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What an ISO 9001:2015 Certification Means for Government Contractors Blog Feature
Stephanie Hagan

By: Stephanie Hagan on February 23rd, 2024

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What an ISO 9001:2015 Certification Means for Government Contractors

Government Business Development | Government | 4 Min Read

Every company strives to stay organized and run smoothly, but it can be difficult to maintain a system that stands the test of time and is successfully carried out by all employees. Who is going to be held accountable and ensure there is continuous improvement when it comes to quality? Where do you even start? This is why many companies go through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2015 certification.

ISO 9001 is the internationally recognized standard for Quality Management Systems (QMS). It is the most widely used QMS standard and often appears as a requirement in Requests for Proposals (RFPs), making it an important prerequisite for government contractors.

Since we recently through the ISO 9001 certification ourselves, we have seen firsthand what it’s like and what doors it could potentially open for government contractors. So, we decided to put together a blog to talk about what ISO 9001 is, what the certification process looks like and what the benefits are.

What Is ISO 9001:2015?

In simple terms, ISO 9001:2015 provides a framework for running your business efficiently and ensuring your products or services are top-quality. It encourages companies to establish effective processes that are periodically reviewed and improved and keeps employees responsible for maintaining their quality policy in their daily operations. The 2015 in “9001:2015” stands for the last year it was revised.

One of the principles of the certification is identifying internal and external risks, how they may impact your business, and what plans you have to mitigate these risks. Many companies think they have thought about this before, but possibly only in terms of employee turnover or natural disasters. It really pushes you to evaluate from all angles and allocate resources appropriately.

We also know that not every plan or improvement can be perfect or completed at once. ISO is not about telling you how to run your business and dinging you for each part you haven’t met yet. It’s more about verifying you are taking the steps to meet these quality management standards and are striving to ensure a high-quality outcome for both your business and your customers.

There are other types of ISO certifications that may also apply for your business depending on your industry, but 9001:2015 is focused strictly on quality management and is open to all sectors.

Why Does ISO 9001:2015 Mean for Your Business?

ISO matters because it shows you're committed to quality, which opens doors to new opportunities, like working with the government or big clients who only want to deal with the best. As mentioned above, several government solicitations, especially the larger vehicles require contractors to be ISO certified. A main and obvious reason for this is guaranteed quality, and knowing you are working to keep your operational costs low without sacrificing any of that quality.

Other benefits and impacts of ISO 9001 on your business include:

  • Improving stakeholder relationships
  • Legal compliance
  • Process improvement
  • Improved risk management
  • Proven business credentials
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Having an edge over your competitors

As a government contractor, especially a GSA Schedule contractor, you have already proven to buyers that you have pre-approved pricing, are meeting all the applicable requirements, and offer the best value. Adding an ISO certification to your resume means you have put in place effective processes to continuously meet these requirements and trained your employees to deliver best value products/services time and time again.

The Core Requirements of ISO 9001:2015

ISO 9001:2015 might sound complex, but it's really about these main principles:

  • Focus on your customers
  • Have a strong established leader
  • Ensure everyone is educated and on board
  • Manage processes
  • Improve continually
  • Make decisions based on evidence
  • Manage relationships with partners

The ISO 9001:2015 Certification Process

First, you'll need to understand the standard inside out—we suggest you download the ISO 9001:2015 standard itself and read through all the sections. Each section will determine what needs to be established and shown in the audits. Then, take a closer look at your current processes and see where you need to improve, organize documents, or create some new templates or new process plans that align with your goals.

After some preparation and fine-tuning, you'll need to go through an internal audit and then an external audit where a third-party ISO registrar reviews all your documentation and asks you and other employees about how your business operates with quality management as a focus.

While the process isn’t a breeze, you don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the audits. It’s mainly about evaluating your current business practices and processes in relation to quality management, providing documentation about them, and making plans to continually review it all. Essentially making sure you are holding yourselves accountable and are willing to improve as your business grows and changes.

Implementing ISO 9001:2015 in Your Business

Once you are certified, it isn’t something you can hang up on your wall and forget. It requires annual maintenance, reviews, and a full audit every 3 years. So, it’s important you have a system in place to regularly sit down and see where processes can be updated or implemented to better serve your employees and customers.

Opportunities for Your GSA Schedule

ISO 9001 is a coveted certification that can open more opportunities for your company, especially in the federal marketplace. Having this certification will give you an edge over your competitors and will help you stand out, but it will not necessarily bring an influx of government buyers to your doorstep. You also need to be proactive about finding opportunities to respond to and ultimately win. To learn more about searching for government opportunities, check out our blogs, Where to Find Government Contracting Opportunities and Identify Your Best Opportunities with NAICS Codes. If you need help preparing your GSA Schedule and make sure it’s compliant to respond to these opportunities, we are here to help.

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About Stephanie Hagan

Stephanie Hagan is the Training and Communications Manager for Winvale. Stephanie grew up in Sarasota, Florida, and earned her Bachelor's of Arts in Journalism and Rhetoric/Communications from the University of Richmond.