Puritas examines the advantage of ISO accreditation for organisations and offers insight on the journey needed to gain it
The Japanese have a word for it. ‘Kaizen’. Which means, loosely, ‘change for the better’.
The concept, when applied to organisations, is always to seek continuous improvement. Never accept that what you have is good enough. Find ways to change for the better.
Jersey-based finance software developer Puritas recently applied considerable focus and energy to doing just that. Finding ways to change for the better.
Not that there was anything necessarily wrong beforehand. Quite the opposite in fact. The company successfully supplies cutting edge award-winning applications and systems to world-leading international finance companies.
This change for the better was all about securing existing strengths and building new ones. And the successful approach used, as explained by MD Trevor Cole, is one the company would proudly share with others thinking about following the same path to a higher quality future.
‘We decided to seek formal quality accreditation at the start of 2018,’ he explains. ‘Puritas had expanded in the years before to serve a growing customer base and provide an increasingly sophisticated product set. Growth and complexity brought fresh challenges. As software developers we’d always focused on ensuring quality product and delivery. But our senior team recognised a need for formalisation and verification against best practice quality standards. I picked-up the role of exploring the ISO option.’
ISO – the International Organisation for Standardisation. This globally recognised provider of quality management systems is a logical step for any company seeking improvement and validation.
But where to start? Just trying to understand requirements can be enough to turn many organisations off. Pragmatically, Trevor set about understanding the standard, the options and the approach to best serve Puritas’s needs.
‘We decided to aim for ISO 9001 accreditation,’ Trevor continues, ‘which generically encompasses all aspects of an organisation’s operations rather than focus on standards relating to specific areas of our business. ISO 9001 can be applied to just about any organisation operating in every industry, is scalable, widely respected and often demanded by clients. But just grasping how to approach attaining the standard can be quite a challenge.
Trevor sought specialist expertise for support. Numerous companies offer ISO-related services, from fundamental audits of present operations through to assessing and awarding accreditation. From the start, he chose one with an excellent track record.
‘A search took me to BSI,’ Trevor reveals, ‘which has a long history of both UK and international quality and standards development. Their credentials and service portfolio stood out from others in the same field. BSI agreed to undertake the audit and assessment process for Puritas while also offering advice on our approach to achieving ISO accreditation. This included suggesting initial introductory training on the standard.’
‘For me, this proved an immensely valuable course, contextualising the ISO 9001 standard and helping bring its requirements to life. With this understanding, I could begin planning my approach. After a couple of false starts, I decided to try something different.
‘Sitting down with a blank sheet of paper I began writing a story. This conceived Puritas as a fully ISO accredited company – the ideal future state if you like.
‘It wasn’t all fiction, of course, as many of the elements were already in place. But the approach allowed me to identify chapters or passages needing scripting or rewriting. And then, once the story was complete, to get on with making the changes and improvements needed.’
How challenging was the implementation? With his story to hand, Trevor found himself able to clearly explain requirements and quickly gain buy-in.
‘The Puritas senior management team have all spent time working for larger organisations,’ he elaborates, ‘which means they understood the need for quality and commitment to continuous improvement. But leading a start-up demands focus on other essentials too – responsiveness, agility, innovation. Formal quality management systems such as ISO 9001 may seem stifling.
‘Fortunately, my story-based approach helped easily explain the quality-based systems and processes Puritas already had in place. And the relatively straightforward additions and changes needed to achieve accreditation.’
Reassured, there was agreement to press on with the required steps. BSI undertook an initial gap analysis assessment, providing understanding of where Puritas needed to tighten systems and processes. And then a final audit – carried out through a novel remote method because of Covid restrictions – to become fully ISO 9001:2015 accredited in June 2020.
Positively, Trevor soon discovered it was the perfect time for quality commitment to pay dividends for Puritas.
‘The process of achieving ISO accreditation had sharpened our approach to things like risk mitigation and business continuity,’ he conveys, ‘meaning the switch to remote working during lockdown was easily accomplished.
‘Documented and tested processes existed. Roles and responsibilities were defined and understood. Established workflows ensured customer service functioned as normal. I’m proud to say my quality story led to a very satisfying ending.’
But the tale didn’t end there. The Puritas quality storybook is not yet closed for the company.
‘A commitment to continuous improvement doesn’t end with achieving accreditation,’ Trevor clarifies. ‘It’s a never-ending story. We mustn’t accept that Puritas is as good as it gets when it comes to quality but keep finding ways to change for the better.’
The quality story doesn’t end for Trevor either. Having learned from and enjoyed achieving ISO 9001 accreditation for Puritas, he’s interested and willing to share his approach and experiences with others.
‘There’s undoubtedly organisations thinking about seeking ISO 9001 quality accreditation or even scratching their heads at the start of the process. To these companies the path ahead might appear very steep, the end obscured in mist. Having written the story of one way to navigate the journey, I’d happily help guide others to the finish line. There’s no point totally re-writing the story after all.’
Anyone interested in finding out more can contact Trevor on 07700 737 161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.