Certification and working on the processes and the systems cost company owners a lot of money year in year out. Is it really money well spent or is it just the inevitable price to be paid for acquisition of the paper document (certificate)? Does the certification practically give people any added value or has it been just a mere forced business done by certification and consulting companies? How is it possible an ISO 9001-certified company does not effect a single perfect delivery?

The ISO system certification has penetrated our lives throughout. It has its advocates as well as adversaries. Today, there is hardly any manager in the Czech Republic who would not know about ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and other management systems. Certification has become enormous business both for consulting companies and, in particular, certification firms. The question, nonetheless, remains whether it gives company owners, managers and workers any added value at all. Formerly, it used to be the greatest argument for entering selection procedures for government contracts. This argument has been gradually losing ground in the face of the many corruption scandals that have transpired so far. The argument that only an ISO-certified company is really representing quality no longer holds true; the reason is that every company that pays will get the certificate. This is why it is more than appropriate, after all those years of the certification-and-ISO madness, to ask the following fundamental questions: 

  • Do the benefits of ISO, AS, TS and other standards prevail in practice? 
  • Has the ISO certification already lost the added value for companies?
  • On what conditions does the ISO really bring the benefit?  
  • ...

In the world so diverse, nothing can be generalized. You would always have to go case by case and, it also needs to be considered whether companies have only themselves to blame for the approach consulting and certification firms have adopted. The managers do not think of their companies´ future when arranging for the management system at the very last moment; mostly as late as when they already face problems or when the customer insists on the certificate. Then they come to place senseless orders such as - "I need you to introduce the ISO 9001 system within 7 days. All I want is the paper document (meant to be the certification) to be put on the wall." On top of it, they force the consultant´s price down to the range of CZK10 ÷ 20.000. In that case, all they can get is a copy of another company´s system.  

Positive and negative aspects of ISO certification

Based on the experience gained by the OwnWay consultants, I have formulated the following benefits and drawbacks from the ISO certification practice in the Czech Republic. 

ISO certification benefits ISO certification negatives
order in company business only for money
clear processes dokumentation what nobody read
results based on real process no demonstrable results
demonstrable skills introduction of formal activities (internal and certification audit)
reasonable expenses wasted work time workers
found weaknesses to improve auditor, which does not help us
... ...

Note: We know that the quality system according to ISO 9001 depends very much on consultants, auditors of the certification course and access management.

Questions to discussion

  1. What benefits has certification introduced into your practice?  
  2. What drawbacks has certification brought you?  
  3. How to make the negative aspects of certification work in favour of the company? 

Prize for the best submission

OwnWay is going to pick the best submission in reaction to this article. We are going to fill individual benefits and drawbacks in a table, so that they can be available to whoever is interested. The best proposal to be selected by June 30, 2010 and the author gets the following:

  • free participation in consultancy golf tournament on July 29, 2010 (an alternative programme for non-golfers is prepared too) or
  • 20% rebate on a product selected by OwnWay, consulting services (the service range to be agreed) or
  • the prize according to the author´s needs, a financial contribution as agreed (CZK1.000,- for instance).

We are going to evaluate originality of the submission, its benefits for the company and viability.