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As the most widely-adopted quality management systems standard globally, the recent revision of ISO 9001 will likely impact organizations across all sectors – not least the banking and financial services sector. In an increasingly uncertain economic and regulatory environment, standards such as this continue to provide assurance and embed systems, processes and values to help protect businesses and their customers. They can help to mitigate risk, improve efficiency and provide a common language for organizations.

The importance of achieving, maintaining and improving quality within organizations is vital in today’s market. In order to achieve this, a risk-based approach is one of the key requirements of the revised management systems standard. It allows organizations to use the quality management system as a preventive tool and encourages continuous improvement. Salus is one of the first companies to certify to the new standard and is already realizing the benefits of this risk-led approach.

 “Our Quality Management System is fundamental to our daily approach to managing and delivering services, and risk management is a core part,” Mark Kennedy, General Manager at Salus comments. “This can be a difficult concept to promote within an organization and requires openness and honesty in order to face challenges and identify improvements to manage such risks.  The changes in the recent version of the standard have helped us to focus on high level organizational involvement as well as coherent management of risk at all levels.”

Similarly, Costain another early adopter cites the risk-based approach as a key differentiator for them in the market. Costain’s Business Improvement Director, Tony Blanch, explains, “We adopted a risk-based approach using our management systems back in 2002, which has helped to turn around the business and we have been refining these processes, systems and values ever since. It’s pleasing that ISO 9001 has made this way of working much more explicit.”

The new ISO 9001 standard was revised to reflect the increasingly complex environments in which organizations operate. Business has changed radically since the last major revision in 2000, therefore as well as an increased focus on the management of risk, the 2015 version of ISO 9001 places greater focus on those at the top of an organization being involved and accountable, aligning quality with wider business strategy. As supply chains become more complex and productivity levels increase, so does the need to ensure all contributing elements are operating to the highest standard.

Blanch continues, “We are extremely reliant upon our supply chain, this means we need robust processes to ensure we appoint the most appropriate partners and to ensure we have the systems and capability to collaborate and deliver innovation and value to the customer. We needed to think more carefully about what ‘interested parties’ meant to the business, how they could impact us, and what impact we may have on them. It meant we had to think carefully about the legal, regulatory, contractual and expected requirements.”

This has helped Costain to achieve significantly higher customer satisfaction and retention – now over 90%. “We focus on building solid relationships with our customers, understanding their problems and providing solutions,” says Blanch. “We now no longer just focus on the construction aspect, but provide a life-cycle solution from front end feasibility and design through to asset management and technology provision and support.”

It has been a similar case for Salus who first adopted ISO 9001 in 1999 and who have embraced high level organizational involvement meaning that ISO 9001 is core to the way that Salus operates. Kennedy said, ”The main benefit we have seen as an organization is that we now have clear and consistent processes to work with customers to identify, meet and exceed their requirements.

“High quality systematic and consistent services are vital to the delivery of health care for individuals. In today’s climate of limited finance and requirements for effectiveness, any system which minimises waste and maximises efficient use of resources while delivering quality services is invaluable.”

Some of the other key changes to the standard include a greater emphasis on building a management system to each organization’s needs, allowing businesses to align it to their own objectives. The standard has also been revised to include a high level structure (HLS) – featuring terms, definitions, headings and text common to all management system standards – allowing easier integration when implementing multiple management systems.

Neil Pike, Head of Business Improvement at Overbury commented: “With the new quality, environmental and business continuity standards now in greater alignment, following their individual revisions, we have been able to review our business operating context, leadership structure, opportunities and risks across all three standards, more efficiently. This has dramatically cut down duplication and has enhanced transparency across all our management systems – an improvement that will help us embrace the new health and safety standard next year.

Overbury believes that early engagement with BSI and undertaking a fast-track approach to the transition was crucial, and although receiving the standard the day it launched was a fantastic achievement, it was not without its challenges.

Pike continues, “Firstly, we needed to have an increased focus on the management system being aligned to the organization’s business objectives. Then, we needed a renewed focus on leadership throughout the organization and we had to embrace risk-based thinking and greater awareness of our operating environment. Finally, less prescriptive requirements for documentation and greater focus on business processes were vital. While we were already quite advanced in managing these requirements, the new standard has enhanced the integration of our quality management system into the heart of the business.”

Although ISO 9001 was revised in 2015, one thing remains unchanged – in order to be successful, businesses have to adapt to meet the growing needs of customer and this remains a priority for all organizations including those in the banking and financial services sector.