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Executive Summary: ISO 9001:2015. Will it be worth the wait? - Murat Aras - Blog

Executive Summary: ISO 9001:2015. Will it be worth the wait?

With the start of the voting process on the final draft, management system standard ISO 9001 has reached its final stage of revision. ISO member countries now have 2 months to review the draft and cast their votes before September 9, the standard's expected publication. Following the publication, organizations will be granted a three-year transition period to migrate their quality management systems to the new edition. But what will ISO 9001:2015 bring to organizations and will it be worth the wait? As MANNAGENN, we believe that it will be. Here is an executive summary of the 5 key changes that will be taking effect with the current revision and a list of primary challenges as a result of these changes.

1.   No procedures required.

ISO 9001's rigidity with the way it enforced procedures had always been heavily criticized for a number of reasons, including the considerable amount of resources it consumed, the excessive number of paperwork it created and the redundant bureaucracy it generated. A radical shift in the thinking, ISO 9001:2015 requires "zero" procedures. The number of prescribed prerequisites are also less. What it requires instead is a demonstration of the identified areas and controlled outcomes. Leaving how these demonstrations are performed to organizations themselves, the revised standard is flexible to a greater extent. It is also more practicable "in a natural sense" as the system does not tend to interfere synthetically with how organizations do their business as it unintentionally inclined in the past.

2.   Less emphasis on documentation, 
more attachment to results.

The new revision classifies documentation and records (described as documented information) under 3 sub-clauses; 7.5.1. General, 7.5.2. Creating and updating and 7.5.3. Control. Again leaving the decisions to organizations themselves on determining which information to be kept, updated and controlled, the standard is more involved with outputs rather than inputs. Attempting to transform to an operation and performance based philosophy from a document oriented approach, 

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ISO 9001:2015 is truly attached to "what" is being done inside organizations instead of "how" it is done, unlike its earlier revisions. What can be perceived within the system is a certain determination to increase organizations' ability to offer conformable products and services and improve their customer satisfaction. Activities like planning and updating objectives, increasing awareness about these objectives, measuring and monitoring results and ensuring the quality of both internal and external communications are given a higher priority compared to documentation.

3.   Organization before system.

ISO 9001:2015 brings an integrated approach to leadership and organizational management. The final revision does not step in into organization and leadership in case of problems that are subject to corrective and preventive action. It expands its scope by covering any internal or external issue that has significance for the management system in terms of organization and leadership. The standard, for the first time in its history, is more concerned with understanding organizations, their context, environment and operations, and address possible risks and opportunities than it is concerned with itself.

4.   Finally, a standard for 
the service industry as well.

A big flaw in ISO 9001 by design was its close focus to the production industry. It wouldn't be wrong to claim that, in the previous revisions, 9001 was a standard intended to be utilized in the production industry which later was extended and fabricated to a degree to be "also available" for the service sector. The final revision on the other hand has taken service organizations into consideration starting from the proposal phase both in terminology and subject matter.

ISO 9001:2015 is truly attached to "what" is being done inside organizations instead of "how" it is done.

5.   Compatible with other ISO 
management system standards.

Eventually ISO 9001:2015 has become compatible with other management system standards. By adopting the high level structure as set out in Annex SL of ISO Directives Part 1 which standardizes sub-clause titles, core text, common terms and core definitions, the revision will enhance compatibility and alignment with other ISO management system standards.

6.   Primary challenges.

With its fundamental differences, ISO 9001:2015 will be exposing new challenges to organizations. Here is a list of the 3 possibly most prominent challenges.

  1. ISO 9001:2015 will require more involvement from the top management, beyond commitment or sponsorship as it was in the earlier revisions. The success of the implementation of the standard will be closely bound to the ability of senior managers to understand their organization and the competition they are facing.
  2. Being more concerned with results and outputs, ISO 9001 will require a proactive understanding of business processes. The reactive approach which tried to correct and prevent issues once they surfaced or happened will not be sufficient. The revised standard will urge organizations to focus on risk management and understand how risks impact the outputs of their processes and operations.
  3. Having an entire clause dedicated to understand and study organizations from an operational point of view, the standard will make the gap between the strategies and operations within organizations more apparent. Reminding that at least 60% of companies are struggling to bridge the gap between strategies and their day-to-day implementations and only 6% of senior managers believe that their strategies are fully aligned with their business models [1], ISO 9001's requirements about operations will be one of the big challenges for compliance with the standard.

But, what all three of these challenges have in common is the fact that they are “actual”, real-life challenges that are being currently experienced by organizations. ISO 9001:2015's challenges are not artificial, theoretical or conceptual as it was in the earlier revisions. Again, for the first time in its history, the challenges to conform ISO 9001 have aligned with the realities of competition. In this regard, we believe that the final revision has succeeded to go beyond being a marketing material which organizations engage as a certification of their quality to their consumers and become a managerial instrument with the potential to provide competitive advantage to organizations.

7.   Conclusion

In a similar manner with Nigel Croft’s opinions, Chair of the ISO subcommittee revising the standard, we believe that ISO 9001:2015 is an opportunity for organizations to improve their management systems in general rather than being a new set of requirements that have to be met [2]. Our professional opinion is in favor of the final revision from a competitive point of view.

ISO 9001

ISO 9001 is ISO’s (International Organization for Standardization) most well-known standard, with more than 1.1 million certificates worldwide. It provides requirements to help companies demonstrate that they can offer their customers consistent, good quality products and services. It also provides a framework to help them streamline their processes and become more efficient at their businesses. ISO 9001 can be used by organizations of all types and sizes. The standard has inspired a series of documents for sector-specific applications including the automotive sector, the medical sector, local governments and more.

ISO 9001 standards generally go through periodic revision every 3 to 5 years to ensure they are relevant and up-to-date. The new edition is expected to be published in September 2015.


We would like to remind that our analysis are based on ISO 9001:2015 Final Draft International Standard (FDIS). Although minor changes are expected on the final stage of the revision, please take notice that the standard has not yet finalized.


[1]   Economist, The, Why Good Strategies Fail, Lessons for the C-Suite,   Sponsored by the Project Management Institute (PMI), The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited, 2013.

[2]   Lazarte, Maria, Vote Starts on Final Draft of ISO 9001, News, ISO (The International Organization for Standardization), July 9, 2015.


MANNAGENN is giving assistance to its corporate clients to solve managerial problems of professional business with engineering practices since 2006. We are reinterpreting management - a social science - with analytic methods with our engineering formation and social competencies. We call our professional approach "management engineering". Assisting our clients to understand, comprehend and harmonize opposite dynamics of business, we provide quick wins and long term improvements that generates real competitive advantages with our services.

Publish Date: July 26, 2015 1:03 PM

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