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Choosing and Using an ISO Consultant

21 June 2019
Utilising the services of a consultant may help you along your certification journey, find out more...

Why use an ISO Consultant?

The strategic decision by any business to implement a quality management system, or any other kind of ISO management system and achieve ISO Certification is one that will have a profound effect on the organization. The decision to implement an ISO management system is often taken when the company is seeking to expand, or trying to enter new markets so is already under a point of stress.

Organizations and their leaders will rightly want to take ownership of the process and may allocate the task to an existing person who has shown the right level of interest, experience or sits logically in the structure. However, all too often, the implementation of a management system may get bogged down in the detail, or day-to-day pressures take over. The process stalls and the decision to achieve recognition and certification is put off.

The root causes of these situations are related to either a lack of resources or a lack of competency. If the organization does nothing, it’s failed at the first hurdle. The ISO standards stipulate within the clauses concerned with competency (Clause 7.2), that an organization should ‘take action to acquire competence’, or in relation to ‘resources (Clause 7.1) that the ‘organization determines and provides the resources needed..’ to implement the management system.

The benefits of using a reputable and experienced ISO Consultant who has good knowledge of the relevant ISO standards and industrial sector are that you will achieve Certification with an effectively implemented management system and operated by people that understand how to continue to achieve continual improvement.

5 good reasons to use an ISO Consultant

Here’s a top five of the benefits of using a good ISO Consultant:

  • Consultants bring you a ‘fresh eyes’ approach to your processes. They can bring insights to how ‘best-practice’ can be used, as well as highlighting if legal minimums are being missed

  • Consultants provide you with knowledge and expertise quickly and efficiently. In particular, they will help you understand the ISO standards.

  • Consultants apply their experience to ensure you develop bespoke solutions that reflect your circumstances and aspirations

  • Consultants help you deliver within the time-frame, as they won’t be distracted by other tasks.

  • Consultants bring you knowledge and insights to ‘best practice’ and effective solutions that have worked elsewhere in industry

What to look for in an ISO consultant?

When you find an ISO Consultant, it is important that you apply the same criteria as you would with any employee before you employ them. The majority of ISO Consultants will work with integrity, be trustworthy and have relevant industry experience, but like all employees, you should ask questions that satisfy you and your management team that you will have the right support.

You should be able to ask questions about the Consultant’s qualifications and experience, their team-working ability, their approach to the work and success rate, as well as any broader benefits you may receive if they are employed by a larger Consultancy business. Be clear in your own mind as well about what you want to do if things don’t go to plan – ask for experiences of where the Consultant has had problems with other Clients and what they did to resolve the situation.

What role will the ISO Consultant have?

Be clear about what you are trying to achieve with the Consultant. There is not one style of consultancy, and people will have different expertise. Ultimately, the Consultant is looking to help you improve your current situation, but there are several roles that they may adopt in achieving this, for example:

The Leader:
If you need someone to take a lead on a project, and focus on achieving your desired outcomes, the Consultant will take on this role. Being an external resource, they will not be clouded by internal politics but instead, be task-focused and bring people together to get the project on-track.

If you have a project that has many elements, a Consultant will provide the co-ordination to ensure that people work together and deliver the project, or work collaboratively to develop and deliver process outcomes.  

The Subject Matter Expert (SME):
The SME will provide the intelligence and information to the project team, who can use it to make the decisions that are appropriate for the organization. All the ISO management systems are open to interpretation and there is no single method that is appropriate to every organization. A strong management system will take the requirements into account and apply them in an appropriate manner.

The Worker:
The Worker will be an ISO Consultant that gets involved in the detail. The Worker will be the person who is writing procedures late into the night. Be careful though, an ISO Consultancy may charge anywhere between £100 to £1000 a day, so make sure you are getting the right value for the money you spend. Don’t ask someone earning the same as a Lawyer to do what could easily be passed to an administrator to complete.

How do I manage an ISO Consultant?

At any point in any project, an ISO Consultant may fill one or many of the roles we’ve outlined above. It is important therefore, that you have a clear idea of the project, and what the milestones are that will be achieved. Be clear about those with your Consultant and agree a timed plan with them. This will help you balance the input they provide you and ensure that the assistance is appropriate.

What is the view of ISO 17021 and UKAS?

Certification Bodies have to comply to their own quality management systems; although they may use a system based on ISO 9001 to manage their operations, they are actually certified against ISO 17021, which is the ISO standard for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems.

In ISO 17021, the definition of consultancy is the ‘participation in designing, implementing or maintaining a management system’ and cites examples such as the preparation of manuals and procedures, or giving specific advice or instruction towards the development and implementation of a management system.

To ensure that NQA deliver impartial certification services in accordance with rigorous accreditation standards, NQA does not provide consultancy. Instead they operate an Associate Consultant Register (ACR) to support their clients to find credible experts within their industry.

Where to find an NQA associate ISO Consultant

If you are looking for a consultant to assist you with a new or existing management system, NQA can help! Their ACR has consultants from all over the country enlisted on it. The register is designed to help you find experienced consultants who can help.

If you feel that you may benefit from using a consultant please click here and a member of the team will be in touch with you shortly to run through your options.

Adam Faiers & Alister Constantine
Spedan Ltd

For information on what training NQA offers please click here.