Achieving compliance with ISO Standards with Best-Practice Compliance Frameworks

In today’s immensely competitive marketplace, ISO Standards provide a definitive and internationally accepted framework to help organizations and businesses to operate efficiently, guarantee quality products and services, meet increasingly stringent regulatory requirements, and more importantly ensure customer satisfaction – their benefits are certainly impactful and far-reaching. 

Read this blog to learn about the importance of ISO standards, explore the most popularly adopted standards, uncover tips to successfully achieve compliance, and understand how to manage your ISO audits using comprehensive ISO compliance software.

What are ISO standards? 

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides a suite of best practices designed to aid companies to build processes, policies, and controls to present an approach that has been approved by experts globally. They are a pool of best practices designed to give a framework for companies to confirm security, quality, and proficiency in their operations, services, and products.

Initially the primary focus of the ISO standards was tailored to specific industries such as manufacturing and construction. Today, they have been expanded to cover areas such as information security, quality management, health and safety, and ISO risk management making them applicable across many industries and sectors. 

Why do organizations adopt ISO standards?

By adopting ISO standards and becoming certified to those standards where applicable – organizations will benefit from a clear and efficient road map to drive lasting improvements in areas like risk performance, health & safety, environmental impact, and sustainability.

Beyond operational improvement, adopting and complying with applicable ISO standards can greatly enhance the reputation of a business by ensuring consistently high-quality products and services – helping them to win new business from organizations looking for ISO certified suppliers.

What are the most widely adopted ISO standards?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed a broad range of management standards to help companies to improve their performance. Here are the most widely adopted ones. 

ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems

The ISO 9001 standard for quality management systems builds a great foundation for quality assurance activities.  The ISO 9001 quality management system provides international QMS requirements to be implemented for an organization or business that wants to create all processes, policies, and procedures necessary to provide quality products & services that meet regulatory requirements and improve customer satisfaction. 

The ISO 9001 standard for Quality Management Systems requires organizations to:

  1. Define their quality management compliance requirements 

Firms must develop and document the organization’s needs and specific quality requirements which must be based on international standards. A process for monitoring and enforcing these requirements must be established. 

  1. Develop a quality management plan 

Organizations must create a quality management plan – a living document that defines how the company will manage the quality of its products and services. This plan should address topics such as policies, objectives, system requirements, and management responsibility; and must be reviewed and updated regularly. 

  1. Implement quality management procedures 

Key employees must be involved in the process of creating and implementing quality management procedures.  This step will ensure every employee in the organization understands the importance of following the procedures and are aware of how to execute them.

  1. Conduct quality management audits 

Firms must conduct regular quality management audits to ensure compliance with quality management systems and identify gaps in their systems and make improvements. 

  1. Develop consistent reports 

Organizations must develop quality compliance reports to ensure its products or service meets customer expectations. 

ISO 14001 Environmental Management System

ISO 14001 is the globally recognized standard for environmental management systems. Used worldwide, this standard provides a framework through which an organization can deliver environmental performance improvement in line with its environmental policy commitments; affording it a competitive edge in the marketplace. 

The ISO 14001 standard for Environmental Management Systems requires organizations to:

  1. Establish an environmental policy 

Firms must develop and implement an environmental policy to reflect the company’s commitment to environmental protection – in compliance with applicable legal requirements. This policy should be readily accessible to all employees.

  1. Identify environmental aspects and impacts

Companies must conduct an environmental review which considers factors such as emissions, resource use, waste generation, energy consumption, and pollution to identify potential environmental impact. 

  1. Define objectives and targets 

Based on the impact identified, measurable objectives and targets must be established. These objectives should take into account the company’s capabilities and resources, and relevant legal requirements. 

  1. Implement operational controls and procedures 

Companies must develop and implement procedures, practices, and operational controls to prevent pollution and mitigate and manage other environmental risks in order to achieve the company’s decided objectives and targets. 

  1. Monitor, measure, review environmental performance 

Firms must conduct regular internal audits and management reviews to evaluate the effectiveness of the Environmental Management System (EMS). This will help identify areas for improvement, ensure continual improvement over time, and maintain compliance with legal requirements. ISO14001 software can support with the audit and review process.

ISO 31000 Risk Management Systems 

In a world of constant change and uncertainty, ISO 31000 risk management systems is an international standard that provides organizations and businesses with clear guidance on how to structure a best practice risk management process. This includes exactly how hazards and risks within the operation should be identified, controlled, monitored, and reviewed; as well as how the organization communicates this to its stakeholders, both internally and externally. As such the risk management ISO standard will aid in defining all of the organization’s processes and how they relate risk to operational, performance, strategic objectives, incidents, and employee safety.

The ISO 31000 Standard for Risk Management Systems requires organizations to:

  1. Define scope, context, and criteria for risk management

Firms must define which activities are covered by the risk management process. This activity must consider both the internal and external context of the business, following which a criteria must be established to help evaluate risks that can hinder business objectives.

  1. Identify and analyze risks 

Risks must be identified and analyzed to understand their likelihood and impact. This includes evaluating complexity, risk level, probability, and control effectiveness.

  1. Risk treatment 

Strategies in the form of controls and actions must be implemented to address risk. The effectiveness of the controls should be regularly tested to identify if the control is effective or if it requires additional mitigation efforts. 

