ISO is addressing the requirements of the many thousands of current and future users worldwide of its ISO 9000 series of quality management standards by releasing a number of documents that provide answers to the most common questions being asked about the ongoing ISO 9000 revisions, scheduled for publication in the fourth quarter of the year 2000.

"The ISO 9000 series is one of ISO's most successful products, used by tens of thousands of organizations around the world," commented ISO President, Prof. Giacomo Elias. "ISO is well aware of the investment they have made in quality systems based on ISO 9000 and we are taking a proactive approach to ensure that their transition to the new, enhanced versions will be a smooth one.

"The days when an organization could make a complex product and just release it to its customers are over. Today, more and more products, including ISO standards, have a service component to assist users in deriving the maximum benefits from them. Therefore, the development of the ISO 9000 revisions is being carried out in synergy with a whole series of supporting measures and services."

The measures include a survey by ISO/TC 176 - the ISO technical committee responsible for ISO 9000 - to help define user requirements of the Year 2000 revisions, verification of the drafts against the design specifications for the standards, validation to determine if they will meet user needs, and encouragement of users to submit comments through the ISO national member institutes in order to improve the documents further.

Added to these measures aimed at product enhancement are communication services, including a new batch of documents on ISO's Web site, ISO Online, that aim to keep ISO 9000 stakeholders in the information loop as the revisions progress.

One of the aspects of quality management which is emphasized in the new ISO 9000 versions is continual improvement. ISO is not merely preaching this as a principle, but is also putting it into practice in the development process of its standards.

The following documents have recently been posted on ISO Online (www.iso.ch).

  • a concise executive abstract that provides top management with the essentials of the ISO 9000 revisions;
  • a fuller summary that provides the background to the revisions, details (including timetable) of the revision process, the essential changes to the series, an explanation of what ISO means when it refers to its vision of the revised ISO 9001 and ISO 9004 as a "consistent pair", and a more detailed description of these two standards, including their aims and mission, main features and the changes being introduced;
  • answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) on the ISO 9000 revisions. Questions raised include, "What will happen to ISO 9002 and ISO 9003?" Answer (summarized here): they will become obsolete, as will the current 1994 version of ISO 9001, and, "Will my organization have to rewrite all its documentation?" Answer (summarized): adjustments, yes, complete rewrite, no.

ISO is taking advantage of the occasion to post a list of all documents relating to the ISO 9000 revisions available on its Web site, accessible through the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 subsite (www.iso.org/iso/iso_9000_iso_14000.htm). This page also contains links to the Web sites of ISO/TC 176 (www.tc176.org) and its subcommittee ISO/TC 176/SC 2 (www.bsi.org.uk/iso-tc176-sc2), which is responsible for revising ISO 9001 and ISO 9004.

Access to the list is via a page containing the following note of caution, under the headline of, "Tracking a moving target": "Due to the huge international interest in the ongoing ISO 9000 revisions, ISO is making a maximum amount of information available. However, stakeholders should bear in mind when consulting the documents posted on this site that the revision process is a dynamic one. Therefore, some of the information given in these documents may be superseded as the draft standards are further improved. It is important to realize that the draft revised standards are still liable to modification before publication in the fourth quarter of the year 2000. Updates will be posted regularly on this site, and on the open access Web site of ISO/TC 176/SC 2."

The ISO 9000 revisions are currently at the development stage of "second Committee Draft" (available on request from ISO national member institutes - see list on ISO Online - and not from ISO Central Secretariat). These drafts (CD2's) are out for ballot until 1st August 1999 by the delegations of ISO members participating in their development. ISO expects to move to the next stage, draft International Standard (DIS), following the 1999 plenary meeting of ISO/TC 176 in San Francisco, USA, next September. In addition, ISO will in the last quarter of 1999 be releasing guidance for ISO 9000 users on planning the transition from the current 1994 versions to the Year 2000 revisions.