Getting ISO Certified: What are your options and which is best for you?

Posted on Posted in ISO 9001, Quality Management, Quality Management System

At this point you have more than likely in one of two scenarios.

  1. You have not previously been ISO 9001 certified but you have identified the need to be so. However, you’re just not sure about your options for implementation.
  2. You have previously been certified but you need to upgrade to the most recent ISO 9001:2015 revision. However, you are unsure if you should use the same methods for your first certification or if there is an option out there that better suits your needs this time round.

Either way, this article will help you decide. We give a brief, easy to consume break down of each of your three options; Going it alone, Hiring a consultant, or using Online Tools. We detail the pro’s and con’s of each and recommend an option that best suits your business situation.

Going it alone

It is entirely possible to seek ISO 9001 certification on your own and in some cases this may even be the best option. Unfortunately this is a lot easier said than done and does bring with it an array of problems. However, in certain use cases it can also has its benefits.

Pro’s

  • You avoid the initial costs associated with hiring a consultant or purchasing online tools you can benefit from not having any initial costs. However, for this to pay off in the long run you need to be in a position where you or your staff can dedicate a lot of free time to maintain your QMS.

Con’s

  • No implementation guidance – ISO 9001 presents an ambiguous process, it can be difficult to identify clear start and end points. Without a clear structure and plan for implementation, a lot of companies succumb to failure.
  • Nowhere to turn when you hit a roadblock – You will experience blockers, you don’t want to turn to internet forums to get over these hurdles.
  • Extremely time consuming – You save money on the initial costs, but you pay with your employee’s time. Time is wasted trying to figure the whole process out, trying to find where documents are saved, recreating documents that have already been created and so on.
  • Resistance from employees – Refusing to invest in a consultant or appropriate online tools and instead offloading this onerous task on your employees can sometimes lead to them feeling undervalued.
  • Poor quality documents – Your documents lack high-quality and consistency as there is no single place to turn to retrieve document templates. This leads to tonnes of different versions of the same document floating around.
  • No guarantee – Perhaps the biggest drawback of all of going it alone is the fact that it brings the largest risk of failure. After dedicating so much time and resources to the project it is a disaster when it doesn’t succeed.

Do it on your own if:

Although going it alone is not something that we, or the vast majority, would recommend. We do understand that in some cases it might be the only option for you and your company.

  • You and your employees have a lot of time that you are willing to put into this project.
  • You do not have sufficient funds or your budget is close to zero.
  • The scope of your operations and core business unit is very narrow and easy to manage. Obviously the larger your operations get the more complicated it is to manage.
  • You are fortunate enough to have employees who are familiar with ISO 9001 implemenation.

Although going it alone is not something that we, or the vast majority, would recommend. We do understand that in some cases it might be the only option for you and your company. If the above sounds like you then it is definitely an option that you could consider.

Hire a Consultant

There are tonnes and tonnes of experts out there that are experienced in ISO 9001 implementation and this is a popular option for a lot of companies.

Pro’s

  • Solid advice when you need it – Instead of turning to the internet, your consultant will, or at least should be, right by your side to offer advice on overcoming any hurdles that you face. This can save ample amounts of time and stress.
  • Continuous improvement – A good quality management system focuses on continually improving the businesses processes. A consultant who is experienced in this area will quickly identify areas of improvement that you may not spot yourself so quickly.

Con’s

  • Consultants do not come cheap – Getting ISO 9001 certification is a lengthy process, you need to be sure that you have the wallet to last the long road. You won’t derive any benefit from getting rid of the consultant half way through the process as they take their knowledge and know how with them. Why would a consultant transfer their knowledge over to you if it contributes to the likelihood of them not being needed by you anymore.
  • No guarantee of certification – Regardless of how good a consultant is, there is no promise that you will get ISO 9001 certification. Don’t get us wrong, we are not knocking consultants, however we are reminding you that the onus of success will still rely on the internal processes of the business. You can hire the best consultant in the world, but they they are just there to advise on the best practices, they can not do the hard work for you.
    And, with the rise of new online tools that have dramatically reduced the cost of implementation (primarily by negating the need for consultants), the cost-benefit equation begins to look less attractive. The problems with this option are:

Hire a consultant if:

  • You need to get certified in the shortest possible amount of time. If time is your primary concern then hiring a consultant, more often than not, will help you reach your goal as soon as possible.
  • You have money now and you know that you will have money in the future. If paying the bills is not an issue for you then hiring a consultant is a viable option.
  • You’re confident that you can find the right consultant.

Online Tools:

A lot of tools exist online that provide all the document templates and advice needed to implement ISO 9001. The idea behind these services is to allow implementation without requiring a consultant. As you may know at this stage this is the the approach that we offer ourselves. However, for the purposes of this article we are referring to all good online tools on the market.

Pro’s

  • One stop shop for information – Most online tools should provide a large bank of resources, templates, advice, and support focused on helping with implementation. No more turning to the internet for advice or guidance.
  • Ready-to-use document templates – Access to all the templates needed for ISO 9001 implementation is a big advantage. Online services should provide templates that are mostly complete (while also offering the flexibility to adapt them to the specific needs of the company).
  • One size fits all – Most tools are designed to take even a beginner from start to finish. You don’t need to an ISO 9001 expert to succeed with these tools.
  • Knowledge developed and kept in house – Most online tools will facilitate learning and allow for the development of ISO related know how so you don’t need the help of consultants to improve and streamline the process going forward.
  • Both effective and cost-effective – Online tools work and that’s just about the size of it. They are not free, but a quick cost-benefit analysis compared to a consultant or going it alone clearly identifies online tools as the most cost-effective solution.
  • Avail of free trials – Most online tools will offer you a free trial so you can try out their platforms before making any commitment.

Cons

  • Choosing the right one – There is a vast array of tools available online so it can be difficult to choose the right one for you.
  • Many lack support – Many online tools are just that, online tools, you are expected to make the most of them yourself. However, the vast majority, including ours, ensure that there is help on hand should you ever need it.

Use the online tools if:

  • You don’t want to break the bank.
  • You want to get up and running as quick as possible.
  • You don’t want your employee’s time taken up trying to tackle implementation on your own.
  • The scope of your project is wide or involves a number of processes.
  • You don’t have much in-house know-how relating to ISO 9001 but you want to develop this and keep it in-house

We hope this gives you a clearer idea of what option you should pick. If you decide that an online tool is the solution for you then please take a look at our own Quality Management System product designed to get you ISO 9001 certified. In any case, we wish you the best of luck in your attempt to get certified.