ISO Management Systems: Myths and Misconceptions

What’s stopping you from becoming ISO certified?

It’s not unusual for organisations to be hesitant when considering whether ISO certification is for them.

However, it’s important that before you let caution dissuade you, you take into account the potential benefits of getting ISO compliant. Becoming certified is an investment but done right, certification plus effective management systems can be a major contributor to brilliant results and growth for your business, well into the future.

As a by-product of the process of getting ISO certification, organisations can streamline their operations, increase efficiency, boost productivity, reduce waste and minimise mistakes. Beyond this, they can improve the overall quality of their product or service and, consequently, attract more valuable customers.

In spite of these well documented benefits, many organisations are still deterred from striving towards the achievement of ISO certification – but why is this the case? Often, individuals fall into the trap of believing common myths and misconceptions about the process of reaching compliance.

In the following article, we’re debunking four concerns that businesses often experience, so that you can take on ISO certification in confidence and start enjoying the resulting benefits sooner.

Myth 1: ISO Certification Is Too Costly to Implement and Maintain

When an organisation develops new systems, they’re always going to encounter additional costs.

Staff members will require training and, once they’re aware of their role in continuous improvement, they will need to devote time towards implementing changes. In many cases, updating systems and processes will require time and effort (and possibly outside expertise) which will require a financial investment.

When considering whether to pursue ISO certification, such time and monetary requirements can be daunting for businesses- particularly in the first year. However, this investment is often offset by the long-term benefits and cost savings organisations experience after introducing optimised, highly efficient management systems.

The most common reasons for implementing ISO certification are that customers require suppliers to be certified, or that it will dramatically increase the attractiveness of your business and likelihood of winning lucrative contracts. The branding aspect of having certification is still a powerful source of new business/ retaining customers. Often, the value of contracts that are available as a result of being able to “tick the certification box” in tenders far outweighs the initial investment. For businesses who tender for contracts this ROI alone is often enough reason to go ahead.

However, there are many other financial benefits to ISO management systems that are less commonly known:

With improved compliance comes the assurance that, across all of your business’ operations, you’re acting in accordance with relevant legislative requirements. Thus, certified companies can avoid the financial burden of costly fines and penalties, which may come about as a direct product of inadequate understanding of, particularly safety, regulations. As part of ISO 45001 and ISO 14001, legal obligations are directly addressed, meaning businesses can be confident that they have identified and taken the first step towards compliance with all relevant legislation.

The ISO certification process assists organisations in developing strong strategies to proactively manage risks across all business levels- especially in the provision of products and services to customers. Usually, the costs associated with regularly monitoring systems and maintaining compliance business-wide prove to be far less than those incurred when addressing otherwise avoidable, expensive mistakes and rework.

In addition to this, when working towards becoming ISO certified, businesses will ideally establish a greater focus on streamlining and simplifying processes. This means they’re constantly looking for new ways to lower costs and improve efficiencies – without compromising on the quality of their product or service. Thus, for those who want to reduce waste and enjoy cost savings, achieving ISO certification can be very beneficial.

Finally, if management systems are implemented in the right way, it is possible to dramatically reduce the amount of time and effort (and therefore cost) needed to maintain them. Gone are the days when smaller companies were required to employ someone full-time to manage their compliance. With technology and automation, many of the time intensive aspects of maintaining a system can be significantly reduced.

Myth 2: The ROI on ISO Certification Doesn’t Justify the Investment 

Will ISO certification deliver measurable outcomes? This is something that must be established by the management team before they start pursuing improved ISO compliance.

As mentioned, many individuals are put off by the initial investment required to achieve ISO certification. However, when team members fully commit to bettering organisational processes, mitigating risk, standardising products and services and continuously improving systems, such investment is returned many times over.

There are various circumstances under which improved compliance can boost a company’s return-on-investment.

