Certification & Compliance in a Nutshell: What is ISO 9001?


This article, our third on business and technology certification and compliance, explores ISO 9001, a standard created and developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO):

  • What is the ISO?
  • Basics on ISO 9001
  • History of the Standard
  • Scope
  • Certification Process
  • Why it is Used
  • Conclusion

What is the ISO?

The ISO, according to its website, is the most sizable publisher of voluntary standards worldwide It is a nonprofit association made up of a global membership. Its organization and all its policies are transparently accessible and open for debate.

The ISO has a presence in 166 different nations, with refinement of the standards themselves and accreditation of individual businesses occurring through the network. A Central Secretariat presides over management of the ISO from Geneva, Switzerland.

The use of international standards allows for consistent and commonly understood parameters for industry on an international scale. “They give world-class specifications for products, services and systems, to ensure quality, safety and efficiency,” states the ISO. “They are instrumental in facilitating international trade.”

ISO has released almost 20,000 standards diversely spread throughout sectors of the economy, including information systems, farming, medicine, and food handling.

Basics on ISO 9001

A new version of ISO 9001, 9001:2015, is due out by the end of the year, per the ISO. As of this writing, the most current version is 9001:2008. This standard is entitled “Quality Management Systems” and is part of the ISO 9000 family, the standards of which focus on quality management and are widely used globally. The standards give advice and offer strategies to businesses desiring to provide products and services that live up to client expectations, and to instill measures that allow continual quality enhancement.

ISO 9001 establishes characteristics of a system for quality management. It can be used by enterprises and SMB’s in any line of business. More than 1 million businesses in 170 nations are certified to meet the standards of 9001:2008.

The standard is centered on several quality management guidelines such as a customer-centric approach, the attention and support of high-level leadership, process orientation, and ongoing assessment. The overarching philosophy behind the standard is geared toward the delivery of high-quality solutions every time you interact with your customers. As the ISO explains it, “Using ISO 9001:2008 helps ensure that customers get consistent, good quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.”

History of the Standard

The set of ISO 9000 standards was first released in 1987. Its foundation was the BSI Group’s BS 5750, which were suggested to the ISO in 1979. Although the standard was adapted from a set of parameters developed by another body (BSI Group, a.k.a. the British Standards Institution), it is actually rooted in a US Department of Defense standard that came out in 1959, MIL-Q-9858. MIL-Q-9858, which contained the original quality management system principles, was transposed and updated into the NATO AQAP standards in 1969. The NATO ones were used as the basis for the 1974 BSI release of BS 5179. Five years later, BS 5179 was used as the foundation of BS 5750, which in turn was presented to the ISO for consideration.


ISO 9001 represents “the first step of a process of continual improvement that will provide… the necessary management tools to improve working practices throughout the entire organization,” according to international standards certification firm ACS Registrars.

The standard allows you to systematically adopt quality management protocols throughout all your organization’s parts, including:

  • Buildings
  • Employees
  • Training
  • Products and services
  • Computers.

Certification Process

You first want to put someone in charge of conducting your internal evaluations; helping to create guidelines and policies; and serving as the main point of contact for auditing and certification of your company.

Once that individual is comfortable that the company meets the parameters of quality management described within ISO 9001, the next step is to contact an independent certification body so that you have an outside opinion regarding any oversights and get certification to show off to your clients.

Why it is Used

ISO 9001 will be of most use to a company if the standard is intended to achieve real and demonstrable outcomes. If the focus is on real-world, achievable improvements, you are more likely to get everyone onboard with any transitions that need to be made. ACS explains that by incorporating strategies that optimize your business’s efficiency and gauge everything in terms of usefulness in meeting goals, “you will achieve a system that will help and support your staff, and improve customer satisfaction.”

We can attest that customer satisfaction remains more consistent with ISO 9001 in place. Our ISO 9001:2008 certification and registration is one reason our customers love us. As John Zortman said in a customer comment, “You cannot improve perfection.”

By Kent Roberts