Industry View: Lisa Thomson

What's in a number? For businesses the length and breadth of the country the answer to that is a world of opportunity, specifically when the number in question is 9001.

The ISO9001 accreditation has become an industry standard across a wide range of sectors, a benchmark for suppliers to show pride in or aspire to achieve.

The question, particularly for companies in the SME bracket, is whether that aspiration is realistic or a bridge too far in terms of time and resources. The answer, from experience, is that with the right approach the process can be a rewarding one.

At Codify we have successfully gained the ISO9001 standard and already the positive impact has been clear to see. Increasingly it is a standard requirement when tendering for contracts, but the benefits run far deeper than facilitating opportunities.

Before we began I was aware of ISO9001, but not of its background. To give a potted history, it was the Ministry of Defence which first identified a need for a procedure for the provision and manufacture of each and every item used by the forces.

In the 1960s the first government-led moves to bring those same quality assurance mechanisms into the wider business world were made and by the following decade the British Standards Institute had set about creating the common standards which fell under the BS umbrella. The ISO certification evolved in the late 1980s and has continued to grow and develop, with the current ISO9001 framework put in place around five years ago.

In that time its importance across all sectors has grown and grown. Today it is a vital part of the corporate toolkit and as a company we are delighted to be able to call upon it, particularly when demonstrating to prospective new clients the emphasis we place on quality.

So how do you set about becoming accredited? It is undoubtedly a rigorous process but my own experience of guiding our team through the stages demonstrates the benefits.

First and foremost, it makes you take a step back from the day to day demands of business and really drill down into the detail of the checks and balances in place when it comes to procedures within the organisation.

At Codify we specialise in building custom software, covering a range of business applications which include logistics, health and safety, recruitment and tool rental management. By our very nature we're a company built upon process and structure, but we found the ISO9001 accreditation work incredibly valuable.

We have an enthusiastic and dedicated team of 23 at our Aberdeen office and it was an opportunity to get everyone involved in illustrating our commitment to quality, right through from the sales process and project delivery stages to the support team's efforts in the longer term.

It enabled us to highlight the good work being done and also to implement new ideas as we went through what for us was a 10-month programme of collating evidence and presenting that to assessors.

Suggesting it is an easy process would be wrong - it is about far more than ticking boxes and it is an exercise in which you get out what you put in. When weighed up against the business benefits, both internally and in an external sense, it is a feature with its roots in history but a huge part to play in the future.

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