An Introduction to ISO 9001 Certification

What is ISO 9001, exactly?

As the EU looks to boost cloud adoption by imposing certification on providers to ensure trust in the marketplace, today we are going to take a brief look at one such standard in order to ensure that cloud suppliers and customers have a full understanding of what it is and how it can benefit both parties.

ISO 9001 is one of the most popular quality management standards in the world today. It has been adopted in 100s of countries by 1000s of organisations and is an international standard which controls product quality.

A business doesn’t have to be huge in order to obtain certification and gaining it can benefit suppliers in a number of ways. The standard is not restricted to cloud products, or indeed the IT industry, and most of all gives consumers a guarantee that the product they’re purchasing is of a certain quality.

Why should I become certified as a cloud provider?

Last year, we saw cloud moving slowly, as CEOs and even small companies doubted the security of it and worried about compliance issues. Gaining ISO 9001 certification gives potential customers the peace of mind that they are dealing with an outfit that has gone to the trouble of ensuring they can give such peace of mind by delivering a quality product.

Further to this, should a competitor be ISO 9001 certified and your business is not, who do you think the customer is more likely to choose?

ISO stands for the International Organisation for Standardisation, a body which produces a number of international standards to enable better trade around the world. By becoming certified, you are telling potential customers that not only do you believe in your product and services, you're also prepared to prove it.

In today’s climate, this could be the difference between landing a contract and not.

How does it work?

Firstly, ISO 9001 is part of a ‘family’ of standards, this one dealing with quality management systems. The standard has been shown to improve financial performance within a company, as well as give customer satisfaction that they are working with an approved reseller, whatever their product. The illustration below gives an idea of how this is achieved.

ISO 9001

ISO 9001

As you can see, the internal and external benefits all point to one main outcome, increased financial performance. However, the ability to be able to access new markets globally is also a huge bonus.

For cloud suppliers, this would mean that they have the ability to effectively market and sell their products both in the UK and abroad. The ability to sell abroad of course means a bigger market, although some clients will be sceptical about where their data is stored, especially those in the US.

“Certification to the standard is used in global supply chains to provide assurance about suppliers' ability to satisfy quality requirements and to enhance customer satisfaction in supplier-customer relationships,” the standards agency says in a 2011 survey.

How do I gain certification?

It’s not always a choice to begin with, some companies will find that they are forced to gain the standard due to risk management practices or regulatory requirements.

ISO itself doesn’t provide certification, so you will have to have a look around and choose a certification body yourself. When doing so, whilst it can be tempting to go for the cheapest option, this could be expensive in the long run if auditing practices prove to be below par.

With that in mind, ask around, plan, look for testimonials from quality clients and don’t jump into anything head first.

A few questions you should ask:

  • Does the body implement ISO/IEC 17021:2011 conformity assessment which is required for providing audit and certification management systems.
  • Is the body accredited? This isn’t a requirement so not all will have accreditation. However, this “remains an independent confirmation of competence” and can be confirmed by contacting your national accreditation body. Alternatively, you can visit the International Accreditation Forum and search for the body you are thinking of using.

Your supplying body will then guide you through the process of becoming certified. Bear in mind that whilst accreditation is not mandatory, it can give you a certain peace of mind that you’re dealing with a company that, like you, is willing to give its customers assurance.