The international quality management standard, ISO 9001, started life as UK standard, BS5750, itself based on the existing Ministry of Defence standard MoD 05/21. It was published as an international standard in 1987.

Since then it has gained a reputation for adding bureaucracy but little business benefit. Companies often felt that they had to have ISO9001 certification to satisfy buyers in government or in large organizations.

The original standard focussed on compliance with documented procedures. Process interaction and customer satisfaction was ignored.

However, the standard was radically changed in the year 2000 revision when it switched its focus from compliance to continuous improvement and a process led approach.

The latest version, ISO9001:2008 provides a framework, a Quality Management System (QMS) which identifies and controls those activities that contribute to successful business operation and customer satisfaction.

This white paper describes the standard and why the author believes that it should be used as a first step towards effective business process management and improvement.

As the standard has been produced by an international committee, some of the wording of it is complex and needs interpretation. However, the basic principles of it are simple and outlined in the following pages.

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