Things to Consider When Hiring an ISO Consultant
Having worked in the ISO industry for over 30 years, at Cavendish Scott we recognize that making a decision about ISO can be a future-altering decision for a company. For many, the future is altered in a good way. For others, the choices made when choosing a consultant can harm a company for years to come. The reality is that when a decision is made correctly the first time, it can pay off dividends down the road.
We want to make sure a company that is looking to hire an ISO consultant is equipped to make the best decision possible. This article includes notes from our first-hand experiences with companies looking to adopt or expand ISO in business. Whether you choose to work with Cavendish Scott or not, we believe the following information will help you make an informed decision that can guide your quality program for years to come.
1: Realistic Timelines
Does your organization have a realistic timeline? Is the consultant you are looking to work with offering a realistic timeline? A traditional ISO consulting project will take somewhere between three to six months to complete. A consultant may be able to complete the project in two months but it would take a lot of time and dedication. If an organization is looking to complete the project in a hurry it will not find a shortage of people willing to stand up to the task. But the question an organization will have to ask, though, is: is the business looking for a quality project or a quick project?
When a consulting company is willing to offer ISO services on an accelerated timeline there will be questions of quality down the road. ISO focuses on quality; as an organization, it probably is not smart to start a project premised on quality with a low-quality service – but that is what may happen if your timeline is not reasonable. A reasonable timeline will allow time for both the organization and the consultant to review every process within the organization related to the ISO certification and ensure everything is in place prior to the certification audit. This will take time and cannot be done quickly without the help of multiple consultants.
With a realistic timeline, an organization will be able to meet ISO requirements in an efficient and quality manner. A realistic timeline ensures an organization is on the right path with ISO for years to come.
2: The Overall Cost
The second thing to consider is the overall cost of the project. The two key factors of any project are timeline and cost. In ISO this is no different. It is understandable that organizations want to save money on the bottom line but when selecting an ISO consultant an organization should also consider at what point it is willing to sacrifice quality for monetary savings.
An ISO project is not a cheap endeavor. A good ISO project includes documentation that is tailored specifically to the specific industry and company undertaking the project. The project will take into consideration every facet of the operations and work to answer any and all questions that would arise during the certification audit. Additionally, an ISO project will ensure the team at the organization is trained and understands the processes put in place to adopt ISO. All of these things take time and time is money.
While some ISO organizations offer a set fee for an entire project, in many cases this is not realistic or it can cause massive scope creep. At Cavendish Scott, we are clear with the project costs from day one. We bill Consulting, Auditing, and Travel separately. This allows our customers to see what they are paying for while ensuring money is not spent frivolously. While these are the three key spaces where Cavendish Scott charges money, there are other factors to consider as well. First, is the certification audit: this will be done by a certifying agency and will come at a cost separate from the consulting firm. The second is the cost to your team. Many organizations believe they can save costs by involving someone internally in the manual development process. Not only does this take someone away from other tasks staff members traditionally handle it also can lead to mismatched documentation between the consultant and the in-house employee. If an ISO consultant is offering a price that is too good to be true, it probably is. Usually, when an organization is offered a low-cost ISO option it will entail either not enough work to see the project through, or a low-quality project that will not ensure certification.
When searching out the best ISO organization it is important to remember the saying “you get what you pay for.” Quality ISO projects are not cheap. If the organization is wanting cheap, there are routes that can be taken, but those routes traditionally do not guarantee success in the long term. It is important for organizations be realistic about the costs of adopting ISO but also consider things beyond budget and timeline when hiring a consultant.
3: Business Structure
While most organizations consider timeline and budget prior to starting a project, another thing to consider is business structure. ISO is an important part of an organization and a business seeking to adopt ISO should consider the structure of the consulting firm it is hiring prior to moving forward in order to avoid any potential project pitfalls down the road.
There are three types of ISO consulting businesses: sole proprietorships, regional conglomerates, or localized agencies. Each type of consulting firm comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. A sole proprietorship affords an organization a dedicated consultant who has low overhead, however, this consultant also has no oversight so there are no quality check-backs and no guarantee the project will be completed (in a worst-case scenario). Regional conglomerates reduce travel expenses but can lack consistent company staffing and experience. Going with a regional conglomerate may promise consultants with plenty of experience at a reduced rate, but it can also result in inconsistent results when it comes time for certification due to a lack of company oversight. Localized agencies are very beneficial for organizations that are local to the area of the agency, but can also be beneficial to organizations outside of the local as well. A localized agency ensures some level of oversight, consistent work ethic across all employees (after all, they have a boss to report to), and a personal touch that one might get with a sole proprietor but can be missing with regional conglomerates.
In many cases, organizations seeking to adopt ISO are more concerned with budget than anything else, however, the structure of the ISO consulting business employed can be equally as important. If an organization is seeking a quality ISO consulting experience it is best to do homework before choosing one type of organization over the other.
4: Project Goals
ISO projects usually boil down to two goals: get certified or adopt ISO. Organizations that want to get certified are only interested in a piece of paper at the end of the day. Organizations who adopt ISO want to make sure everything is lined out and the business is fully immersed in the ISO regulations.
If the organization is looking to just get certified then it does not much matter what type of consultant is hired. An organization should simply make sure the consultant has a good track record with helping agencies get certified and then choose the one that fits best with the organization. It should be cautioned, though, that “just being ISO certified” can lead to issues down the road regarding quality expectations, working with vendors who expect ISO certification, and how easy a transition will be when the latest ISO update is released. While ISO is about quality, one can easily find organizations that will turn a blind eye to processes and certify an organization, but this is not a route we would suggest anyone take.
If an organization is looking to adopt ISO and make it part of the organization, then it really should consider all three points previously listed to ensure a quality consultant is hired. By setting a project goal of adopting ISO, the organization will need to be diligent in not only planning for the project internally but also in the hiring of the consultant. The consultant should understand the goal that the organization has and should be willing to commit the time and effort to see the project through. By adopting ISO, an organization will ensure it receives the best money for its ISO efforts and will be set with sustainable ISO quality for years to come.
There are two routes that can be taken when adopting ISO: cheap and quick, or prepared and measured. While the first path can save an organization money in the short term, it can lead to lasting issues down the road. The second path, while it may cost more at the outset, can help organizations become better at what it does and ensure the standard it adopts is in place for years to come. When considering hiring an ISO consultant we hope you will take each of these things to heart and maybe, at the end of the day, consider Cavendish Scott for your next ISO project.