Striving for standards

Organisational standards certifications, such as ISO quality certifications, are gaining more interest from enterprises in the Middle East, but the process for qualifying for standards can be long and expensive. Do standard certifications deliver enough benefit to justify the investment?

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Striving for standards Achieving organisational standards helps companies to set best practice, but the process can involve a lot of effort.
By  Keri Allan Published  June 18, 2014

Organisational standards certification is growing in popularity amongst IT businesses in the Middle East, partly due to market maturity and partly due to the move to shift workloads to partners in areas such as cloud and managed services.

Those that interest organisations most are ISO certifications related to IT service management, security and general quality and although not compulsory, they’re becoming more and more important to customers and partners, highlighting an organisation’s credibility.

“ISO and industry specific certifications set standards to improve efficiency, quality and transparency of organisations. It helps create best practices and assurances. The requirements, specifications and guidelines established by standards or certifications measure the consistent quality of products, operations and/or services including safety, security and reliability,” says Sachin Bhardwaj Director — Marketing & Business Development, eHosting DataFort.

Such standards also help companies to stand out internationally, Bhardwaj adds.

“In the Middle East, organisations adopt either European or American standards in various industries. As such, home-grown enterprises and SMEs in the region strive to obtain ISO and other relevant certifications for healthy international competition. Being recognised as a certification holder opens doors to new markets and helps businesses grow.”

“From an organisation perspective, the certification helps to establish a systematic method of working and removes any personal interpretation,” continues Raghavendra Rao, vice president and Global Manufacturing Leader, Frost & Sullivan. “In keeping with the fact that most organisations in the Middle East employ a large number of expats, establishing standard work procedures will help to restrict discrepancies.”

Standards don’t just remain static however. It is exciting times as well, as ISO is currently undergoing the single largest transformation in its history.

“Annex SL is an ISO project that is unifying the format of all ISO management system standards,” says Basem Obaid, Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA) business manager and area general manager, MEA. “In the future, all new and revised ISO standards will have the same structure, featuring ten clauses and will use common terminology and definitions across all standards. In addition, ISO 9001 — the international quality management system (QMS) standard — and the most widely adopted ISO standard, with over 1.2 million certificates in circulation globally, is undergoing its most significant change since 2000 and will be published next year as ISO 9001:2015.

“Some of the changes that are now in the final stages of approval include the formal introduction of the management of risk and requiring organisations to have a demonstrable understanding of their external environment embedded in their QMS. These are but a few of the changes to ISO 9001 that will ultimately help organisations in the Middle East deliver improved customer satisfaction and performance,” he says.

The process of achieving a standard and being audited can be very time consuming and intensive, and the length can vary depending on the business.

“[Time] depends on the scale of organisation, the type of operations such as manufacturing or trading and the processes deployed. It also has a bearing on the number of locations the organisations operates from, in particular the production units and/or the warehouse it owns and operates,” Rao notes.

Gulf Air, for example, holds ISO 27001, ISO 20000 and ISO 9001. The business worked in advance to have many processes in place, and so each standard took five to six months work to achieve.

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