Home » What is ISO Certification, Who Needs it & Why

What is ISO Certification, Who Needs it & Why

With companies handling large amounts of sensitive information on a daily basis, customers have become increasingly concerned about data security. Indeed, today’s technologies and the increased sharing of information across businesses present unique challenges to customer information.

ISO certification aims to develop a minimum set of standards for data security and operational efficiency across many different organizations. By showing that a business is ISO compliant, customers can have more confidence in the internal controls and processes of the relevant organization.

Defining ISO

ISO is short for International Standards Organization. It refers to a commonly established set of standards that businesses across various industries conform to. There are many different ISO standards that pertain to specific businesses. For example, there are ISO standards for manufacturing, data security, accounting, among others.

ISO started off in 1946 with membership from 25 countries. Their original purpose was to establish a unifying set of standards that would be used to ensure conformity and thus better security/service delivery. Today, ISO has expanded to a 162-member body that sets unifying standards across many different industries.

Types of ISO

ISO types cover a wide variety of industries. In the IT sector, being ISO compliant allows your organization to not only establish customer confidence but to also become complaint with multiple regulations. There are 3 main ISO Standards that relate to IT-related companies.

ISO 27001

ISO 27001 mainly applies to Information Security Management Systems. It is a collection of over a dozen standards that all pertain to data security, management systems, and other IT-related fields. ISO 27001 compliance has become increasingly important in recent times. This is because more companies are handling sensitive customer data for the purpose of sales, marketing, procurement, etc.

The main purpose of ISO 27001 is to preserve the confidentiality and integrity of available information. These standards ensure that all data shared upstream and downstream to customers is secure along the entire chain. This ISO standard occurs in 2 main stages. The first stage covers the collection of data related to the Information Security Management System under review. This data includes a review of the following documents:

  • The scope of the ISMS
  • Information security policy
  • Risk assessment
  • Statement of capability
  • Risk assessment report

There are many other documents that are also included in the initial review. At the second stage, auditing is done to determine compliance and to issue the appropriate documentation.

ISO 31000

The ISO 31000 standard covers Enterprise Risk Management (ERM). It covers the likelihood of threats that can occur to a business’s operational systems so they can establish appropriate steps to respond. This certification is issued to companies that demonstrate risk mitigation controls they have put in place in the event that their systems are compromised.

For certification to be issued, the company should demonstrate that the executive management team and Board of Directors have reviewed their risk mitigation strategy. This should have been done via a process elements approach, a maturity model approach, or principles of risk management approach.

ISO 9001

ISO 9001 primarily covers Quality Management Systems (QMS). As more customers put emphasis on product performance and quality, ISO 9001 certification ensures that businesses have a QMS capable of documenting processes, responsibilities, and procedures of various control objectives.

An ISO 9001 audit covers 3 main types of review: product, process, and system. Each of the 3 steps under review has its own subset of required documents.

Who needs ISO Certification and why is it important?

ISO certification is an important asset for many different companies. Within the IT space, ISO standards demonstrate both conformity and compliance with the established guidelines. They help your business establish both internal and external standards that can improve operational efficiency. In addition, ISO certification also enables your customers to gain confidence in your current processes.

There is a difference between certification and conformity. Conformity simply means taking steps towards ISO compliance, such as establishing a QMS or carrying out internal audits. On the other hand, certification involves providing upstream and downstream customers with appropriate verifications regarding information management and quality control. Each certification provided should be specific, mentioning the particular ISO Certification that has been issued.

Accreditation is not the same as Certification

While ISO is the body responsible for creating a certain set of standards, it doesn’t provide certifications to relevant organizations. Actual certification work is done by the Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO).

Accreditation typically refers to an independent review of a company that offers ISO Certification. The review is done to ensure that the accrediting body is capable of providing accurate CASCO/ISO certifications.

Author Bio

Ken Lynch is an enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated about what drives workers to work and how to make work more engaging. Ken founded Reciprocity to pursue just that. He has propelled Reciprocity’s success with this mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk, and compliance goals of their company in order to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT.


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