In Part 1 we talked about how to identify rogue suppliers of ISO systems- and the too-quick-to-be good-providers. In this July edition, Parts 2 and 3 explore the dangers of template systems and how to identify dodgy certificates from (particularly overseas) suppliers and what to do about them.
As described above, we at ICS are fundamentally not big fans of template systems because in our experience, very few are written well (usually to the clauses of the standard which is no way to run a business!) and very few companies have sufficient knowledge to transform a template into a usable business system for themselves. (Although there are exceptions, of course)
Going through the certification process is not just about developing a manual relating to some policies and procedures. The time and effort invested is intended to produce a robust management system that (once implemented) guides and adds value to your organisation.
If you take a short cut you are not likely to get these benefits. Worse still, instead of your system being ideally a best- practice version of how you already do successful business (also happening to comply with ISO standards) with little or no maintenance required – the short cut template system can become a very ‘long-cut’ indeed- in fact it can feel like a hungry monster devouring your time and effort and money on a regular basis trying to make it ‘work’ in order to keep your certification.
Implementing the system vs just the documentation:
Part of having a ‘compliant’ system is verifying that the system has been implemented in the organisation (i.e. that it is live and understood by staff and forms an integral part of the day to day reality of the business.)
The all too common situation, (and in fact I had a call to this effect just today) is that clients have purchased a template system but do not understand that the documentation is insufficient in and of itself.
How you will fare at the external audit with a documentation-only system:
On the day of the external audit, the certification body auditor quickly identifies a disconnect between the documented system purchased and the company’s actual operating conditions or processes and, as they must, issues a major non-conformance for lack of implementation of the system.
The end result of this situation will be that the company may be left with the task of finding a ‘competent consultant’ to resolve all the findings or nonconformities documented during the certification body’s audit. Not only that but frequently they are given a very short timeframe to do so (10 days in the case of the call I got this week) which creates panic and interferes with productivity. To make matters worse, the company will most likely have to reapply for a repeat certification audit and pay associated expenses.
All that heartache can be avoided by seeking even a little bit of guidance from a qualified consultant at the start.
Advice on how to avoid dodgy template systems and low value providers :
- There is an old and very true saying: ‘If it sounds too good to be true it probably is’.
- Beware of companies that advertise that they will ‘go away’and create all of your procedures and provide you with the ISO certification to say that you meet the requirements within only a few days or weeks and at a very cheap price. Even if it is not a scam, it is almost certainly a bundle of policies and procedures which will not get you through any audit with a reputable certification body.
- Request details on whether the consultant will be customising the system to your business or will it be a pre-prepared set of documents. If the latter, will the consultant be available to help you customise these and how much will that cost. (You may be better starting from scratch!)
- Beware of templates which are based on the clauses of the standard. Good templates (ask us for a recommendation on a good Australian-based one for Quality) are based on sound business practice. Even then, be prepared that they will require significant time, hard work and commitment to make them work for your business and there is a steep learning curve attached.
There are no “shortcuts” in setting up your business management system! – what you save in cost you will pay for in your own time and effort. It was ever thus!