ISO Management Systems consider Interested Parties an essential element in the success of any business. Interested parties, also referred to as Stakeholders must be managed in order to obtain and retain their support. Additionally, many ISO Management Standards including; ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 45001, require organizations to understand and manage the interests and expectations of their Interested Parties as part of the certification process.
Most organizations have a many Interested Parties. Determining which are the most relevant is critical step towards developing a plan to prioritize and manage them.
How can an organization begin this process?
First, it needs to understand the organizational context it works in and its goals regarding the management system being considered. Whoever can affect these goals or who can be affected by them, is considered an Interested Party. The most relevant Interested Parties are the ones who provide risk to the organization’s sustainability if their needs and expectations are not met.
Identify who the Interested Parties are:
The list may include:
- Owners / Shareholders
- Employees and their families
- Regulators / Government organizations
- Emergency services
This list can grow or be reduced depending on the organization’s complexity, its context and goals.
Classify the Role of the Interested Parties
After listing all the interested parties, it’s useful to categorize them based on how these relate to the organization. For example, do they hold responsibility for the organization, do they influence it, do they depend on it, are they close to the organization’s operations, etc. Guidance on how to categorize them can be found in ISO 14004.
Prioritize their Relevance
Not all interested parties will have the same interest and power to influence an organizations decisions and activities. Thus, it is necessary to differentiate the ones that have high interest and high power to influence decisions and activates from those that have low interest and power to influence the organization.
Determine the Needs and Expectations of the Interested Parties
Depending on the size and complexity of the organization, this can be done by either reviewing formal or informal documents of requests, complaints, or talking directly with them. However, complex and big organizations may require research methods to determine their interested parties’ needs and expectations.
Regardless of the size of the organization, establishing a process to manage Interested Parties is essential. Without a proper plan an organization can easily incorrectly allocate its resources on the less relevant Interested Parties, while failing to meet the needs of a critical Interested Party.