9001:2015 revision is following the full path laid out for an ISO standard update. The standard revision currently only at the “committee draft stage” or Draft International Standard (DIS), which essentially is the first of a series of reviews before publication. This phase can take between two and four months to get input prior to it being sent out for more general public comment. While the standard appears on track for publication, delays can happen at any point in its revision. Given this, an organization delaying certification until the new revision may be dealing with an indeterminant time frame for compliance.

What is the Real Danger in Waiting to become ISO Certified?

Another reason organizations shouldn’t wait for the new standard to certify is because they will have ample time to prepare and transition smoothly under the old standard. Even if organizations certify or recertify under the ISO 9001 2008 Standard, their certification will still be valid for three years, regardless of whether or not a new standard is published. During this three-year period, organizations can take steps to learn about the new standard (either in its draft stage or a completed one) and implement the appropriate changes so that when their three-year term expires, they can transition easily to the new standard. (For example, there are a variety of classroom courses and webinars that can help prepare organizations for this transition. A list of some of these courses can be found here. )

Based on the bias of ISO toward iterative changes in the standards, for first-time certifiers, the ISO 9001 2008 Standard will likely help them prepare for basic quality management assessment so that the revision will not overwhelm them. If they move ahead, they can learn about the many essential requirements of an ISO 9001 certification, and begin preparing for the certification changes during their annual audits leading up to the three year re-certification window. (Some free resources that can assist organizations in this preparation can be found here.)

Not Waiting Means More Options and Support

Another advantage to certifying now is that organizations can then delay their certification to the new standard (as noted above, they have up to three years after each certification) and will thus give more time for auditors and registrars to become trained and competent in their offerings. The longer the new standard is published, the more auditors will be trained and the easier (and less expensive) the recertification process will be. Businesses can benefit from additional recertification options if they avoid being the first ones clamoring to become certified under the new standard. Organizations can research trusted registrars and auditors who offer ISO certifications and make more informed decisions. On the other hand, if organizations have delayed certification so that they can recertify under the new standard as soon as it is released, they may not have as many options when that time comes, complicating and possibly further delaying their recertification process. The availability and experience of auditors only gets better with time. This means that not only will more trained auditors be available, but they will also have seen more real-life applications of the new standard.

The Bottom Line on Waiting for ISO 9001 2015 Certification

Because there are few tangible benefits to delay certification, but there are tangible risks, it is wise for organizations certifying for the first time (and potentially prior to late in 2015), to certify under the ISO 9001 2008 standard while it is available. The ISO certification is important for business and any attempts to delay certification or self-certify during gaps in certification will reflect poorly on a company’s business practices. Having audits conducted by trained auditors is important for a company’s credibility and standard of quality. Good audits are learning experiences for a company. Organizations can benefit from internal andthird-party audits in order to improve and grow their businesses beyond ISO certification.

Past (Obsolete) versions of ISO 9001 Standard include:

More About ISO 9001:2015


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