ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has just published a new guide to help standards writers address the market relevance and compatibility of new or revised management system standards.

The document provides guidance for those involved in the writing of management system standards on how to assess the real market need for management system standards, including the economic and societal costs of their potential application. It also provides guidance on the process of justifying and approving new standards projects to enhance well-informed decision-making.

ISO management system standards are increasingly being used worldwide by organizations of all types and sizes. For them to remain useful, authoritative and respected, it is important that they reflect demonstrated market needs and that they are mutually compatible to facilitate their joint implementation.

The Guide is intended to improve the interface between the standards-developing committees and the market sectors they serve, as well as to make the optimal use of resources by only developing management system standards for which there is a clear market requirement.

ISO Guide 72, Guidelines for the justification and development of management system standards, 18 pages, price 80 Swiss francs, is available (in English only) from ISO national member institutes (see list with contact details) or from ISO Central Secretariat: customerservice@iso.org.

"Guide 72 identifies common elements of all management system standards and recommends a specific logical order to address these in any standard. This provides a very helpful framework to draft compatible and even aligned management system standards," said Dick Hortensius, Secretary of the ad hoc group on Management Systems Standards that developed Guide 72. "Many companies around the world implementing more than one management system standard will greatly benefit from standards that are fully compatible and better aligned."

The main requirement for proposals for new management system standards is that they include, in addition to the regular information submitted as part of the new work item proposal (NP) or the proposal for the establishment of a new committee, a justification study with an evaluation of the needs and the expected costs of a future management system standard.

Guide 72 is intended to be used by all ISO bodies involved in the development of management system requirements, guidelines, standards, and management system related standards. It can also be used by non-ISO standards development organizations at the international, regional or national levels that are considering or are in the process of developing management system standards and/or comparable documents.

ISO Guide 72 was developed by an ad hoc group reporting to the organization's Technical Management Board (TMB), which is the body overseeing ISO's standards-development programme and the technical committees which carry out this work.