Unexpected benefits of ISO 9001:2008 registration….

While preparing for our second audit for our ISO 9001 registration we discovered some unintended benefits in how we tracked data on our projects. The good news is the results were positive and it really didn’t consume a ton of energy to track the data.

Our reaction to having to pursue ISO 9001 registration most likely mimics the reaction of other firms in a similar position…

Couldn’t we schedule a double root canal instead?

Honestly, why would anyone want to add a layer of complexity to their standard set of processes and procedures? When we started this effort we were already a well-established business with 13 years of experience, we had a clear and concise strategy for Quality Assurance. We certainly tracked a wide array of metrics related to the management of projects for our clients, we tracked scheduled and expected delivery dates, and we tracked all sorts of financial health metrics through our ERP system. What else did we need?

Well, almost two years later the answer is clear. If you are lucky enough to hire a good consultant or an in-house person to introduce you to the framework of ISO standards and the logic of thinking along the lines of an ISO auditor, you quickly learn the value of implementing a system that moves you toward ISO registration. In almost all instances we were already tracking data relative to our quality assurance program or had the systems in place to track that data. We just weren’t using the data or analyzing the data to improve our QA efforts. Here are some of the data points we discovered in our analysis:

    • On- time delivery
        • We managed 1,521 projects over the last 12 months. We were on-time or early, 98% of the time. We managed to deliver 616 of those projects early. When we were early, we were early by an average of 5.7 days. We were only late on 30 projects, and when we were late it was only by an average of 1 day. Our system also provided data on why each of those 30 assignments was late. Most related to technical glitches, internet outage, 1 language out of 28 in a multi-language project lagging behind, a few personal issues with some of our linguists (family emergency, illness in the family, etc.).
    • Source of business
        • 12% of our revenue came from new customers, 76% of that business came from customer referrals. It really helps to know that your current customers are out there selling your services. In my opinion this is an extremely important measure of your QA efforts, if you keep your current clients happy enough to refer you to colleagues, then your QA program works.
    • Tracking client feedback
        • We had 36 instances of client support requests or feedback, 44% of those cases were positive feedback and only 2 of those cases or 5% were related to errors. The balance of the cases were documented as suggestions, concerns or process improvement cases with clients. Two of those cases turned into fully implemented process improvements.
    • Tracking success of our internal projects
        • We launched 6 internal projects aimed at improving our abilities to serve our clients. Those new projects included revamping our internal SharePoint site for documentation of our procedures and policies, a complete overhaul of our website to provide more resources to our clients, the creation of our Regulatory Compliance platform to assist clients in highly regulated industries, creation of an automated file handling system for our clients using content management systems and a Quote Request checklist that assists our clients in providing us with all of the necessary files and information for complex projects.
        • We have also documented our next 10 projects as goals for the coming year.

The interesting thing about this effort is that most of this data was already available. We just didn’t do anything with it. After initially resisting this initiative and really only doing it to satisfy some client requirements…we get it now. Our entire group supports the ISO initiatives and we gladly continue to pursue using ISO standards as a way to improve our business.

In my opinion the investment of time and money was well worth it. The key was using the standards and the process to enhance our existing business and not simply let the standards dictate and add bureaucracy without value.