At first glance, any ISO can look intimidating. When this happens, it can feel like these certifications are built for other businesses, bigger businesses or better businesses. This is not the case because, in fact, ISOs are not as hard to achieve as you may think. The process of ISO certification will take work and commitment, from the boardroom to the shop floor. But the hurdles and obstacles that the process can present are not insurmountable.
For any ISO, there are four very broad categories or steps that an organisation or business will walk through to successful certification.
1 Learn the ISO standards
Every standard contains a lot of information. The initial read-through may raise more questions than you started with, but it is an important process. Getting to know the standard you have chosen to work towards is important. By doing so, you can start thinking about your business and current processes and what needs to change or be improved. It will also give you an idea of what is missing, giving you opportunity to think through what you will need to do to meet the standard.
Working with an ISO consultant can help you understand in detail what is required as part of the standard and the process of reaching successful certification.
2 Implement and document the standard
With a thorough understanding of the standard, you can begin the process of analysing your current processes and how the standards fit with them. The ethos behind all ISOs is fundamentally the same – to apply a benchmarked standard to a key area of business, whether this is a quality management system or business continuity planning. What they are not about is creating an artificial set of process that businesses pay lip service too. There is more than an expectation that as a business when you acquire ISO certification that you commit to it fully. This means operating in a way that meets the standards as set out in the ISO.
Part of the certification process is to audit how things are doing within the business and how this fits inside the parameters of the standard. In other words, you need to be operating to the required standard.
3 Review and audit
As part of the process, there will need to be an audit of specific areas that relate to the standard in question. Some businesses work with consultants during the implementation process, but you will need to engage the services of an awarding body to audit your business. This is effectively a ‘test’ to measure what you do and how you do it against the backdrop of the standard.
If you have understood the standard, invested in it at all levels of your business and implemented it across the business, the audit step is not one to be feared.
4 Approval and certification
The final step is to receive the certification for your business. Once you have received this, you can proudly display it on everything from your website to letterhead!