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Why ISO certification is a prerequisite for business excellence.

Johannesburg, 29 Nov 2023
Theo Lategan, CTO, Cellfind.
Theo Lategan, CTO, Cellfind.

ISO is the International Organisation of Standardisation, a body that creates, sets and promotes standards across industries that includes experts who agree on standards. To date, ISO has published more than 24 000 standards – a collection of best practices that promote product compatibility, share solutions and know-how, and identify safety and security issues.

While the path to becoming ISO certified may seem complex, it’s an important prerequisite for doing business today, especially when looking to expand to global markets – ISO certifications are recognised internationally and signify that a company's processes and systems meet global best practices. “Being certified provides stakeholders, including customers, employees and investors, with confidence in an organisation's commitment to protecting their data and ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information,” explains Theo Lategan, Cellfind’s CTO.

The path to best practice

While there are standards for just about every industry, Cellfind is ISO/IEC 27001 certified, which is the international standard for information security management systems (ISMS). “It provides a systematic and structured approach to managing and protecting sensitive information within an organisation,” says Lategan. “ISO 27001 sets out a framework for establishing, implementing, monitoring, reviewing and continually improving information security policies, procedures and controls.”

There are not only benefits that come with partnering with an ISO-certified company, there are also significant advantages in the process of achieving ISO certification itself. “First and foremost, it means that we can support continuous business operations without interruption,” Lategan says. “As an organisation maintaining compliance to the standard, you maintain a robust and smoother work environment. Most ISO standards direct you to assess potential risks to the business, and then implement certain measures to reduce the likelihood of damage and loss from incidents.”

According to Lategan, another advantage that comes with being ISO-certified is when it comes to the submission of proposals for big RFPs or when bidding for other tenders. “Being ISO certified can be the trigger that gets the company through the door and on to the next stages of the process,” he adds. “If not certified, in some cases, it could also mean the difference between being considered or invited for the process in the first place or not. In some cases, certain big corporate companies or government agencies could award contracts based on the organisation's ISO status. In most cases at least compliance to the standards would be compulsory, but being certified provides the proof…”

Market differentiation and credibility

What this means is that even if a business can provide the best systems or services for a customer’s needs, contracts will be awarded to a competitor that is ISO certified. “Having an ISO certification sets a company apart from its competitors. If used correctly, it can also be a valuable marketing tool and provide a competitive advantage when bidding for contracts or attracting customers,” says Lategan.

He explains that ISO certification enhances a company's credibility and reputation in the market in a few ways: “Firstly, it provides proof of compliance and can go a long way in increasing customer trust, a positive reputation, and a competitive advantage in the marketplace… it is a case of not just ‘talking the talk’, but also ‘walking the walk’,” he explains. “Secondly, certification is a visible and credible way to showcase the company’s commitment to quality, consistency, customer satisfaction and responsible business practices.” Working with a company that has been ISO certified not only demonstrates a proactive approach to identifying and mitigating potential risks, it shows a dedication to safeguarding sensitive information. “In an era where data breaches and cyber crime are a constant threat, this is a significant point to prove.”

Continuous improvement and maintenance

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that ISO certification is not a one-time achievement – ISO standards are subject to periodic revisions and updates, with new versions and amendments being introduced to address emerging trends, technologies and industry requirements. Lategan’s recommendation is to have a system of continuous improvement in place, regularly reviewing and updating the management system to maintain compliance and effectiveness.

“To maintain compliance, annual surveillance audits need to be conducted by the certification body,” he says, adding that technology and software solutions play a crucial role in helping organisations maintain ISO compliance by providing tools and systems to streamline and automate various compliance-related processes. “By utilising technology and software solutions, organisations can simplify ISO compliance management, reduce the risk of human error and enhance the ability to track, report and respond to compliance-related issues effectively,” he says. “This, in turn, contributes to the ongoing maintenance of ISO compliance and the continuous improvement of an organisation's management systems.”

Recapping the multifaceted benefits of ISO certification

ISO certification provides benefits beyond mere compliance, including a streamlined work environment, continuous business operations and a competitive advantage in tenders. It boosts a company's credibility and reputation, providing market differentiation and serving as a valuable marketing tool that highlights a commitment to quality and responsible practices. More importantly, ISO certification requires ongoing efforts, periodic audits and technology integration for effective compliance management, positioning a company for sustained success in a dynamic business landscape.