How will business uncertainty impact the desire for companies to achieve ISO 9001, ISO 27001 OR ISO 14001 Certification? During the recent economic recession we saw a surge in demand for ISO Certification, which slowed as businesses entered positive growth. I believe in a recession businesses look for anything that can give them a competitive edge, while in “Boom Times” there is no immediate requirement or desire & everybody is “too busy” in any case. During a recession there is often a need to analyse processes, rationalise & improve – the route to ISO 9001 Certification is a good tool for this & ticks a positive box on tenders. Those putting work out to tender can also afford to be more demanding during a recession, insisting on multiple certifications as more & more companies fight for their business. Regardless of economy IT companies have in particular driven a demand for ISO 27001 Certification, as the World and his Dog have become increasingly focussed on Information Security. We expect this to continue. Entering a period of uncertainty as we now are, companies tend to rein in cash spend while they await more predictable outcomes. I expect the most cautious will put spending for ISO projects on hold for a time, while the more proactive will invest in systems & certification that will ensure they remain Robust & Competitive in uncertain times. For certain Buyers will become more demanding & increasingly insist on Certifications to give some assurance as to quality of goods or services & information security. Grant McCormick
From our experience businesses pursuing ISO 9001, ISO 27001, ISO 14001 or OHSAS 18001 do it for one of 3 reasons: • To fulfil tender or customer requirements and win new work • To drive Business or Process improvement • Both of the above I would guestimate from our experience 20% of businesses pursue certification to solely fulfil tender or customer requirements and win new work. A similar percentage would use their certification project to focus mainly on driving Business or Process improvement. The bulk of businesses want the certification to win new work but engage with the process of attaining certification, to benefit from both Business & process improvements. For any Business considering implementing the standards we would always ask that they consider Return on Investment. Firstly obtain a costing for the certification route you think could best help you improve in your operations & best serve a positive outcome in gaining your chosen certification. See previous post for various methods of attaining certification. The main financial benefit will be the additional tenders it qualifies you for & the extra work it may bring in – ask your potential clients if it could give you a more favourable outcome when bidding for work. Benefits outside of this most obvious financial reward are normally found in the project phase & can be – ISO 9001 Project Phase • Enables you to examine your current operating processes & identify areas for improvement • Pushes you to rationalise & define systematic processes that ensures all are “singing off the same hymn sheet” within the business • Clearly defined business processes support company growth “before things get out of control” ISO 27001 Project Phase • Ensures you identify all information stored within the company & it’s importance to your business • Systematically guides you through risk assessing the threats & vulnerabilities to the information you hold • Ensures you put in adequate controls to protect your information and ultimately your business ISO 14001 Project Phase • Identifies any aspect of your business that can impact the environment • Makes you evaluate the impacts your business could have on the environment & identifies the controls needed to reduce the likelihood or prevent such impacts • Ensures an awareness of Environmental Legislation & avoids any unnecessary & “crippling” fines OHSAS 18001 Project Phase • Identifies any Hazards within your business that could impact Human Health or cause Accidents • Makes you evaluate the Risks associated with these Hazards & identifies the controls needed to reduce the likelihood of accidents or affects on Human Health • Ensures an awareness of Health and Safety Legislation, avoids any unnecessary “crippling” fines & most importantly protects both your employees and anybody else who can be affected by your work These are just a few bullet points on some of the ways certification can help your business, there are many more. So if you want any further info just get in touch. email@example.com
“Quality” being defined as the ability to deliver to pre-defined requirements – can an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) company ever really deliver quality, with so many variables & the output being so unpredictable? At QM.UK we have tried 3 different SEO companies over the years; all at least guaranteeing they would improve our website positioning on the major search engines. Alas none delivered, but actually dropped our site in the ratings. So can an SEO Company ever achieve ISO 9001 Certification – YES, it can…. I often advise that ISO 9001 is certification of your Management System, not your product or service. Certification to the standard confirms your Management System has achieved a standard that can ensure consistency of process & quality of output. If the requirement is a Ford Fiesta you consistently deliver a Ford Fiesta, same if it is a Rolls Royce. Trouble with SEO is, even with a system in place, the