Is 9001 2015 viable for startups?

 

ISO 9001 STARTUPS

Not many young entrepreneurs are familiar with ISO 9001 standard.

All they think they know is sometimes is that:

-it may be useful on a later stage…but definitely not now!

-it’s most of the times an expensive obligation, a condition to have access to certain markets or for approaching some industrial partner that compulsory require the application of this standard in order to do business with them

-it’s somehow perceived as against the spirit of a startup… a pioneer doesn’t shave to spend times drawing maps, his task I conquering unexplored territories. Startups process are liquid and constantly changing, it’s against this flexibility-mantra to tighten-up processes like ISO 9001 seems to suggest

– …ISO 9001 what?

Well, an expert will probably tell you (There are endless articles like that on the net) that ISO 9001 certification is really essential because:

  • Brings into your organization a continuous improvement culture
  • Helps you to formalize and document your processes; the idea behind is: if you can do that, then you can easily explain them to third parties/stakeholders and if a process is formalized, is also under control
  • Teaches you how to approach the concepts of risk and opportunity management
  • Makes you sensitive to customer needs and issues because with ISO 9001 you have to pay attention to customer satisfaction and customer experience, having therefore the chance to boost your sales
  • Shows you the importance to setting goals and objectives for all your processes…in the end performance is everything

NO. Is too simple and unrealistic. That’s just part of the truth…when it comes about ISO 9001 certification you have to think carefully about the following aspects:

SUPPOSED ISO 9001 ADVANTAGE ISO 9001 PROS ISO 9001 CONS SUGGESTION FOR IMPLEMENTATION
PREVENTING COMPANY’S FAILURE ? Startup fail for many reasons, but they are definitely Not failing because they don’t have ISO 9001 certification! First contents, then the framework….if processes are working you are always in time to formalize them into procedures. Start with knowing the standard, and then with applying internally its principles. Your firm will benefit from it.  Undergoing a certification process request defining a clear certification-purpose and having in place a consistent organization… both thing request a mature and well aware organization, with a strong identity and company culture.
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT It’s ISO 9001 DNA, through the plan-do-check-act approach, that is naturally improvement .oriented Improvements can be defined and realized with many alternative methods Get familiar as soon as you can pdca continuous improvement cycle: in the end is a very good management method in every stage of your startup development. Is the best way to get in contact with ISO 9001 world  (and also with other standards of the ISO family such as ISO 20000, 14001, 27001 etc)
PROCESSES DESIGN AND FORMALIZATION It’s true, this represent a weakness for many startups…they just don’t document and write down enough their processes; but establishing uniform and well defined process is essential for:

– transform a craftsman, like sometimes a startupper really is (producing products with sometimes unacceptable erratic quality) into a business man (able to guarantee always the same quality standard)

-make yourself understood and appreciated to potential partners and investors

Process design and formalization is costly, takes a lot of time and needs to be kept properly updated and therefore well understood by everyone into your organization. Briefly, it needs also a lot of (expensive and time demanding) training Do it in steps:

-set this point as, f.i., a specific Business plan’s goal

-start with core processes, the “heavy ones” that really make your organization looking unique and special… that’s a good point for developing a good business plan too!

-get gradually to reach a full documentation of primary and secondary processes in a two years approach

 

RISKS AND OPPORTUNITY Getting familiar with the concept of risk since the early development stages is very important. Not being enough  risk-aware is a very significant reason of failure for many startups. ISO 9001 tell to perform a risk analysis, but it doesn’t tell you how to do it, which kind of techniques are appropriate for a startup. Performing a risk analysis and using it as a management tool on a regular basis request time and a mature and consistent management culture. A startup is by definition a risk taking organization. Use first the ISO 9001 risk approach in developing some parts of your business plan (f.i 5 forces model) and get familiar with it. Then fully develop it with the help of some skilled advisor who can provide the most appropriate frameworks and tool to perform the risk analysis
GETTING FAMILIAR WITH CUSTOMER ISO 9001 is, since the very beginning of its history, customer oriented. Being aware of the importance of developing skills, processes and tools to hear the “customer voice” is certainly extremely important Sometimes customer voice can be hard or too expensive to be detected by a startup alone; sometimes can be even misleading, especially when it’s about bringing to market some potentially disruptive and unexperienced change There are many methods and chances (direct, f.i. asking questions directly to your customers, and indirect, like f.i. analysing claims and behaviours) to detect customer satisfaction and the effectives of the provided customer experience.

–          Start with simple and not too much structured methods, gathering timely the first basic feedbacks.

–          Learn how to use it in improving your organization

–          Refine your research and analysis from time to time investigating some specific elements (f.i. connected with some commercial initiative such as the launch of a new product

SETTING GOALS AND OBJECTIVES ISO 9001 provides a really important  and widely used framework for setting, reviewing, and taking action against objectives etc etc It can be difficult, especially in an early stage, to follow efficiently the many changes and the variations a startup  may have to undergo; moreover, goals and objectives may be enforced by partners, investors, customers etc Use first the ISO 9001 just as a framework able to inspire and make your work consistent. Then refine your work from time to time, following the progressive formulation of your firm’s identity

 

It can be concluded that:

  • the implementation of ISO 9001 standard into your organization is important but probably not in an early stage of development: at this stage training (also about ISO standards) is instead essential to get familiar with this specific world;
  • at an intermediate stage, you can use ISO 9001 framework for internal application to build your quality system and trying to organize people, resources and process inside your business;
  • you can then think about ISO 9001 third party certification when your firm is sufficiently mature to implement and most of all improve and maintain such a quality system growing consistently and coherently with your business development; you can also think, in order to make costs sustainable, to obtain ISO 9001 certification as part of a cluster, a joint venture or a network of firms.

 

 

 

 

 

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