Published: 28 Jul 2017

IRCA Principal Auditor Ramanie Pathirage Chandraratne reveals why the new standard requires auditors to act now in order to improve their understanding.

Today we live in a world where change is inevitable. Emerging disruptive technologies give us new opportunities in new markets, while making the current technologies and systems obsolete. This has always been the case.

However, what makes the situation unique is the fast pace at which changes are taking place compared to the past.

I met an experienced management systems auditor who has been working since the introduction of ISO 9001:1994. I asked him how he deals with the new requirements of ISO 9001:2015. I wanted for him to be more specific on clause 7.1.6 ‘Organizational Knowledge’. The clause states that an organisation should determine the knowledge necessary for the operation of its processes and to achieve conformity of products and services.

This knowledge should be maintained and made available to the extent necessary. When addressing changing needs and trends, the clause states that an organisation should consider its current knowledge and determine how to acquire or access any necessary additional knowledge.

The auditor told me that this was not a new requirement. I agreed with him but explained that the changes to the context we live in today may result in a greater need for businesses and lifestyles to transform.

The changes to the context we live in today may result in a greater need for businesses and lifestyles to transform.

Gone are the days that you could be the proud owner of the latest phone for two years, for example, and feel you have the latest technology. I asked the auditor how this affects businesses today and the audits performed. He agreed that organisations must prepare themselves to meet the changing demands or risk becoming overshadowed by newcomers.

We should recognise knowledge as an intellectual asset and manage it as an essential element of the organisation’s sustained success. Among other things it is important to focus on the following: Is there a need to determine and acquire knowledge from interested parties as part of the organisation’s strategy? What knowledge is required to support the short and long-term needs of the organisation? What processes are used to identify, capture, analyse, retrieve, maintain and protect organisational knowledge? Are there tools to manage implicit and explicit knowledge that exists within the organisation, including the knowledge, insights and experience of its people?  

What methods are used for benchmarking against competitors and sharing organisational knowledge with relevant interested parties, to ensure the sustainability of the organisation? How fast can organisations get ready for the next wave of change, both expected and unexpected?  

Organisations should not only watch out for the disruptive technology that may affect their business but also the people that they employ. Peoples’ knowledge coupled to their attributes, flexibility and willingness to unlearn and learn plays a major role in the sustainability of an organisation.

Ramanie Pathirage Chandraratne, IRCA Principal Auditor, is the global training services manager at DNV GL Business Assurance.