Closing in on ISO compliance – structuring business processes in seven steps

Organizations can build trust, maintain quality, and stay on top of industry best practices by running their business aligned with ISO compliance. A key aspect of doing so is to organize and manage business in a process-oriented way, simplifying daily work for employees by leveraging a defined way of working, and putting your best practices into system.

In this article, we'll provide some practical tips and ideas on how to structure and visualize your processes effectively, and thereby move closer to ISO compliance.

Step 1: Understand ISO compliance requirements

ISO standards provide a framework to help businesses establish great management systems. To structure and display your processes in line with ISO compliance, you got to know which ISO standard(s) apply to your industry – and what measures you need to take to comply with the regulations.

For example, you might need ISO 9001 for quality management, ISO 14001 for environmental management, or ISO 27001 for information security. Even though these standards have much in common regarding a structured way of working, identifying risks, measuring results, and driving continuous improvements, they also have different purposes and targets.

So, your first step towards compliance should be to get familiar with the requirements of standards that are valid for your organization, and make sure that your work is on the right track.

Step 2: Identify and Map Your Key Processes:

You should then identify which core, supportive, or management processes and procedures that are crucial for your business. These processes then need to be defined, described, and visualized in process maps or flowcharts that present structures of core business, how sub-processes link up, and how activities should be carried out.

This visual representation will give you a clear overview and make it easier for everyone to understand how things flow within your organization. Make sure to make process maps and all related information on processes easily available for employees. It must be easy to work according to your organization’s best practices.

Step 3: Set Objectives and Metrics for Your Processes:

To stay compliant, it's essential to set specific objectives and metrics for each process. Make sure these goals match the requirements of your ISO standard and contribute to your overall business objectives. We believe it is of value to use SMART metrics: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Having clear objectives and metrics helps you keep track of performance, evaluate progress, and continuously improve your processes.

Step 4: Document and organize procedures

When it comes to ISO compliance, documenting Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) is a must. These can be procedures specific to your operation that describes the activities necessary to complete tasks in accordance with industry regulations, provincial laws, or even just your own standards for running your business. Any document that is a “how to” falls into this category of procedures, examples being work instructions, checklists, or guidelines.

When writing your SOPs, keep things clear and simple. Give step-by-step instructions, highlight important checkpoints, and specify responsibilities. Also, make sure that each procedure is available in close connection to the relevant processes – and that documents should be handled according to the same care and quality measures as goes for processes.

Step 5: Put compliance into system

You will need a solid system to manage and maintain your process documentation, including SOPs, process maps, policies, and work instructions, etc. The system must handle access rights, templates, properties, approval workflows, review cycles, version control, archiving, and retention of all process-related documentation. The system must of course also provide retrieval mechanisms to ensure you always (and only) have the latest and most accurate information at hand.

Process and document control mechanisms improve traceability, reduce risks, and make compliance audits a breeze – and will move your organization closer to ISO compliance.

Step 6: Make Sure Everyone is Trained and Aware:

ISO compliance is a team effort, and everyone in your organization needs to be on board. Therefore, we recommend that you should provide comprehensive training programs to make sure all employees understand their roles, responsibilities, and the processes they're involved in.

Use meetings, videos, micro-courses, and other learning resources to train them on ISO standards, processes, procedures, performance indicators. Regularly communicate about compliance, run awareness campaigns, and offer refresher training sessions to foster a compliance-focused and quality-first culture.

Step 7: Regular Audits and Continuous Improvement:

Regular audits are key to maintaining compliance and finding ways to improve. Conduct internal audits to check if your processes align with ISO standards, identify any issues, and fix them. These audits keep your compliance intact and drive a culture of continuous improvement. Seek feedback from your employees, monitor process metrics, and encourage suggestions for making your processes better and more efficient.

The possibility to submit deviations and risks, post improvement suggestions, and document incidents should be included in the system handling processes and documents.

In conclusion:

Meeting ISO compliance requirements doesn't have to be a daunting task. By structuring and displaying your business processes effectively, you can navigate the ISO landscape with confidence. Remember to identify key processes, set objectives and metrics, document SOPs, establish document control, provide training, leverage technology, and conduct regular audits. With a well-structured and compliant management system, you'll not only meet ISO standards but also enhance the overall performance and success of your business.

Omnia is a fully featured intranet product that also provides capabilities to support your organization in structuring processes, managing documents, and handling improvement initiatives. Please let us know if you want to know more or get a demo.

If this blog post was of interest to you, please also take part of this guide to planning document management.