Help to Get ISO 9001
If you aim to get ISO 9001, you're probably already thinking about the help you need.
Here are the three main options, with some advice about each.
Use an ISO 9001 Consultant
When? When you are very short of time and/or resources, and it is most efficient to have guidance from an expert.
Cost: May appear high initially but can be very effective: you only use them for the job, and you don't have to pay them to stick around. Actual cost depends on their charge (of course) and factors such as your current status and if you are willing/able to do some of the work required, with their guidance.
What to watch out for
- Pick a good consultant! There's some dreadful ones out there, including some 'wannabes' around who have no right to assume the title of consultant, let alone do it justice.
- Make sure you get someone who suits your organisation. See my article on how to choose a good quality consultant (links at right).
- Have an agreement in writing: what they will do, what you will do, when, how much and so forth. Be clear about what's included and what's not.
- Avoid anyone who offers you a very low-cost, fixed-price deal of the 'just add water' type (eg, "all you pay is $6000") from the outset. Why? Because the only way they can do this is to force you into a one size fits all model.
It will invariably be built around the clauses of the Standard and not on your operations or the way you work, so you'll end up with something that attempts to run your business along a 'one size fits all' model. You'll spend even more time/money later on getting something that actually works for and with you - which is what it should have been in the first place.
- Good consultants will want to do some kind of initial scope/gap analysis first, to establish what actually needs to be done, and discuss this with you. The person proffering an instant solution won't because they already have 'the answer'. Just Do It Their Way.
Use Someone Internal (Hire or Train)
When? When the role will be ongoing and your size makes this feasible. Usually, that's upwards of 70-80 staff or so. Or you may be able to combine quality management with another part-time role.
Cost: Higher than for a consultant. Yes, really. Because you need to consider all your costs, not just salary alone, but taking into account things such as recruitment costs (if hiring) plus statutory costs such as WorkCover levy (in Australia), holiday pay and leave, public holidays, training (if training an internal person), and of course the furniture, office space and equipment they'll need. And so on. My experience is that few employees actually know how much they actually cost their employer. And at times, employers don't adequately consider this either.
What to watch out for
- Do they have the right 'fit' for your role and organisation? A person with the right attributes (even if lacking quality skills) is a good choice because they can be given the training needed and of course assuming time permits. If I had to choose, I'd always opt for someone with the right attributes, and train them up in quality, rather than take someone with quality experience but with the wrong attributes for the role (eg, too rigid or limited in thinking, manufacturing person in a service environment and so forth).
- The biggest problem is that the type of person good at setting up a new system and getting it certified is rarely the same kind of person who also enjoys maintaining and operating it. One's a project-type person, the other is a 'business as usual' type of person. So hiring someone for just a fixed-term contract, or using a consultant may be better.
- Good quality professionals are relatively thin on the ground.
- It can take time to find the right person, and/or to train someone. It will definitely take time, effort and training for anyone without experience to learn about ISO 9001 and what's involved in getting certified (although a good DIY Kit can help here). They will make mistakes along the way and it will almost certainly take longer. And if you hire someone new, you'll have to factor in the time they'll need to learn about your company.
Use a 9001 DIY Kit or templates
When? When you plan to do it yourself, but just lack the knowledge of what to do and how.
Cost: Lowest in $. Note though, that it will involve some of your time, or that of the staff person you assign. On the other hand, the process of getting to ISO 9001 is just as important as 'being there', and a DIY ISO 9001 approach enables you to learn as you go.
What to watch out for
- Pick a good kit. A DIY ISO 9001 Kit that is honest, rather than one that skirts or avoids telling you the truth: that even with a kit, getting ISO 9001 will involve work and effort . Although a good one can make the process smooth and effective.
- Look at who is selling it - is there any actual person/people behind it? What's their experience? Does it sound reputable and sensible? Or is it just a set of anonymous templates and documents behind a website, sold by heaven knows who? If you call or email, do you get any response?
- Take note of what previous customers say, not just what the website/seller says.
- Beware of anything with a list of innumerable forms and documents with obtuse names and lots of numbering. It certainly won't get better.
- There really are not many good ones out there at all. Unfortunately, the vast majority are of the canned 'just add water' instant solution type. Superficially attractive, but deadly.
The ones that promise you a virtually instant quality system, in which you need or change little, apart from buy their kit of course, and put your company name on their templates.
Why? Because, again, the only way you can get an 'instant solution' out of the box is if it's a single, cookie-cutter approach of the 'one size fits all' type. It is always structured around the and terminology of the Standard itself (groan) and fitted to all the individual clauses and sub-clauses of ISO 9001. So you usually get lots and lots of repetition in the varous sections and subsections, and usually far too many procedures with strange names, including 'Management Review' and 'Design and Development' (all of which make sense in the Standard) and a lot of obscure and rather dense and verbose language.
And I'll bet my bottom dollar that you don't operate your business like that. Or want to.
- Very cheap solutions, under say $1000. See above.
- 'Magic' software programs or applications that promise virtually instant solutions. See above.
Author: Jane Bennett