When you are engaging with a given business, product, service, or technology, it’s only natural that you want it to live up to certain standards. After all, you invest your time, effort and money in your business and want the products or services you provide to address the ‘pain points’ of your customers.
For this reason it’s critical that products and services live up to not just ‘any old’ standards, but the latest international standards as well.
Such standards, which stipulate global best practice in relation to a broad variety of business functions, are precisely what an international non-governmental organisation known as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) specialises in developing.
But what does it mean for an organisation like yours to be ‘compliant’ with such ISO-developed standards, and why should you even care about striving for such compliance?
What is ISO compliance?
The term “ISO compliance” refers to the practice of an organisation following one or more ISO standards. ISO has developed tens of thousands of different standards since its emergence as an entity in the mid-20th century, so it is almost certain that there will be standards your own organisation would benefit from complying with.
ISO standards have long been instrumental in regulating all manner of products, and helping businesses to optimise and streamline their internal processes. Some ISO standards, such as ISO 9001 in relation to Quality Management Systems (QMS), and ISO 45001 for Occupational Health and Safety, are especially well-known; indeed, you might have seen companies boasting on their websites or other documentation about their compliance with, and perhaps even certification for, various ISO standards.
There is, though, a crucial distinction to be made between certification and compliance; while ISO itself doesn’t provide certification or assess organisations for their conformity with ISO standards, there are various accredited third-party certification bodies that do.
It is, however, perfectly possible to be compliant with ISO standards – and to treat this as an important goal in and of itself, such as for the improvement of your day-to-day business processes – without necessarily going as far as seeking certification.
Why is ISO compliance important?
The sheer importance of the work ISO does might not always become immediately apparent until something about a particular business or its products or operations goes obviously wrong. Or to put it in the words of the organisation itself, “when things don’t work as they should, it often means that standards are absent.”
So, you might aim for compliance with certain relevant ISO standards in order to enhance and maintain your organisation’s effectiveness in its work, and the quality of its products and services.
And although ISO compliance is not a legal requirement in its own right, ISO standards naturally align with the regulations for various sectors. So, complying with them can help prevent your business from getting into legal trouble over crucial aspects of its operations.
Finally, ISO compliance can also be important from a reputational point of view for your organisation. Achieving compliance – and maybe even certification – can signal to the wider world, including partners and customers, that your company takes seriously the task of maintaining the utmost quality of its processes, products, and services.
ISO compliance can help show, in other words, that you are a responsible and reputable organisation that cares for the privacy and safety of the people and entities that you work alongside and do business with, and that you are not merely interested in the ‘bottom line’. That, in turn, can help bolster your organisation’s sales, revenue and all-round growth.
How can I be ISO compliant?
Achieving ISO compliance for your organisation should be far more than a mere ‘occasional maintenance’ or ‘box-ticking’ exercise.
In contrast to the process of becoming certified for one or more ISO standards – which will involve third-party audit – the task of merely complying with ISO standards will be driven by your organisation’s internal auditing processes.
Nonetheless, ISO compliance should be scarcely any less rigorous a process than certification for an ISO standard would be, especially if you intend to use your company’s ISO compliance as a platform for becoming certified at some point in the future.
The exact process of achieving ISO compliance will, of course, depend on the exact ISO standard(s) you are looking to comply with. ISO 9001, for example, is based around a four-stage process referred to as ‘plan, do, check, act’, also known as PDCA.
Other ISO standards will have their own stipulations and guidelines to follow in order to ensure compliance. You can better ensure your compliance with the various components making up a given ISO standard with the use of specialised software, as we will elaborate on further below.
What are the different types of ISO standards?
ISO has developed around 22,000 standards to date, so it would naturally be impossible to briefly summarise them all here. Nonetheless, the following are just some of the key categories of ISO standards, showing how ISO compliance can be of benefit to organisations across a hugely broad range of industries:
- Information security and IT, including the ISO 27000 family, and ISO 27001 in particular
- Quality management, including ISO 9001, which is widely regarded as the ‘gold standard’ for organisations looking to optimise their arrangements for quality assurance (QA)
- Health and safety, encompassing such vital process-based standards for keeping people safe as ISO 22000 for Food Safety, and ISO 45001 for Occupational Health and Safety
- Environmental management, as is covered by the ISO 14000 group of standards. These include ISO 14001, which assists organisations in their consideration of environmental systems such as diverse ecosystems and weather patterns
- Social responsibility, with one particularly important standard in this regard being ISO 26000. This standard was first published in 2010, and guides companies on how they can become more socially responsible, including in relation to sustainability, labour practices, human rights, and economic development
With other ISO standards intricately addressing such critical aspects of a business’s operations as the planning of large-scale events, their management of energy and natural resources, product design, manufacturing, medical technology, and much more, there will almost certainly be standards that your company would benefit from knowing about – and achieving compliance with.
What are the benefits of maintaining ISO standards?
Whether you are reading this having first taken an interest in ISO standards due to their potential relevance in helping your organisation to streamline its operations, enhance its reputation, or minimise the financial losses associated with non-compliance, there can be an extremely broad range of benefits for your company if you do strive for ISO compliance.
The exact nature and extent of those benefits will vary for different organisations. But with ISO standards having been agreed upon by experts from around the globe, you are extremely unlikely to regret seriously pursuing ISO compliance, and perhaps even eventual certification.
How can software help to manage ISO compliance?
If all the above makes the task of achieving and keeping on top of ISO compliance seem intimidating or even overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Indeed, in today’s world, sophisticated software packages are available that can help organisations like yours to achieve and maintain compliance with not just one, but multiple ISO standards simultaneously. This, in turn, will support work towards becoming certified for relevant standards.
One such package is our own Vision Pro software, which will give you a single, convenient place from which to manage your company’s auditing efforts and responsibilities.
With its generous list of features and benefits including the likes of an easy-to-use dashboard that provides strong visibility of everything that needs to be done to ensure ISO compliance, and the ability to customise and adapt audits in accordance with the most specific needs, our Vision Pro software can make the ISO compliance process so much easier, quicker, and more intuitive.
For a more in-depth discussion of what this software solution could mean for your organisation’s efforts to comply with ISO standards that will make a real difference to its success and growth, please don’t wait any longer to call one of our specialist advisers today.