  1. Monitoring and review

Continuous monitoring and review of risks and the actions taken to mitigate them will ensure quality and effectiveness of the risk management process at all stages whilst identifying any room for improvement. 

  1. Recording and reporting 

Documenting the implementation of the ISO risk management process should fulfil the reporting requirements of stakeholders. It should also improve communication and ensure data-backed risk-based decision making. 

ISO 27001 Information Security Management Systems 

The ISO 27001 international framework for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS) helps organizations manage, monitor, review, implement, and maintain their information security by addressing people, processes, and technology. This international standard enables businesses to ensure the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of their company data. Achieving an ISO 27001 2013 certification indicates that an organization’s ISMS is aligned with current information security best practices. 

The ISO 27001 standard for Information Security Management Systems requires organizations to:

  1. Define the scope of their ISMS 

Prior to building the organization’s ISMS, teams must determine what kind of information it intends to protect.  For some businesses this might only include a specific system or department and for others the scope of their ISMS includes the entire organization.

  1. Assess risks

Teams must conduct formal risk assessments to achieve ISO 27001 compliance.  This systematic process identifies  information security risks, their likelihood, and their impact ensuring mitigation plans can be implemented. 

  1. Patch gaps 

Firms should initiate a gap analysis to identify areas of weakness, gaps, and blockers that may affect operations, as well as pinpointing discrepancies and opportunities for mitigating these issues. 

  1. Design and implement policies and controls 

Achieving the risk management ISO 27001 standard for information security management systems requires firms to implement and document Risk Treatment Plans in the form of controls and policies to be used as part of audit evidence. 

  1. Evaluate 

Frequent performance assessment of the ISMS will ensure continuous improvement.  Evaluating the organization’s ISMS regularly, helps identify opportunities to improve existing processes and controls. 

Achieving Compliance with ISO standards

ISO compliance means voluntarily using ISO standards as guidelines for aligning your organization’s structure, business practices, policies, processes, and operating procedures. Adopting the standard is the first step towards both compliance and certification and successfully meeting stakeholder requirements. 

With or without formal certification, complying with rigorous ISO standards and requirements can be a daunting task to take on – especially for those organizations just getting started. Where do you begin? Which policies and controls will you need? How do you know if you’re ready for an audit?

Luckily, there is a wide range of compliance technology solutions that can help companies navigate what are often confusing ISO regulatory compliance standards with out-of-the-box ISO frameworks and templates.

These solutions help businesses to structure their operations to align with ISO standards by proactively providing out-of-the-box compliance frameworks, with best-practice forms, templates, and workflows to ensure compliance with many of the widely adopted ISO standards. 

Leveraging the right compliance software allows organizations large and small to seamlessly pull together all compliance processes into one centralized system; demonstrating transparency, consistency, and compliance to auditors & regulators alike.

With the right ISO compliance management system, organizations can effectively handle multiple ISO standards using a single tool to establish, document, and operationalize multiple systems – based on various ISO frameworks or other industry best practices.

ISO compatible compliance software platforms offer:

Compliance dashboards and reporting: This functionality provides real-time visibility into your ISO compliance status and provides key metrics – enabling firms to easily identify and assess areas of non-compliance. 

Automated workflows:  Automated workflows enable firms to structure step-by-step processes that meet ISO requirements, automating key processes like compliance checks, approvals, escalations, signoffs, and remediating actions. This minimizes errors and increases efficiency – simplifying ISO compliance related tasks by establishing processes and notifying stakeholders of due tasks and actions. 

Centralized data repository: The system enables firms to build an online ‘obligations register’ and monitor compliance with each requirement. This enhances real-time visibility into ISO compliance across the organization which can easily be reported on to provide proof of compliance or identify gaps.

Continuous control mapping: Compliance monitoring software enables firms to implement real-time control mapping to easily identify gaps and weaknesses in the organization’s control environment and compliance efforts. 

Control monitoring: Pre-built ISO frameworks can be leveraged in compliance monitoring tools to map controls to regulatory requirements and ensure alignment with compliance objectives. 

Alerts & Notifications: Automated alerts and notifications help teams to stay on top of up-and-coming ISO compliance & audit requirements and ensure tasks are actioned by relevant stakeholder by the due date. 

ISO compliance management software solutions like ‘Camms’ empower organizations to develop a comprehensive ISO aligned program that can be further customized to their individual requirements. 

Teams can easily streamline, centralize, and automate ISO compliance and internal audits with Camms – ensuring ongoing compliance through workflow automation, integrated frameworks, and comprehensive risk management.

Managing your ISO Audits and Capturing the Findings 

Knowing whether your organization meets the rigorous standards required to pass an ISO audit can be simplified using compliance monitoring software. These best-practice compliance tools enable firms to manage their ISO audits and capture the findings – providing key insight into areas needing improvement, thereby enhancing efficiency, and ensuring ongoing compliance with ISO standards.

GRC solutions have the potential to enhance every stage of the ISO audit process including scheduling, capturing findings; and using workflows to implement remediating actions. Utilizing a GRC solution such as Camms can help organizations to automate the tasks related to compliance checks, compliance monitoring by creating documentation, automating workflows, creating checklists and reports to track and monitor to internal audit processes in real-time; significantly accelerating the ISO audit procedure.

Keen to learn how Camms can help your organization easily achieve and maintain ISO compliance and certification whilst driving continuous improvement, simply request a demo today.

Tom Kerin

Chief Product Officer

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