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Annex SL - A Consistent Format

23 February 2016
CQI’s Andrew Holt looks at how ISO 9001:2015 has adopted Annex SL, analyzing the benefits (less time and related costs), added value, but also challenges. 

ISO 9001:2015 adopts Annex SL structure

Annex SL was developed to ensure all future ISO management system standards would share a common format, irrespective of the specific discipline to which they relate.
In short, the adoption of Annex SL has been done to ensure a level of consistency across all ISO management system standards.
The changes arising as a result of the adoption of Annex SL (previously known as ISO Guide 83) incorporated into ISO 9001:2015, are changes that will have a significant impact for both quality and audit professionals.
Annex SL prescribes a high-level structure, identical core text, and common terms and core definitions.
This means that even when requirements are essentially unchanged between ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 9001:2015, these are frequently found under a new clause/sub-clause heading.
And indeed, the changes incorporated into ISO 9001:2015 can essentially be divided into those that have arisen as a result of the adoption of Annex SL as the basis for the standard and those that have arisen as a result of the desire to improve current quality management specific requirements.
In the preface to the CQI and IRCA Annex SL Briefing Note, we described the introduction of Annex SL as “the most important management system event since the introduction of ISO 9001”.

The implications of Annex SL

Its adoption has implications for all those using management system standards, be they standard writers, management system implementers, auditors or training providers.

  • Life has become easier for management system standard writers. They can now concentrate their efforts on developing the discipline-specific requirements that will be focused on: Clause 6 - Planning and Clause 8 – Operation. Will this lead to shorter development times for ISO standards? Hopefully yes, but we will need to wait to see if this proves to be the case in practice.

  • Implementers of management systems should find life easier too. Those seeking to introduce multiple management systems (for example, Energy, Environmental, Health and Safety) will have less work to do because the structure and the core requirements of these are identical.

  • This will simplify both the initial implementation and the on-going maintenance of such systems. For management system auditors, the adoption of Annex SL means there is a generic set of requirements that need to be assessed when conducting management system audits, irrespective of the discipline that is being audited.

Training and learning

As a result of the above, it is expected to see training organizations start to offer generic [and integrated] management system auditing courses as alternatives to their currently offered discipline-specific ones.
Those auditors wishing to achieve sector-specific registration would then complete secondary modules to top up their earlier generic training.
IRCA has already advised IRCA-Approved Training Organizations to adopt such an approach when designing auditor transition training courses, and has reviewed and re-issued its core Foundation, Internal Auditor, Auditor/Lead Auditor and Auditor Conversion courses in July 2015.
While the adoption of Annex SL will ultimately benefit all those who make active use of management system standards, in the short term, there will be challenges for those concerned with establishing, implementing, managing or auditing against ISO 9001:2015.
The impact is likely to be greatest for practitioners and auditors rather than the organization itself, as many of the new and enhanced requirements are things that organizations should be doing already – for example, understanding the needs and expectations of stakeholders (referred to as “interested parties”).
The difference will be that these activities will have to be transparent and demonstrable, so organizations may need to make some activities more evident than they currently are.
For those organizations already operating by the spirit of ISO 9001:2008, the transition to ISO 9001:2015 should prove relatively straightforward. Whereas, for those organizations that are simply complying with the requirements of ISO 9001:2008 at the most basic level, work will be required to address the current culture and operation of the organization.

Quality culture

Culture can be described as “the way things are done around here”. However, this culture will have‚Ä®to be reviewed and revised if necessary as a consequence of the adoption of Annex SL as the basis for ISO 9001:2015. This includes the behaviours of everyone connected with the quality management system, and, in particular, of those operating at the most senior level within an organisation.
Culture change can be notoriously difficult to effect and it is primarily for this reason that the CQI and IRCA have taken the position that ISO 9001:2015 represents such a significant revision.
By raising awareness now, organizations and individuals can begin to develop their migration strategies.

Andrew Holt is Technical Content Executive at the Chartered Quality Institute and IRCA

Find out how much you could save by your integrating management systems through the Annex SL high level structure here.