How to Prepare for your ISO 9001:2015 Audit

How to Prepare for your ISO 9001:2015 Audit

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If your company is in the process of becoming certified to ISO 9001:2015, you’re probably wondering, “What do we need to do to ensure we are prepared?”   There’s no worse feeling than being caught in the middle of an audit unprepared, especially if it is for an ISO certification. Consistent planning and preparation can make sure that you’ll never be caught unaware, but of course, the fact remains that ISO 9001:2015 includes a number of new requirements. Below, we have covered some of the most asked questions organizations have when preparing for an ISO 9001:2015 audit.

What is context of your organization all about?

This question is the benchmark point of ISO 9001:2015 and it appears in section 4.1. The standard question uses the term “context”, but this could be easily translated to Business Environment.  Quite simply it is asking you to understand the environment in which your organization is operating.  It asks you to identify your organization’s internal and external influences. These questions about “context” are usually directed to the top management and the team responsible for the QMS. The auditor will be looking for a clear examination of forces at work within and around the organization. Some organizations use a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to help them get a grip of this, but it is not a requirement. What the auditors learn here will be a key input for risk analysis.

Who are your interested parties and what are their requirements? 

This question relates to 4.2 and is trying to ensure organizations understand who can be affected by their organization and who has requirements for them as an organization. The term “interested parties” could also be termed “stakeholders”. The auditor will always make sure that a reasonable range of interested parties has been identified, along with their corresponding requirements.

These first two requirements now lead us to the main requirements surrounding risk in section 6.0 – Planning.

What risks and opportunities have been identified in relation to the above, and what are you doing about them? 

Risks as well as opportunities could accurately be called the foundation of ISO 9001:2015. No fewer than 13 other clauses refer to risks and opportunities, making them the most “connected” section of the standard. If an organization does a poor job of identifying risks and opportunities, then the QMS cannot be effective.

How are you working to achieve your quality objectives?

Measurable quality objectives are not new to ISO 9001. What is new is the requirement to plan actions to make them happen. The plans are intended to be specific and actionable, addressing actions, resources, responsibilities, timeframes, and evaluation of results.

How has the QMS been integrated into the organization’s business processes? 

This question is asked directly to top management (see section 5.1.1c) as they have the overall responsibility to ensure this is happening. ISO 9001 is becoming a more strategic management system. It’s not only about making sure products or services meet requirements. The standard is about managing every aspect of your business using risk based thinking and continuous improvement.

How do you capture and use organizational knowledge?

ISO 9001:2015 wants organizations to learn from their experiences, both good and bad. This could be handled by a variety of means: project debriefs, exit interviews, staff meetings, customer reviews and feedback, examination of data, lessons learned logs. How the organization captures knowledge is up to them, but the process should be clear and functional. The knowledge should also be maintained and accessible. These should be documented in a way that your institution could create its own “Knowledge Base”.

These are some of the most asked questions when preparing for an ISO 9001:2015 audit.  We hope that this gave you a more clear understanding on how to use the standard to ensure a successful outcome for your organization.

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