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ISO 9001 in the middle of a cross-road with icons spouting off.

ISO 9001: Work to begin immediately on revision

ISO 9001 in the middle of a cross-road with icons spouting off.

Discover the significance of the ballot and what's to come for ISO 9001, as Richard Green CQP FCQI explains all the latest updates.

In the early hours of Saturday 29 July, the result of one of the most important recent ISO ballots was announced.  

Although many subject matter experts were expecting the result of the ballot to be against the revision, a sizable majority of the National Standards Bodies comprising Technical Committee 176, Sub Committee 2, (TC 176/SC2), had voted in favour of commencing the revision of ISO 9001 with immediate effect. This was in preference to leaving the current 2015 edition of the standard ‘as is’ and not reviewing again until 2026. 

a sizable majority of the National Standards Bodies comprising Technical Committee 176, Sub Committee 2, (TC 176/SC2), had voted in favour of commencing the revision of ISO 9001 with immediate effect.

The ballot was commissioned by TC 176 SC2’s Strategic Planning and Operations Task Group (SPOTG), who in March 2021 had recommended that ISO 9001:2015 be confirmed. This was agreed by ballot and consequently according to ISO practice, 2026 was envisaged as the earliest this decision would be revisited.   

The lead up to the ballot 

But things were not so simple. The result of the 2021 ballot was very close, and although the majority of national standards bodies had elected not to amend ISO 9001, there was significant evidence on both sides of the argument both for and against change, including the results of a global user survey and the outcomes of work relating to future concepts and brand integrity. Within SC2 there were clear divisions too, with individuals passionately articulating different points of view regarding the need for change.  

Subsequent to the 2021 decision, SPOTG established Technical Group 5 to further assess the need for an early revision of ISO 9001 and to produce a draft technical specification setting out items for potential inclusion in the next release, whenever that release may take place. This work was completed early in March 2023 and presented to SPOTG at the end of the month. Based on the evidence submitted, the conclusion of SPOTG was that there was a clear case for balloting the National Standards Bodies represented on SC2. Voting opened on 28 June and closed on 28 July, with 78 votes being cast out of a possible 81. The size of the majority in favour of revision was considerably larger than the 2021 majority electing not to proceed.   

The significance of the ballot  

This outcome of this vote is important for a number of reasons. ISO 9001 - Quality management systems — Requirements, is the most widely adopted ISO standard in the ISO portfolio. With over one million certificates issued across one and a half million sites, any decision to amend the standard has the potential for significant impact. As well as end user organisations, others who are likely to be affected include both internal and external quality management auditors, training organisations and consultants. There is now a degree of certainty as to when change will be coming, even if the magnitude of change is currently unclear. 

The vote is also important as it effectively draws a line under what has been a difficult period for SC2. With such polarised views regarding a revision, making progress in other work areas was more challenging that one would typically expect, as a good deal of time and effort was consumed debating the former. The hope is that SC2 will now be able to move on, however there is still the difficult matter as to whether the next edition should be the subject of a minor or major revision. As is usual when a new edition is being considered, there is a wide spectrum of SC2 views as to how far reaching any changes should be, from those seeking little (and preferably no change) to those seeking a more radical update.  

The design specification as written can be interpreted in different ways and a such does not limit the working group who will draft the next edition to one of these options or the other. Consequently as one matter is resolved, another difficult debate is about commence. 

What’s to come 

So what happens now that the results of the ballot are known?  The next steps will be to establish a new WG group for the revision of ISO 9001 and appoint a Convenor/project leader. A call for nominations for the Convenor/project leader role will be initiated in the next few days. Following this the draft design specification will be circulated to SC 2 members for comments. The received comments will then be passed on to a new WG for the revision of ISO 9001 for discussion at its first meeting. 

It is far too early at this point to give a definite date for the release of the next edition of ISO 9001. Certain stages of the ISO standards development process can be bypassed if there are relatively few, insignificant comments put forward.  Whilst it is hoped there will be a general consensus regarding the contents of the next edition, this is not expected to be the case based on the discussions so far. As a result late 2025, or more likely early 2026 is the best guess at a publication date at this time.  

Once the new development working group has been established we should have a more informed indication of the target date. 

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