output still varies! I therefore have had to change my view that ISO 9001 Certifies a company’s ability to deliver to pre-defined requirements – it can only “maximize likelihood” of a pre-defined output. For an SEO company to achieve ISO 9001 it would have to demonstrate consistency of processes and that it has the necessary tools in place to measure against planned results and make improvements where possible. It is similar for Telemarketing firms for whom we have delivered ISO 9001 UKAS Certifications. So personally I would still recommend selecting an SEO company that has ISO 9001 Certification, as it does demonstrate in a sector open to such change and variables – they at least have certified systems to measure & maximize performance, increasing the “Likelihood” of your desired outcome – ROI. Or just type SEO into Google and see how well they have optimized their own website 🙂 QM.UK
So just how much of a Benchmark is it – How Credible is ISO Certification? ISO 9001 ISO 9001 is the Quality Standard but as such the most open to controversy. This is because there is often confusion as to what “Quality” actually is. If one company produced a Ford Focus & another a Ferrari, most would regard the later as having produced the highest Quality Product. However “Quality” is defined as the ability to deliver to pre-defined requirements. Therefore if the requirements were a roomy car that did 40 mpg & could be retailed at less than £20k, the production of a Ferrari would be a very poor Quality Output. It should also be noted that ISO 9001 is certification of your Management System, not your product or service. Certification to the standard confirms your Management System has achieved a standard that can ensure consistency of product or service. What level a company sets itself to deliver is up to them and in fact Ford and Ferrari could operate to the very same Quality Management System – they just produce to different specifications. So before you right off an ISO 9001 company you have to ask, are they consistently delivering to their (or your) specification – not everybody can afford a Ferrari. ISO 27001 The Information Security Standard. This is the most current & in demand as Cyber Attacks become more frequent & companies become more aware of their vulnerabilities and the need to secure services from companies that can safeguard their information. This standard is the most reliable measure of a company’s credentials, as Information Security is more measurable and less subjective than Quality. There are 2 main parts to ISO 27001. A company has to identify all of its Information Assets, Risk Assess & Control. The other main part of ISO 27001 is a detailed list of “Control Objectives” (requirements) for which, if applicable – you must put a control in place. This makes 27001 the most measurable & auditable of standards, therefore Certification does ensure a high level of Information Security. ISO 14001 The Environmental Standard. This is a reliable measure that a company has systematic control over any possible environmental impact and has plans in place for continual improvement. A large part of this is similar to 27001 in that a company has to identify all of its Environmental Aspects rather than Information Assets, but still Risk Assesses & Controls. Environmental Objectives must also be established to where possible, continually improve environmental performance. If you feel a company claiming to be holding one of these standards is poorly performing, don’t take it on face value. Check it is a credible Certification, or that it is a certification at all. If it is a UKAS Approved Certification Body ask for their name or take it off a displayed logo and contact them asking if the company is actually ISO Registered with them. If it is in the UK and not a UKAS Certification, it’s best not taking it as verification of anything…… firstname.lastname@example.org
Time Scale varies greatly for the various ISO offerings in the Market Place, as does client requirements & expectations. The time to Certification depends on Internal Expertise, External Help, Management Commitment, Internal Resource & the Route you chose. As independent UKAS Certification is the only certification recognised by ISO & the British Government, if you choose any other route – pay your money and demand it right away. Don’t be surprised though if it costs business rather than creates. 3 main routes to UKAS Certification: 1. Internal Expertise If you have an internal member of your team who has been through the process before or is a relevant practising Quality, Information Security, Environmental or Health & Safety Mgr, he will probably be able to successfully guide you through the process. Timeframe will depend on how much experience they have of taking organisations through the process & how much commitment they get from their colleagues. Being internal the most frequent downfall is that chargeable work often tends to take priority & ISO is often put on the back burner – or seen as almost the sole responsibility of that Manager & is hard to integrate. 