ISO IS NOT A DOCUMENTATION DEMON
A few months back we decided to take the plunge and engage in the ISO 9001 certification process. At first, we saw it as a way to generate trust for our international prospects. It became much more than that when we developed a unique playbook to define our work and collaboration as an agile organization.
In our software development industry, truth be told, people do not get excited when you mention certifying ISO. But the point of ISO was never to bury organizations under piles of process documentations.
So what is ISO 9001 really about? It sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is based on principles such as a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement.
It sets objectives, not tools. So there is plenty of room for innovation and for agile software companies to make the most out of these guidelines and the ISO certification.
THE QUALITY POLICY: A COMPASS FOR THE COMPANY
“ISO 9001:2015 helps ensure that customers get consistent, good quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.”
It all starts with the definition of a Quality Policy that truly reflects the services, objectives and values of a company. We offer software development services. So the quality of our services depends on our team’s combined skills and knowledge to meet clients’ expectations.
Quite naturally, our quality policy focuses on these two pillars:
- Offering services that satisfy our clients, thanks to the commitment, ethic and effort of all employees.
- Continuously training and keeping all staff updated, motivating employees looking for the best efficiency and generating an environment that favors the comprehensive growth of our people.
WHY ENGAGE IN THE ISO PROCESS?
THE ISO LOGO, SYMBOL OF AN INDEPENDENT QUALITY ASSESSMENT
Let’s admit it, being able to reassure leads and prospects on your capacity to deliver services with a consistent level of quality is an advantage you should not overlook.
As a service provider, generating trust is a necessity to engage in a collaboration. Certifying ISO is a good indicator of the maturity and quality commitment of your software development services company.
TO EXPRESS WHERE YOU STAND AND WHERE YOU’RE HEADING
ISO requires that your company conducts a SWOT analysis and engages in strategic planning to tackle the most critical aspects of your business.
You will set objectives and measure the efficiency of actions and processes through Key Performance Indicators. Having the right objectives, metrics, and procedures in place, management and employees should be able to focus better on what’s important.
As for any successful strategic plan: ISO helps teams maintain focus over time by requiring that the company periodically audits its quality processes.
TO IMPROVE OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY BY SHARING INFO AND KNOWLEDGE
ISO is about embracing a holistic approach of quality by writing down processes for all areas of the company. It is a great opportunity for organizations to move towards more collaboration and cooperation. We decided to focus on knowledge management. We worked on defining flows and events to share knowledge in all its forms, including lessons learned!
This is a way to guarantee consistency and efficiency. There is no need to reinvent the way to perform every task. That means we have more time to engage in creative tasks with higher added value.
HOW WE TOOK ISO TO THE AGILE SIDE: TIPS AND TOOLS
FOCUSING ON EXISTING PROCESSES AND BEST PRACTICES
First of all, look at what you do and write it down. You’ll then improve along the way. What is important is to write processes that are concrete and action-oriented.
- Ask someone what they’re doing
- Ask them how they know that is what they should be doing
- This should lead to some documentation which should match
These are good questions to make sure you focus on processes and documents that are useful and easy to access.
USE INTERACTIVE AND AGILE TOOLS
When you engage in the ISO certification, you might be handed over examples of how other companies track their processes. These documents may be very large excel spreadsheets that you don’t want to even look at.
Don’t be mistaken. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here is how we decided to manage our quality management project:
- A user-friendly and interactive process mapping with easy to read icons and links to all the processes and necessary documents, by area.
- A platform to share all documents and resources depending on users permissions: Google Drive. That allows everyone to access the info at any time and to edit online so that there is no versioning problems.
- Shared boards for all project management both internally and to manage clients projects. As well as verticals specific tools for HR, BD.
- Automatic reminders for all tasks that can be scheduled. We simply schedule events directly on the platforms that we use daily in all our projects: Google calendar, Trello and Hubspot.
- User-friendly online questionnaires to evaluate client satisfaction, skills and knowledge, But also for training efficiency. This includes auto-evaluation processes that generate responsibility, commitment, and opens the door to truly transparent communication as all parts get to express their views.
- And an online Handbook to facilitate the onboarding of new team members.
THE OUTCOME: A CERTIFICATION AND AN ALIGNED SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT TEAM
By merely describing the processes we had in place, polishing our management and reminders systems, we found a way to align the ISO requirements with our Agile methodologies.
We were able to go through the certification process with zero no-conformity and various strengths that were highlighted by the auditor.
It had a great impact on all of us as it triggered a feeling of collective responsibility and helped us align priorities. We’d love to read about your experience or doubts in the comments!