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ISO 9001 Blog

Mark Hammar

Understanding needs & expectations of interested parties in ISO 9001:2015

There is a new requirement for your quality management system (QMS) within ISO 9001:2015, and that is to understand the needs and expectations of your interested parties, but what does this mean and how can you do this? Here is a three step process to help you navigate this requirement.

1) Who are your interested parties and which are relevant?

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The first step is to look at who your interested parties are, meaning which persons or organizations will have an impact on your ability to provide products and services which consistently meet the needs of your customers and legal requirements. List out every one that can have an impact; customers, suppliers, government organizations, non-government agencies, employees, shareholders, etc.

Once you have this list, a list of who you think has an impact on your ability to provide your products and services, you can determine which parties you believe to be relevant to your QMS. For instance, a non-governmental organization that petitions for improved safety in hockey equipment may be an interested party if you produce hockey helmets urging you to go above the legal safety limits, but not necessarily if you produce hockey sticks. Remember, it is for you to determine who are the relevant interested parties for your QMS.

For a more detailed look into determining relevant interested parties see this article: How to determine interested parties and their requirements according to ISO 9001:2015.

2) What are the needs & expectations of the relevant interested parties?

For each relevant interested parties you then need to write out what their known needs & expectations are. These needs and expectations can be declared or unspoken, so it is important to think through all of the possible places that an interested party might identify their needs. For each of the categories mentioned above, here are some of the places to look to find this information:

  • Customers & Suppliers – Contracts and performance specifications is the first place to look. Other sources of information can include; customer meetings, supplier meetings, concerns and complaints, responses to purchase information, warranty information, returned products, and almost any other time you interact with a customer using your products or services where they can identify what they expect and what they are displeased with.
  • Government organizations – What statutory and regulatory requirements are applicable to your business. Remember, this can include environmental or health & safety legislation to as not meeting this could impact your ability to delivery on your product and service agreements.
  • Non-government agencies – Are there any industry standards or codes of practice for the products and services you are providing? If so, have you committed to implement these?
  • Employees – What do your employees need to successfully provide your products and services? Are there infrastructure or workplace needs that you should deliver on? This will greatly depend on the union status of your workforce, so keep this in mind.
  • Shareholders – As shareholders are focused on the profit of your business, what QMS processes can improve on this, for instance continual improvement or cost reduction initiatives?

The second part of this step is to determine which of the needs & expectations that you have identified are relevant to your QMS; it is these you will need for step 3.

3) How do I understand these needs and expectations?

To appreciate how you can best understand these needs and expectations it is helpful to look at the different places in the ISO 9001:2015 standard where the needs & expectations of interested parties are included for consideration. Here are the six main requirement sections that expect you to include a consideration of the needs & expectations of interested parties:

  • QMS Scope – Here you will need to include the requirements of interested parties for defining what your products and services are. For instance, are you a widget manufacturer, or are you an automotive widget manufacturer; this distinction from your interested parties can drive your scope definition.
  • Quality Policy – This requirement includes allowing interested parties access to your quality policy, so you need to determine if this is appropriate depending on what the needs and expectations of that interested party are.
  • Measurement traceability – Is measurement traceability an expectation of your interested parties? Is it needed for your customers, legal reasons or even internal governance reasons? You will need to understand this need to implement it.
  • Requirements for products and services – When developing, producing and delivering your products and services you must include those needs and expectations from your interested parties. What is expected of your products and services? How will people use them? You must understand this in order to delivery on these needs.
  • Design and development – Again, as in the requirements for products and services, what is needed to design and develop your products and services? By understanding these expectations you can adequately design the products and services needed to meet these needs.
  • Management Review – During your management review you will need to address issues that concern your relevant interested parties, such as customer complaints or product failures. Understanding the needs and expectations in the first place is important to allow you to address the issues that arise from unmet expectations.

Understanding the needs of interested parties to improve

Or course, the reason behind this drive to understand the needs & expectations of interested parties is to use this information to find ways to improve the products and services you offer so that you can increase customer satisfaction. When the needs and expectations of interested parties are met customer satisfaction improves, which is the driving force behind having a quality management system in the first place. So, if you use this information well you can find gains in your QMS that you never expected.

Use this free online training ISO 9001:2015 Foundations course to learn more details on interested parties and their requirements.

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