Attract More Business & Drive Company Growth

If an organisation relies heavily on securing tenders, such as those offered by government departments, ISO certification can make them eligible to apply for more opportunities. Even in cases where certification isn’t mandatory, compliant organisations are usually a more desirable choice. This is mostly due to the credibility that comes with certification and the assurance that a company is, in fact, meeting all of their regulatory requirements.

In addition to this, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their purchase decisions and the companies they choose to support. Thus, compliance provides prospects with reliable evidence that your business prioritises certain standards and practices.

For instance, ISO 14001 certification demonstrates your commitment to conducting environmentally friendly practices. Because of this, a consumer who is concerned with such matters is far more inclined to purchase your product or service over that of a non-compliant organisation that isn’t as closely aligned with their personal values.

Stay Relevant in a Fast-Paced Business Environment

The modern business landscape is incredibly volatile – if you’re not continually making improvements and responding appropriately to change, you’re moving backwards.

As part of ISO compliance, your organisation will develop a culture of continuous improvement and a habit of regularly monitoring performance. Thus, instead of your management systems becoming out-dated or ineffective over time, you will be regularly prompted to make updates and adjustments as required.

When a culture of continuous improvement is embraced across all business operations, it can encourage innovation, boost morale and engagement amongst staff and increase responsiveness to customer requirements. Rather than being reactive, you’re establishing your reputation as an industry leader and, thus, building a strong presence in an ever-changing environment.

Myth 3: ISO Certification Requires Excessive Amounts of Documentation 

As a functioning business, it’s safe to assume you’ve already got a number of processes that define “the way we do thing around here”. However, these may not be documented.

Or, if you are a more mature business, you may have developed or inherited heavily documented, siloed systems which are slowing you down. You may be dreading the prospect of adding even more documentation to what you are already lumbered with!

The good news is that the latest versions of the ISO standards have far fewer documentation requirements than previous editions. This allows organisations to only introduce documented systems where it’s relevant and necessary for them, for example, to either mitigate risk or train your people. Exactly how this applies to your business is dictated by numerous factors, such as your company’s size and the nature of your operations.

Use of technology such as cloud-based systems can reduce the need for documentation even further through automating repetitive and non-core tasks and eliminating the need to have hard copy documents being updated, for example.

Another way to ensure your systems are lean and low-burden is to integrate all the standards into one system so there is zero duplication. The uniform structure of the latest versions of the standards means a large percentage of each standard is exactly the same. So, it becomes possible, for example, to combine all the requirements into one small integrated manual. For example, you could integrate ISO 45001 and ISO 14001 to establish a streamlined HSE management system. Integrating multiple management systems improves consistency and eliminates duplication, all the while reducing the amount of documentation that may have otherwise been required.

Myth 4: Audits are About Catching People Out

Rather than focusing on individual employees, auditors are more concerned with your organisational processes as a whole. They provide constructive feedback- both positive and negative- that can be applied to improve the effectiveness of your management systems, as opposed to calling out particular staff members on their shortcomings.

Auditors bring an outside perspective, which can be incredibly beneficial when you’re unsure where exactly improvements need to be made. With fresh insights and objective, non-judgemental advice, they can assist you in identifying areas of concern that may have been unknowingly overlooked.

Having worked with a diverse range of businesses, qualified auditors know what to look for. Once their evaluation has been completed, you (or your consultant) will need to construct an implementation plan to address gaps.

With their expert guidance as a starting point, you can proactively identify risks, inefficiencies and potential pitfalls early on and get them fixed. A big part of this process is about getting staff actively involved and motivated in the long-term continuous improvement of your business management systems.

Trying to Decide Whether ISO Certification Is Right For Your Business?

If you’re considering becoming ISO certified, the best time to take action is now. Typically, it takes small to medium-sized organisations anywhere from three to twelve months to reach their certification goals.

At Integrated Compliance Solutions, we assist organisations in deciding whether ISO certification is for them. We work with a wide variety of standards including ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, AS 9100 and ISO 27001 and more. Start your investigations by contacting one of our helpful consultants today.

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