A Bit of Background

If you are following the news about ISO 9001 you know that the international standard is undergoing a scheduled revision. Every 5 years all ISO standards are reviewed and updated as needed. The current standard, ISO 9001:2008 is showing its age a bit, especially since the revision in 2008 was fairly insignificant and the last major revision was back in 2000. It’s time to bring the ISO standard up to standard with today’s business environment.

The change in 2000 was, at the time, due. Industries had worked with the original ISO 9001 standard that was initially released in 1987 and revised in 1994. At the time, the “big thing” in ISO was (famously) DOCUMENTS. It seemed that ISO 9001 was originally a paperwork exercise, not a quality improvement process. That is somewhat of an exaggeration, looking back, but by 2000 it was time for a change.

The “next big thing” in 2000 was the introduction of the PROCESS APPROACH. The standard was re-written from scratch to focus less on documents, and more on actual improvement and measurable results. In my view, those changes were the catalyst for the rapid expansion of ISO 9001 as a global standard for quality. Customers saw in the process approach a formal mechanism for an ISO 9001 certified supplier to improve their performance over time. In many cases, that turned out to be true. But, in keeping with the spirit of continual improvement, the authors of the ISO standard are themselves now ready to take things to the next level.

Upcoming Changes

Currently, the ISO 9001:2015 standard is in development. We know they have a couple of drafts of the new standard done and the first publicly available draft (called the Draft International Standard – i.e. DIS) is expected to be ready in a few weeks. We’ll write more about that in coming posts. What we do know is there are a couple of “big things” in the 2015 document.

  1. Introduction of risk management
  2. Reorganizing the standard to line up with other standards such as ISO 14001 to make it easier to achieve multiple certifications

Now, with all of these changes underway, what (if anything) should you do about the upcoming revision that isn’t expected to be released until the end of 2015? And, the big question is “If my company is not yet ISO certified, but we need to get ISO certified, should we wait?”

Before we answer, let me help you understand what the next couple of years will have in store. Right now, everyone in the “ISO business” (consultants, auditors, and the like) are trying to see what’s coming. Certified companies are not yet faced with making any changes, because the standard is still in flux.

Early next year we expect the drafts to be complete and the year will be spent studying the new requirements and how certified companies will need to adjust their internal procedures to implement the changes. Next year also will be the year of training for the auditors in anticipation of the new standard. But (and here’s the “big thing” in this article) no one will exactly know how to audit the new standard until sometime after the standard is released. Auditors will have NO EXPERIENCE in January of 2016 auditing to the new requirements. They’ll have attended training, but they’ll have not seen it “in action”. So …

2016 WILL BE A YEAR OF ADJUSTMENT FOR COMPANIES AND AUDITORS AS THEY LEARN HOW THE NEW REQUIREMENTS ACTUALLY WORK.

(sorry for shouting).

Now or Later?

What does that mean for companies who are not yet ISO 9001 certified? It means it’s best to get your certification done in 2014 or 2015 (not in 2016!). Or, perhaps wait until 2017 when things settle down. If you are certified to the current standard, ISO 9001:2008, you’ll have 3 years before you have to upgrade to the ISO 9001:2015 standard, which will be AFTER 2016. For the vast majority of companies, especially small businesses, this is the best approach. If it can be avoided, you don’t want the first audits for ISO 9001:2015 to be for your initial certification audit. It’ll be somewhat of a moving target at that point as everyone learns how the new standard applies to real life.

Bottom line, if you’re considering getting certified, it’ll be in your best interest to start soon and get it done before the transition begins. If you want to learn what’s involved in preparing for ISO 9001:2008 certification, here are a couple of related articles:

If you’d like some help with getting it done, check out our various small business consulting programs or give us a call.