ISO management systems

ISO Management Systems: A journey to success

Congratulations! You have taken the critical decision to embark on a journey to ISO excellence. Irrespective of whether the journey is being taken voluntarily or because you feel obliged, (see blog on implementing a certified quality management system), you may have some preconceptions as to what lies on the road ahead.

In this article, Louise Percy, Director of Positive About Business, addresses some of the common misconceptions surrounding ISO management systems and provides a road map to make the journey smoother.

It’s complicated. It’s a lot of paperwork. We need to hire someone to implement it. These are just some of the myths that you may believe to be true about pursuing any of the ISO management systems.

Back to basics

For anyone unfamiliar with what an ISO management system is, it is explained by British Assessment Bureau as:

 “… a clearly defined set of business processes. Together with the relevant documentation, it defines your commitment to creating products and services in accordance with pre-defined standards. A good QMS should include detailed information about processes and responsibilities within an operational environment. An effective QMS ensures that your business delivers to a consistently high standard, together with a plan to continually measure and improve every aspect of the business operations, within the appropriate regulatory framework.”

There are thousands of ISO standards. Some are industry-specific, but the more common standards are generic. They can be implemented in any business regardless of which sector it operates in. The three most common standards that Positive About Business clients look to achieve certification for are:

Not just for large corporates

The idea that ISO systems are not suited to small businesses is another common misconception. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t designed to be complex or to bury you in paperwork.

The ISO management systems are largely designed to use existing company documents, policies, and procedures. What the ISO management system will address is how they are recorded and saved, and introduce improvements, where necessary.

“There are so many myths surrounding the process, and often when business owners come to me they have The Fear; they feel overwhelmed and intimidated by it. It’s not a process to be afraid of, and Positive About Business will guide you every step of the way.”

  •  ISO 9001  This is a customer-focused quality management standard that demonstrates a commitment to higher quality and service.
  • Businesses with an ISO 9001 Quality Management System (QMS) often exceed customer delivery expectations, process fewer returns, and receive fewer complaints.
  • ISO 14001
    This is an environmental quality standard that requires the adoption of an Environmental Management System (EMS).
  • Businesses with ISO 14001 demonstrate a commitment to reducing their impact on the environment and conformance with their legal obligations and ensuring best environmental practice. 

  • ISO 45001
    This is an occupational health and safety standard that represents best practice in establishing, implementing and maintaining an Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OH&SMS). Prevention of health and safety hazards and minimising risks in the workplace are at the heart of the standard. As well as boosting your reputation, other benefits to businesses may include cheaper business insurance and fewer employee absences.

1. Choose the standard (or standards) that are right for your business 

While it’s entirely possible to certify in only one standard, in our experience, clients prefer to opt for two (or more) and implement an integrated system from the beginning. There is a crossover between standards, and it will save time if you want/need two or more standards, to implement them concurrently.

2.  Identify and review your business processes 

Are they up-to-date? Are they documented? Don’t be surprised to learn that some business processes may require to be developed.

3. Create a plan

Once the processes are reviewed, each one will require a plan. How will you maintain the process? How will you monitor and measure it? How can you continually improve it?

4. Policy development 

Your quality policy must address the principles set out in the standard(s) you are looking to achieve.

5. Dot the i’s. Cross the t’s
… in readiness for an audit by your chosen certifying body. The first audit is a fact-finding The report will provide information on major and minor non-compliances and specifies a timeframe (usually a maximum of 12 weeks) in which the business needs to address them. At the second audit, you will be expected to demonstrate that you have remedied the non-compliances.

6. An ISO Management System is for life

As clichéd as it sounds, introducing a Management System genuinely is a business journey; not a destination. It’s not Mission Accomplished once you’ve achieved certification. During the period your certificate of compliance is valid, it’s important that you commit to regular internal audits and reviews. And this effort can pay dividends when it’s time to re-certify.


Positive About Business is an Associate Member of British Assessment Bureau.

If you’re interested in finding out how we can help your business implement an ISO management system, contact Louise on 0141 266 0075 or 07808 202431.