2. Training If you wish to proceed without an external consultant but do not have the full internal expertise to proceed, there are training courses available. We would recommend you seek UKAS Certification Bodies for these courses. The trouble is these courses are very generic & we would only recommend this route if you have a Manager or person who may just fall short. We would recommend them as refresher or top-up courses, rather than a one-stop shop to ISO Certification. Timeframe raises same concerns as previous route, only a less experienced person is likely to attract less internal commitment & their aptitude for training is less predictable. The less experienced the person is, the more likely they are to go “Belt & Braces” with their systems to ensure conformance to all the clauses. This often produces cumbersome systems costly & time consuming to maintain ongoing. 3. External Consultancy External Consultants who have several years experience of implementing systems & gaining ISO Certification should give a more predictable outcome. “Buyers Beware” – consultants can promise to meet your fast-track timeframes, but it is still less than predictable. To successfully implement a system & be able to demonstrate full integration into your working practices, there still requires internal commitment & resource. While an external consultant can produce a lean, dynamic system & guarantee a positive outcome – timeframe will still rely heavily on Internal Commitment. While at QM.UK we offer the third option, we recommend you explore all options before making a decision. QM.UK UKAS ISO 9001. ISO 27001, ISO 14001 & OHSAS 18001 Consultants
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. Founded on 23 February 1947, the organization promotes worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial standards. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and as of 2013 worked in 164 countries. There is only one National Standards Body recognised from each country and they in turn must be recognised by their Government. UKAS is the only ISO recognised Body in the UK. The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the national accreditation body for the United Kingdom, appointed by government, to assess organizations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services. There are many UKAS Approved ISO Certification Bodies, the most commonly recognized being BSI & Lloyds, but there is a full list on their website Gaining UKAS Certification to an ISO Standard demonstrates a company or organization has achieved and operates to a certain standard, been verified by an independent & recognized body. Ongoing audits by the Certification Body evidences they consistently meet these standards. ISO 9001 is the internationally recognized Quality Standard. It defines the elements of organization required by a company to systematically deliver quality products, services or advice. ISO 9001 Certification is verification that you systematically deliver quality services or products. It is a benchmark for potential customers & helps you review and fine tune your own operations ongoing. ISO 27001 is the internationally recognized Information Security Management Standard. It defines the elements of control required by a company to protect all information it holds. In an ever increasing age of security awareness & media exposure of careless information handling, the protection of data is critical. Sectors such as finance, health, public and IT have become particularly sensitive. Hence, certification to the standard is increasingly winning both confidence & new contracts. ISO 14001 is the internationally recognized Environmental Standard. It defines the elements of organization required by a company to control the impact of their activities, products or services on the environment. 14001 Certification demonstrates to an increasingly aware public & business community – a commitment to minimize your impact on their environment. It gives confidence that customer’s environmental credentials & good names won’t be tarnished by their suppliers operations In general companies & organisations that can demonstrate their operational standards are UKAS certified, gain more confidence in the Market Place.
ISO 9001, ISO 14001 & ISO 27001 – UKAS ISO Assessors or ISO Consultants? There still seems to be general confusion between the Roles of the “Consultant” & the Assessor”. It is like sitting a GCSE. Teachers give you the tools and prepare you for the exam, independent & impartial examiners mark your papers. Achieve the correct mark you pass. The independent marking is key to assuring standards. For ISO 9001, ISO 27001 & ISO 14001 the consultant prepares you for a Certification Audit. This can involve documenting your compliant system, training, completing Internal Audits & general prep – The Assessor then independently & impartially performs the final audit to assess if you meet the particular standard. If so, you are certified. So Why The Confusion? Sometimes people like to maintain a Black Art in order to force you down a particular path. There are other clear reasons, these being just a few: • Non UKAS accredited Certification Bodies offer both the system & the certificate, so as a 1 Stop Shop there is no difference between Consultant & Assessor. This means there is no independent assessment & it certainly isn’t impartial – hence not recognised by the informed • Some UKAS Approved Certification Bodies offer training courses so will be unlikely to push you towards consultants as that could take away your need for a training course • Some UKAS Approved Certification Bodies advise they are “Friendly” or “Approachable” and do not advocate the use of a consultant – often because they fear a consultant would refer you to a cheaper UKAS Approved Certification Body & they would lose the work We would advise whatever route you chose get a few quotes & ensure they are quoting like for like. The 3 