What are the benefits of ISO 9001?

An ISO 9001 certified quality management system can provide a whole range of benefits.

I love hearing from clients about the benefits they achieved via doing ISO 9001. The things they say most are that their business runs better, everyone is clearer about what they do, processes are improved, they know they are managing things more effectively, they feel much more in control, they notice increases in customer feedback, employee satisfaction and positive feedback, and noticeable reductions in duplication, recurring problems, rework and other frustrations or time-wasters. 

Worth reading is this definitive joint statement from ISO (who create the Standards) and IAF (who oversee accreditation) on the Expected Outcomes from ISO 9001

Studies on Business and 9001

1. A joint study in the Asian region looked at the economic benefits of 9001, its credibility and purchaser perceptions.  The study found that implementation of accredited certification to ISO 9001 has positive results for the certified organisations and their customers, and thus ultimately the economies.

Key findings

Reference:ISO 9001—Its relevance and impact in Asian Developing Economies, a joint study by ISO, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido), IAF and NADC. Pub. 2012

2. A 2007 Australian study looked at why businesses implemented ISO 9001, their approaches and experiences, and particularly comparing the 2000 version with the earlier 1994 version it replaced to see if it really better (yes!).

Major findings:

Some other findings:
* reduction in the mean time to implement the Standard. For ISO 9001:2000, the mean was 8 months compared with a mean of 10 months for the 1994 version.
* Of the difficulties associated with implementing ISO 9001, balancing other priorities with the demands of implementation was the greatest one. The 2000 version was associated with substantially fewer difficulties in implementation across all elements surveyed.

* Reference: The Implementation of ISO 9000 in Australian Organisations, Australian Supply Chain Management Research Unit, Monash University, supported by JAS-ANZ. Dr D Prajogo & Professor Sohal. It was conducted by Monash University in collaboration with JAS-ANZ. Findings from 326 organisations, evenly spread between manufacturing and service; majority (87%) = small to medium- sized organisations. Available from JAS-ANZ.

3. An earlier study (2003) found a significant and positive relationship between management's motives for adopting ISO 9000 certification and business performance. Organisations that pursued certification willingly and positively across a broad spread of objectives are more likely to report improved organisational performance. The individual element found to contribute most to business performance was Customer Focus.

* Reference: The Longitudinal Effects of the ISO 9000 Certification Process On Business Performance, 2003 Terziovski, Power and Sohal, Melbourne & Monash Universities. Findings only from manufacturing.

4. Positive effects of Certification - a US survey in 2006 got the following answers asking about whether they had gained internal benefits. Of 2500 surveyed, there were:

*Reference: Survey conducted by The Independent Association of Accredited Registrars (IAAR) - an association of accredited management system registrars operating in North America.

5. A UK Study 2006 What Do Customers Know or Care? survey wanted to find out if consumers know (or care) about ISO 9000. The UK has perhaps the most mature usage of the ISO 9000 series worldwide.


*Reference: Do consumers really care about ISO 9001 certification?, J Tannock & Henry Brown, Nottingham University Business School, published in ISO Management Systems, May-June 2006 edition, Vol 6; by a professional market research organisation.

Other Studies

6. The Phoenix Police reported $11m in savings. Source: ISO video (previously published, but no longer available to public).

7. A detailed analysis of financial performance of ISO 9000-certified organizations over a 10-year period, found that companies who implemented a system certified to ISO 9000 gained a greater return on assets (ROA).  This study was conducted by a distinguished group of business school academics from The Anderson School at UCLA, R.H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland and Universidad Carlos III, Spain. They found that "Firms that failed to seek certification experienced substantial deteriorations in ROA [Return on Assets], productivity and sales, while firms that did seek certification generally managed to avoid such declines".
Source: July-August 2002 issue of ISO Management Systems

8.  In a BSI survey of 227 US firms, one company reported a sales increase after certification of $6 m. Another reported a 75% improvement in customer satisfaction. (What would a 75% increase in customer satisfaction do for your business?)

Other findings from the survey:

Source: BSIGroup (global quality certifier).

9.  In a 1992 survey of companies who had held certification for several years:

Source: LRQA, a global certifier

There are real benefits from ISO 9001 are real

For nearly 20 years now I've worked closely with the 9000 family of documents in the Standard. The more I work with the 9001 Standard, the more respect I develop for it because the more I see how things improve if it's used intelligently.

Yes, it has its critics and no, nothing's perfect. But my experience of bad ISO 9001 systems is that they are almost invariably caused by failures in understanding of the Standard and/or failures of implementation, not the Standard itself. The standing question for its critics: What do you propose instead?

The BUT - does everyone get these benefits?


You see, while the benefits of 9001 are very real, they are not automatic. As one study says (highlight added):  

the motive for adopting ISO 9000 certification and the maturity of the quality culture are significant predictors of the benefits derived from ISO 9000 certification... organizations that have been audited to the ISO 9000 standards believe that the quality audit process contributes to business performance when the quality culture in the organization is well developed and the manager’s motivation to gain certification has been to improve business performance and not to conform to an international standard

The individual element found to contribute most to business performance was Customer Focus"


Why and how you 'do ISO 9001' will determine whether you gain the benefits available.

Or not.