Context of the Organisation Overview
Some organisations are struggling with new concepts to the ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and AS9100 standards such as Context of the Organisation and do not see how it fits into their management system, they are often leaving it until last but really it should be one of the first things they do when structuring their new system along with Scope, Interested Parties and Risks and Opportunities.
The standard is still based around the Plan, Do, Check and Act framework and the clauses at the front of the standard such as Context of the Organisation, Interested Parties, Risk are all in the planning stage and therefore should be done at the start of your system structure. Without identifying the context of the organisation, you will not be able to structure your management system correctly and effectively as it is there to identify the business and what it is trying to achieve.
The concept of Context of the Organisation is not new like most of the requirements you see in standards, they are old concepts and theories with a new twist so it might help to go through some of the old management techniques that we have been through in education or early career stages.
The Context of the Organisation is there to define the business; to not only help the organisation define what they are trying to achieve and for whom, but also to focus the system development on the key areas of the business.
There is a note within the clause of the standard which gives some guidance to what you should be defining and if we take those notes it will highlight one possible method for identifying the Context which could be familiar to a lot of people, or at least allow for a simple example or internet search to get a better idea of what you should be considering.
“NOTE 2 Understanding the external context can be facilitated by considering issues arising from legal,
technological, competitive, market, cultural, social and economic environments, whether international, national, regional or local.”
If we take some of the above items and display them as below it reflects what is known as a PEST/PESTEL/PESTLE Analysis:
The PEST/PESTLE/PESTEL analysis doesn’t cover all the notes but it provides a structure and understanding of the approach you could take. You can expand the above and maybe come up with your own acronym but if we explore the PEST/PESTLE/PESTEL concept a little further it will help with the understanding and appreciation of what the standard is asking you to do.
A PEST/PESTLE/PESTEL analysis is an old marketing tool which helps to identify the market the business is currently exposed to, this is sometimes referred to as Macro-environmental factors. These factors have a current or future impact on the business and need to be understood and defined to structure the focus of the business or in the case of ISO 9001:2015, the system to control these factors.
Top management would be expected to know what factors impact the business so that the auditors can determine if they have a grasp of the business and have taken these factors into consideration when creating and developing the management system appropriate to the business. This is not a difficult area for organisations to demonstrate and in our experience, most organisations have a very good awareness of what these factors are and what they can be in the future. The concept may sound daunting but it’s relatively easy to demonstrate compliance if you understand what the standard is trying to achieve.
We can explore each of the factors further to help the understanding of what these factors mean and why they need to be determined by the organisation.
If you would like further information on Context of the Organisation you can download our free guide