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The publication of ISO 9001:2015 in September 2015 is the final stage in the ISO 9001 revision process. This version will eventually fully replace ISO 9001:2008, though there will be a transition period.

ISO 9001:2015 positions the new version of the standard as an integral part of an organisation’s efforts towards the broader aim of sustainable development and promotes it as a tool for improving an organisation’s overall performance. It encourages more internal and external stakeholder focus as part of the adoption of a risk-based approach to quality management and emphasises the importance of adopting a Quality Management System (QMS) as a strategic decision for an organisation. In addition to renaming and repositioning some QMS activities, other significant new requirements have been introduced.


The ‘context’ of an organisation (or its ‘business environment’) refers to the combination of internal and external factors and conditions that can have an effect on an organisation’s approach to its products and/or services. As a result, consideration of an organisation’s context must now be an element of the QMS design and implementation process.


A vital part of the planning and implementation of a QMS is a new requirement to identify the risks and opportunities that can potentially impact the operation and performance of the QMS, as well as the corresponding ‘proportionate’ actions to address them.


Top management are now required to demonstrate a greater direct involvement in the organisation’s QMS, and the absence from ISO 9001:2015 of the need for a specific ‘Management Representative’ is partly an attempt to ensure that ‘ownership’ of an organisation’s management system is not simply focused on one individual. There is now a focus on ‘leadership’ rather than just management of the QMS.


The terms ‘documented procedure’ and ‘record’ used in ISO 9001:2008 have both been replaced throughout ISO 9001:2015 by the term ‘documented information’. This is defined as information that is required to be controlled and maintained by an organisation, though it is up to each organisation to determine the level and type of documentation necessary to control its own QMS.


There are also other changes to QMS requirements, including:

  • Proposed specific requirements for organisations in relation to the execution of a process approach when planning, implementing and developing a QMS
  • Identification of the competence necessary for personnel doing work that affects its quality performance
  • Identification and maintenance of the knowledge needed to ensure that an organisation can achieve conformity of products and services
  • A risk-based approach to ascertain the type and extent of controls suitable to all types of external provider


ISO 9001:2015 adopts the clause structure specified in Annex SL, which is now the required framework for all new and revised ISO standards. The stated intention behind this is to ensure that ISO 9001 is aligned with other management systems standards. By utilising the Annex SL structure, it is intended to present QMS requirements in a more consistent, rational manner and not simply offer a template for the elements of an organisation’s QMS.

It is important to note that for those organisations that already have an ISO 9001 compliant QMS, there will be no requirement to change their existing QMS procedure and document structure, or the terminology they use, to mirror that specified in ISO 9001:2015.


Organisations which are already certified to ISO 9001:2008 will have three years from formal publication of ISO 9001:2015 in which to transfer to the new version of this standard. Based on the current publication schedule, this transition period would end in September 2018.

Further information on ISO 9001:2015 will be issued by SGS in the future.