routes we would advise: • You already have the internal expertise to fully prepare for the UKAS Assessment – get at least 3 quotes from independent UKAS Approved Certification Bodies, listed on UKAS website • You think you are almost there but not 100% – either get a consultant to do a one-of Gap Analysis Audit, or select a training course (preferably from a UKAS Approved Cert Body, as it will give some comfort to the standard of the course). • You feel you need solid guidance as you are not familiar with the standards or have no experience in implementing them (or perhaps just don’t have the time) – select a consultant & be sure to take references. Get more than 1 quote but ensure they are quoting like for like (& don’t forget the cost of the UKAS fees or your consultants attendance on those days). If the final option is for you, you know where we are – email@example.com
Our first 2 clients operating in the Banking & Software Sectors engaging our fast track – UKAS ISO 9001 & ISO 27001 Certification in 60 Days, completed this week – Redline Application Services: Provides software and services to lenders to support the full end to end credit lifecycle from origination, through scoring, decision making, document production or e-signing, into account management and on to debt collection. http://www.redlineapplicationservices.com Reference for our Fast-Track Process can be obtained from Steve Toms (Managing Director) @ firstname.lastname@example.org Bonafidee: Specialises in real time, anti-fraud technology solutions which can be accessed instantly via the web or provided as an integrated solution. http://www.bonafidee.com Reference for our Fast-Track Process can be obtained from Francis Lang (Head of Development) @ email@example.com Part of a small group, both companies proceeded simultaneously, which enabled us to fully utilise consultancy days & minimise costs. The full process from initial visit on 29th October, until conclusion of successful Assessment by a UKAS Approved Certification Body on 15th December took 49 days. Proceeding at such pace took full commitment & dedication by Senior Personnel & wouldn’t have had the positive outcome otherwise. Without that commitment we wouldn’t advise such pace…. firstname.lastname@example.org
ISO 9001, ISO 27001 & ISO 14001 (Based solely on the communications we receive) Currently ISO 27001 is still growing & by far the most popular of the standards. With the ever increasing publicity & awareness surrounding Cyber Attacks & now the potential of Terrorist Cyber Attacks it is no wonder. Add to this the much publicised information losses from Big Names such as Morissons, Home Depot, eBay, T Mobile, Experian etc & the trend looks to continue. ISO 9001 & ISO 14001 seem to be a little on hold as people hesitate over whether to go for the old or the newly released standards. As most UKAS Approved Cert Bodies will not be able to certify against the new standards until mid 2016 this is set to continue a little longer. For ISO 14001 it has been quiet for a while. Have our environmental consciences dampened as we concentrate on Information Security concerns? Or is the current 27001 more commercially attractive? Companies currently trending towards certification are from the IT, NHS, Banking & Insurance Sectors…. www.qmuk.co.uk
The official announcement is: “From 1 October 2014, government requires all suppliers bidding for certain sensitive and personal information handling contracts to be certified against the Cyber Essentials scheme.” In reality this is primarily for Central Government suppliers, i.e. Dept Heath, Transport, Education, Defence, etc but the unofficial word is that this will be rolled out to local government i.e. councils, hospitals, police, etc over the next few years. Cyber Essentials covers 5 main areas of vulnerability: 1. Boundary Firewalls and internet Gateways 2. Secure Configuration 3. Access Control 4. Malware Protection 5. Patch Management Which include the types of controls found in the ISO27001 SOA: A.13.1 Network Security Management A.12.1 Operational Procedures and Responsibilities A.9.2 User Access Management A.12.2 Protection from Malware A.12.6 Technical Vulnerability Management Therefore people with ISO27001 are part way there already, the main difference is that Cyber Essentials in prescriptive and not optional so there is no opt out for any of the questions in Cyber Essentials, and the requirement for control by the 34 questions is much tighter in Cyber Essentials. For example, all software must be licensed and supported – so any PC’s that still use windows XP cannot be included in the scope and would need updating/replacing (this is just one example). The issues facing the take-up of the standard are: Lack of awareness of the Standard Lack of trained practitioners (only 100 or so in the UK) The trained Practitioners may not be IT savvy enough to implement effectively Big Headache for large business due to a lack of automated roll out tools to cope with the prescriptive requirements for each device within scope, causing resistance to implementation Implementation systems/methodology is new and not as efficient as it needs to be yet due to the learning curve. We do however now have one of our ISO 27001 Consultants fully trained & qualified as a Cyber Essentials Practitioner. ISO 27001 will continue to be the most recognised & accepted Information Security Standard. However if you do deal in or wish to enter the Gov & Public Sector arena, we would advise you start looking at this.