Thursday, 18 November 2010

Choosing your ISO Consultant

Choosing your ISO Consultant

An ISO Consultant has a great deal of influence over the development of an organization’s quality system and many organizations spend a great deal of money using consultants for the sole purpose of helping them achieve ISO 9001 certification.

How can a company have confidence that a consultant is competent and that the organization's needs and expectations will be met?

Evaluating a Consultant

Registering an organization to ISO 9001 does not necessarily prove product quality; it proves that the organization is good at registering. All things being equal, organizations often require an ISO Consultant because they want a specialist; someone who is good at ‘registering’.

We recommend you review ISO 10019:2005; written by Technical Committee 176, titled ‘Guidelines for the Selection of Quality Management System Consultants and use of their Services.’ As the name suggests, this document provides guidance the factors to be taken into consideration when evaluating a quality management system consultant. It applies to the following:

- Organizations who wish to select a consultant
- ISO Consultants themselves, as a guide to develop their competence in consulting
- Consulting organizations, for selection of consultants

Selection Criteria

Some might argue that the ISO Consultant is merely a ‘supplier’ and should therefore be subject to ‘normal’ supplier evaluation and selection controls. Many organizations operate defined criteria for product and service suppliers but the ISO Consultant is rarely subject to the same controls which he is often responsible for implementing. Very few organizations are likely to operate a supplier evaluation process that retains approval records for their chosen consultant.

Deciding which Consultant to Hire

Always ask for references, these will allow you to determine how the ISO Consultant handled similar implementation scenarios. References usually say a lot about a consultant’s ability to deliver. You can use the questions below as a basis for developing your own formal evaluation process. Why not make it official and add the selected consultants to the approved supplier list?

- What were the outcomes of previous consulting engagements?
- Does the consultant operate a fixed way of doing things?
- Has the consultant undergone peer assessment through a professional association?
- Have they demonstrated the ability to complete assignments on budget and on time?
- Are they open to learning how your organization operates?
- Does the consultant’s experience match your implementation requirements?

If you are unsatisfied with the responses to any of these questions, ask the consultant to provide additional information. Any ISO Consultant worth their salt would rather put in additional effort than leave a client unsatisfied!

Once all the options have been considered, ask the consultant to submit a formal proposal that outlines their implementation strategy. Review the proposal with the consultant and resolve any queries you may have. Sections of the proposal may have to be rewritten to provide the desired level of assurance and to provide greater clarity. Accept the proposal only when you thoroughly understand its implications.

Summary

ISO 9001 Checklist has grown from a project started in 2002 by ISO Auditors and Quality Manager Trainers to freely share their knowledge and experience with the ISO community online. The free ISO 9001 training section is an essential resource for any organization or ISO consultant aiming to achieve ISO 9001:2008 accreditation through PDCA.

To learn more about free online ISO 9001 training please visit ISO 9001 Checklist:
http://www.iso-9001-checklist.co.uk/iso-9001-training.htm

Richard Keen ACQI, 17th November 2010