How Companies Gain a Competitive Edge With ISO Certification


By way of introduction, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an independent global organization made up of various committees and subcommittees. Collectively, they develop a broad range of voluntary standards that apply to nearly every industry — from food safety to computers, and agriculture to health care — and everyday life. Organizations that apply the standards in their business practices are able to give their customers the assurance that their products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality.

The ISO Purpose

The ISO was founded on the idea of answering a fundamental question: “what’s the best way of doing this?”The ISO standards consist of requirements, specifications and guidelines that businesses follow to:

  • Improve quality and safety of products and services.
  • Protect the environment.
  • Provide protection from adverse conditions of products.
  • Pursue continuous improvement as an organization.
  • And more.

Many of the ISO standards include a certification option. This is a highly recognized and respected credential that can significantly strengthen a company’s position in its industry.

Popular ISO Standards

The ISO officially began in 1947. The organization has clearly been busy as there are over 20,000 standards that define essential requirements for improving the products, services and business practices in every industry. Most standards are grouped into categories, called families, based on their purpose or industry. The following are a few of the more well-known ISO standards that companies can implement to gain a competitive advantage.

ISO 9001 – Quality Management

ISO 9001 defines the criteria for quality management systems, which mostly applies to companies involved with regulated products or services and their efforts to design and manufacture quality into products. By definition, a quality management system[R1]  is a formalized system that documents processes, procedures and responsibilities for achieving quality policies and objectives.2

Compliance with the ISO 9001 indicates a company:

  • Has a formalized practice of consistently delivering high quality, safe and effective products.
  • Is committed to continuous improvement.
  • Is dedicated to building trust and loyalty through positive customer experiences.

ISO 27001 – Information Technology

Cyberattacks are currently the biggest threat to every company in every industry. Out of necessity, companies need to be alert and proactive with all things cybersecurity. The ISO 27001 standard is grouped with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and applies to information technology (IT).

The ISO/IEC 27001 standard contains guidelines specific to data privacy and security. It encompasses the implementation, management and continuous improvement of an organization’s information security management system (ISMS). The policies and procedures of the ISO/IEC 27001 standard follow a risk-based approach to information security, including all legal, physical and technical controls involved in the organization’s information risk management practices.

Compliance with ISO/IEC 27001 indicates an organization has implemented an ISMS that enables the company to:

  • Secure information in all its forms.
  • Increase its resilience to cyberattacks.
  • Rapidly adapt to evolving security threats.
  • Reduce information security-related costs.

The standards in the ISO/IEC 27001 family are designed to cover a wide range of technology areas, including:

  • ISO 27017 – Focuses on information security aspects specific to cloud computing and assists with the implementation of cloud-specific information security controls.
  • ISO 22301 – Best-practice framework for implementing an optimized business continuity management system (BCMS), enabling you to minimize business disruption and continue operating in the event of a natural disaster or system outage.

ISO 14001 – Environmental Management

This standard is intended for organizations to set up, improve or maintain an environmental management system to conform with established environmental policies and requirements. The requirements of the standard can be incorporated into any environmental management system. The extent of a company’s policies for implementing ISO 14001 are determined by several factors, including the organization’s:

  • Industry.
  • Environmental policies.
  • Product and/or service offerings.
  • Geographical location.

ISO Procedure

ISO standards are designed to help companies create a road map to achieve and maintain the objectives outlined in the specific standard. In addition to ensuring consistent delivery of safe and quality products and services, the standards also include measures for companies to pursue continuous improvement. An effective ISO procedure involves following a set of processes called the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle.4

Plan Do Check Act Cycle

The PDCA cycle is an iterative approach for achieving a particular objective, such as the successful completion of an ISO certification. The model involves specific tasks that need to be planned, tested and analyzed for effectiveness.

  • Plan – The planning phase is the most important part of the cycle as it will impact the other phases and the overall outcome. In your plan, clearly identify the certification requirements, the best process and time frame for completing them and also the resources needed to be successful.
  • Do – This phase involves clarifying the scope of the plan, completing the tasks and resolving any unexpected issues along the way.
  • Check – This phase involves assessing the outcome. Did you achieve the expected results? What changes, if any, will be required to ensure success going forward?
  • Act – ISO certifications are not one-and-done endeavors. They need to be renewed on a regular basis, which means all employees will need to be trained and retrained on the new policies and procedures required for the ISO standard.

ISO Training

Compliance with ISO standards requires creating processes, procedures and standards for your key business initiatives as well as establishing a culture of continuous improvement. By implementing the standards and policies in your organization, you set benchmarks that your staff must meet, which includes completing ISO training.

For instance, the ISO 27001 standard enforces strict policies for the protection of confidential data. Employees will need to receive training on company cybersecurity policies, including:

  • The organization’s strategic goals/objectives regarding security.
  • Proper password creation and authentication processes.
  • Network intrusion and data breach awareness and follow-up procedures.
  • Secure remote access guidelines.
  • Policies regarding the use of portable storage devices.

According to ISO certification guidelines, employees are required to receive ISO training on a regular basis, usually quarterly, biannually or annually.

What Companies Gain From ISO Certification

There are many advantages to earning an ISO certification. For example, a byproduct of having formalized processes and procedures is increased productivity. Staff have more clarity with the company’s vision, strategies and their individual responsibilities. Also, business units are less likely to have competing priorities, resulting in higher efficiency. Other benefits include:

  • Increases customer satisfaction.
  • Provides a competitive differentiator. Many companies prefer to do business only with organizations that have ISO certification credentials.
  • Establishes a culture of professionalism and continuous improvement.
  • Fosters a more proactive mindset across the organization.

Earning an ISO certification is an enormous commitment that requires buy-in and participation from every person at all levels in the organization, especially executive management. Auditors pay particular attention to evaluating how well personnel are trained and how they apply the standard’s guidelines throughout the workday.

 2019-bl-author-david-jensenDavid Jensen is a content marketing specialist at MasterControl, where he is responsible for researching and writing content for web pages, white papers, brochures, emails, blog posts, presentation materials and social media. He has over 25 years of experience producing instructional, marketing and public relations content for various technology-related industries and audiences. Jensen writes extensively about cybersecurity, data integrity, cloud computing and medical device manufacturing. He has published articles in various industry publications such as Medical Product Outsourcing (MPO) and Bio Utah. Jensen holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Weber State University and a master’s degree in professional communication from Westminster College.

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