Why a cheaper ISO consultant can cost you more long-term

If outdated systems are holding your business back, it could be time to rethink your current approach.

While many business owners understand that the quality of your systems is at the core of how effectively you can manage day-to-day operations and adapt over time, even once you have identified that your systems need improvement, the prospect of change can often be met with hesitance and uncertainty.

For many, the first step is the hardest – getting started. The task at hand can feel overwhelming, but once you gain some momentum and start to see the difference this makes across your operations, it’s well worth pushing through.

The process of getting ISO certified, particularly to ISO 9001, brings structure to rethinking and fine-tuning your business’ systems. Often, organisations don’t have the resources to do this internally, so they seek assistance from an ISO consultant.

Overview of ISO certification

Worldwide, over 20 million businesses are ISO certified or recognised. Companies that are compliant with one or more ISO standards, such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001, all follow a clear set of guidelines.

The framework ISO standards provide makes transitioning to lean systems a more systematic and manageable task. Most organisations find it helps them establish clear direction and a realistic timeline for completion, which also keeps everyone on track every step of the way.

If you’re looking to get ISO certified, there are two main routes you can go down – doing it yourself in-house or getting external guidance from an ISO consultant.

Your options for getting ISO certified

1. Doing it yourself in-house, rather than outsourcing assistance.

Generally speaking, this option is advisable if:

  • An employee in your company has experience setting up an ISO system and can lead the project. They also need to have enough time to dedicate towards this task; at least half to one day per week for 3- 6 months per standard.
  • As the business owner, you are interested in learning how to implement ISO systems and are willing and able to spend time doing this outside of business hours.
  • ISO certification isn’t an urgent requirement, because DIY efforts can take 2-3 times longer to implement than if you have a consultant – at least 6 to 12 months until completion.
  • Your business doesn’t have dramatic peaks in work. Otherwise, staff that should be focused on implementing the ISO management system may be forced to drop what they’re doing and help out, which can result in a loss of momentum and interest in the project. Many businesses attempt to get ISO certification several times themselves and never finishing until they finally ask for an outside person to assist.

2. Outsource the entire project to an ISO consultant

Your other option is to get an ISO consultant to do most of the work, which takes the pressure off your team. While you still need to be involved, all of the decision-making and technical tasks will be performed expertly. This makes it far easier to achieve your goal of certification the first time around and in a fraction of the time it would take to do yourself. It’s also fair to say that ISO consultants will be able to produce a leaner, tighter system because they know what’s necessary to include and how to get the best efficiencies into workflows and system design and still comply with the standards.

3. A midway option is to “partner” with a consultant

If you take this approach, your consultant will complete the technical aspects and guide you through the process with easier tasks as homework. This is one way to reduce the costs. It doesn’t take as long as the 100% DIY option and also ensures there are no costly mistakes or wrong turns. This helps you avoid a bloated, over-documented system or one that is built according to the clauses of the standard – to be avoided at all costs.

The question then becomes – how do you choose the ‘right’ ISO consultant for you? Price can be a big consideration here, and while it’s important you find a consultant within your budget, the cheapest option isn’t always the best.

The cost of getting ISO certified with a consultant

When setting up a single ISO compliant system, the price of an ISO consultant is generally between AUD$7,000 and $30,000, but this can vary depending on:

  • How specialised your industry is;
  • Your business’ size and complexity;
  • The level of risk involved in your operations;
  • The extent to which your current systems are compliant;
  • The amount of involvement you and your employees intend to have in getting the company certified.
  • Whether or not you want a paper-based or cloud-based system

Adding additional ISO standards to your integrated management system can cost less (e.g. half as much each) – especially if this is done by the same person and around the same time as the original project.

Choosing an ISO consultant: why cheaper isn’t necessarily best

These prices can vary from consultant to consultant, and it’s always tempting to go for the cheaper option. The risk here is that the lower price can be reflected in the quality of the services offered and is often an indication the consultant uses a template system.

Template systems often slow businesses down and can cause a lot of headaches and costs down the track. See our article on the reasons to steer clear of template systems.

Make sure whichever consultant you go with is providing you with a customised system built around the way YOU do business, rather than a universal compliance solution you will need to bend over backwards to accommodate.

Customised systems cost more purely because of the time it takes to understand how you can incorporate compliance into your business and design a lean and low-burden solution. They’re well worth the effort and resulting cost savings for many years to come for those businesses that have the budget.

Regardless of cost, it’s of course important to do your research and determine the actual extent of a consultant’s services and expertise before committing.

Speak with our ISO consultants

If you’re thinking about getting ISO certified, contacting our ISO consultants is a great place to start. This way, you can get a better idea of what to expect during the entire certification process and how we can help you throughout.

Please don’t hesitate to also enquire about the other services we have available, which includes compliance management software, ISO internal auditscompliance auditsISO gap analysis and more.

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