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ISO 9001 Consultant – FAQ on Selecting and Using an ISO 9001 Consultant

1. What are the benefits of using an ISO 9001 Consultant?

Companies hire consultants for different reasons. They may not have the specific expertise, time, experience, or objectivity to perform the QMS development work without outside assistance. A quality management system (QMS) consultant will:

  • Be able to close the knowledge and resource gap;
  • Add experience and insight to your QMS project,
  • Significantly accelerate your success for certification, by preventing any serious mistakes in QMS development and implementation.
  • Fast-track the development process by effectively planning, obtaining management and organizational support and ensuring adequate resources.
  • Organize and facilitate project deployment and avoid or resolve problems.
  • Save time and money by developing an effective QMS, that realizes benefits early and therefore get faster payback on your QMS project investment.

Remember that that it is better to have your person do the hands-on development work under the guidance and expertise of the Consultant. This ensures that QMS ownership stays within the organization.

2. What services would a QMS consultant provide?

A competent consultant should be able to plan, organize and facilitate the QMS project activities, interpret how the QMS standard applies to your organization, help identify and document your applicable processes, recommend process improvements, introduce benchmark practices, impartized on-site training to the various functional levels within your organization, and conduct internal audits. He / she may also help you develop the entire documentation, depending upon the internal resources you have available to you.

3. What credentials should a QMS consultant have?

You must be very careful in checking out the consultant's credentials. The following list of criteria may be useful in making this evaluation:

Education: As you are implementing a management system, you need a consultant with a management system background. A good quality management system consultant should at least have college level education and preferably a graduate degree. Majoring in management sciences would be a bonus.

Training and professional development: Does the consultant hold (or had) Lead Auditor certification through RAB / QSA, IRCA or similar recognized organization?

Does he / she have sector specific training and specialization in sectors such as automotive, environmental, aerospace, telecommunications, health and safety, etc.,

Has he / she written books, written courses, published articles, spoken at quality conventions and seminars, managing a QMS website or moderated a management system forum?

These trade related specialized credits and activities demonstrate the investment that good consultants makes towards sharpening their skills and experience.

Experience: have at least 10 years of Consultancy experience in a variety of industries and more importantly, relevant experience in your specific industry sector.

Personal links: you need a consultant with good interpersonal and communication skills; who is objective, pragmatic, perceptive, tactful and flexible in dealing with personnel at different levels of an organization.

Availability and access: the consultant should be able to provide the consulting time (days) that you need within the budget and time-frame you have and be reasonably easy to contact when needed.

Fees: what should a consultant cost? Rates vary and low daily rates does not needarily get you the best results and cost in the long run. Look at costs from different angles – per day; per deliverable (eg, training course); flat rate for the project; payback on the project, etc.

Remember, a good consultant will get things done more efficiently and help you develop an effective QMS that begins to produce results more quickly, saving you money. So look at consultancy cost from an overall result-oriented perspective.

4. Where do I find a good consultant?

There is not a single comprehensive source or listing of consultants, so try the following:

– Do a localized search on Google or Yahoo.

– Contact a couple of Certification Bodies. They will generally provide a short list of consultants available in your area, to avoid any conflict of interest.

– Through referral from customers, suppliers or other organizations or contacts who have used and were happy with the work done by their consultant.

– Professional and trade associations; such as the ASQ

– Leading management system publishers such as Quality Digest provides an annual directory of Consultants on their website.

– Quality management instrucers; There are many good instructors that also provide consultancy services.

Use the credentials from point 3 above, to evaluate the selected consultants. Make sure you check references and possibly arrange for the consultant to visit your organization and meet with you and key personnel. This would be a good way to size up the consultant against the criteria.

5. Can getting RFP's (request for Proposals) from ISO Consulting firms help in the selection process?

Pick a short list of 2-3 consultants and request proposals from each of them. Their proposal should cover the service deliveries; number of consultancy days and over what time-frame; consultancy and training methods; fees and expenses; contact and reporting. This provides a consistent basis for evaluating them.

Your management team should evaluate the proposals using the defined credits criterion from step 3. You want the management team to participate and support the selection decision, so the consultant can work effectively with your organization.

6. Do we need to have a signed agreement?

Clarify and confirm all proposal details. Negotiate any terms to your satisfaction, including fees and expenses. Consultants are always eager to win new business. Get the final agreement signed by both parties. This is now legally binding and provides clarity on the transactions and contractual terms and should facilitate a smooth on-going relationship between the consultant and your organization.

7. How should we manage the Consultants activities?

All outsourced work, including an expert ISO 9001 consultant needs to be managed. Ensure that the primary contact and reporting requirements are clear and understood by both parties. Regular project and milestone / deliverable reviews must be done with the consultant and ensure any issues or misunderstandings are promptly resolved.

8. How should we evaluate the consultants performance?

When the project is completed, evaluate the consultants performance by asking the following questions:

– Were the project deliverables acceptable and on time?

– Were deliverable results in line with the objectives?

– Did the consultant do a good job of planning? And was the plan followed without significant changes or delays?

– Were communication and reporting requirements met?

– Did the consultant effectively transfer QMS ownership to the organzation's personnel?

– Are benefits of QMS clearly beginning to be realized from the QMS?

– Were the consultancy costs within budget?

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