ISO Compliance vs. Certification – What’s the Difference?

When looking for a company who can provide high quality document conversion and data processing services, you want to make sure they will deliver on their promises. Many companies claim to be fully compliant with ISO standards, but this doesn’t actually tell you very much about their quality management system. You need someone who is certified to the ISO 9001 standard.


What is the ISO 9001:2015 Standard?

ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization. It is the set of standards that deals with quality management systems (QMS) within a company. ISO 9001:2015 is intended to cover all industries and business sizes, and it provides requirements for various aspects of a company’s QMS, including the following:

  •        Documentation, including manuals and control of documents
  •        Management responsibilities
  •        Measurement and analysis through audits
  •        Resource management
  •        Product design, production, and delivery
  •        Continual improvement of the company’s quality management system

ISO standards follow a series, but it’s to ISO 9001 specifically that companies can be certified. Also, these standards are updated every so often to allow for changes in markets and technology, which means you’ll see a year included in the number, i.e. 9001:2000, 9001:2008, and 9001:2015 (the most recent).

Related: Learn more about ISO Certification


Compliance vs. Certification

Many companies will make vague claims that they are “fully compliant with ISO standards” or that they are “ISO conformant.” While these may sound nice, they are generally claims made by the company itself and thus may or may not be completely true. It also depends on which standard they are declaring compliance with. Some companies may refer to ISO 9001:2000 or 9001:2008, both of which are now outdated.

This doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing for a company to declare that it follows ISO standards. It simply isn’t always specific, and you’ll want to do some more research into the company before deciding about the quality of their services and the effectiveness of their quality management system.

ISO certification – not compliance or conformance – is not something a company can give themselves. Certification comes from a third-party accreditation or certification firm, which in turn must adhere to certain standards itself. This means that a company that is certified to ISO 9001 standards has been audited, reviewed, and approved by a qualified third party. It also means that their QMS is current since ISO certification needs to be renewed every so often—in most cases, once every three years.


Benefits of ISO Certification

A certification is going to be more reliable since it means that a fully qualified third party has verified the company’s compliance with ISO 9001 standards. Current certification, which would be under ISO 9001:2015, ensures that the company maintains an up-to-date and constantly improving quality management system. Naturally, this translates into certain benefits for the client, namely:

  •        A commitment to quality service
  •        Quality products and processes that are continuously being improved
  •        A happier, more satisfied company, which means better customer service

A company that is certified to ISO standards is far more likely to be compliant to those standards since they must renew their certification to keep it intact. To see how this all looks in the real world, here’s an example specific to the document conversion industry…


Example of ISO Certification in Document Conversion

At ILM, we are fully certified to ISO 9001:2015 standards, so let’s look at how this affects some of our processes and the way that it benefits our customers.

We’ll begin with one primary service—secure document scanning and indexing. To be truly valuable to you, this needs to fit with the highest standards of security and confidentiality, especially since indexing involves sorting through sensitive data and organizing it in a way that will be easy for you to search and access.

Obviously, this needs to be done correctly the first time around. Errors in the scanning and indexing process can not only make it more difficult to find important pieces of information, but it can potentially compromise sensitive data, such as client financial information, health-related data, personnel payroll documents, and so forth. It can also mean noncompliance with federal regulations in certain industries, such as HIPAA for healthcare providers.

A well maintained and certified QMS mitigates many of the risks associated with these errors occurring by ensuring that the processes of scanning and indexing are handled with the utmost care. When errors occur that take the outputs out of conformance with the requirements, a corrective action report is initiated by the Quality Manager. Full adherence to ISO standards would mean that we are careful to not only ensure the effectiveness of our quality control systems, but also that we constantly seek to improve them.

Now, we could simply state that we are fully compliant with ISO 9001:2015, but the outside certification gives you the extra assurance that our QMS is as rigidly effective as possible. An outside party audited our quality management system—in this case, those pertaining specifically to scanning and indexing—and gave us a certificate that states that we are fully compliant with that standard. In addition, we undergo an audit each year which demonstrates our ongoing dedicated to continual improvement. The quality of our work passes on to you, so you ultimately benefit from it.

Related: How to choose a document management provider


Compliance with Additional Standards

ISO is just one of many standards. There are more industry-specific regulations such as HIPAA, which covers the management of healthcare data. ILM is fully HIPAA compliant, which means that the way we manage data is in line with federal regulations regarding privacy, disclosure, and so forth. Now, we can’t say that we’re HIPAA certified because there is actually no such thing. However, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) does investigate companies that may be in violation of HIPAA, so it is in our best interest—as well as yours—to maintain our compliance with those laws.

Between full compliance with HIPAA, certification to ISO Standard 9001:2015, and adherence to other regulations covering a wide range of industries, at ILM we provide you with the most comprehensively secure and effective solutions around when it comes to data management and document conversion.

To learn more about ILM’s expertise, and what we can provide for your company, contact us today.