Given the penetration of almost every business sector by information technology, a new ISO/IEC standard for applying ISO 9001:2000 quality management to software engineering has a huge worldwide potential.

ISO/IEC 90003:2004, Software engineering - Guidelines for the application of ISO 9001:2000 to computer software, covers all aspects from development to supply, acquisition, operation and maintenance of computer software.

Victoria Hailey, convener of the international experts who pioneered ISO/IEC 90003:2004 explained its significance, "In addition to providing guidance on how to implement the highly successful ISO 9001:2000 approach in a software environment, the publication of ISO 90003 heralds an important event for the software engineering world because it brings unity to what has been an increasingly fragmented approach, given the sheer number of software engineering standards being developed."

"It cross-refers to the many existing discipline-specific standards that already exist to support a software organization's quality programme," adds Andy Coster, the editor-in-chief of the standard. For example, it extensively references the ISO/IEC 12207 Life Cycle Models to support software project activities, ISO/IEC TR 15504 on Software Process Assessment to support the measurement of processes and continual improvement, and ISO/IEC 14143 to support Functional Size Measurement.

Witold Suryn, secretary of the ISO/IEC technical group that developed the document further explains: "As a unifying standard, ISO/IEC 90003 adds tremendous value to the wealth of knowledge accumulating in the software world by cross-referencing the requirements of the proven ISO 9001:2000 model to some of the most important support documents in software engineering in existence."

ISO/IEC 90003:2004 is applicable to software that is part of a commercial contract with another organization, a product available for a market sector, used to support the processes of an organization, embedded in a hardware product, or related to software services.

The standard includes the ISO 9001:2000 requirements, to which it adds software-specific guidance without modifying the requirements. ISO/IEC 90003:2004 is not in itself a certification standard and is intended to be useful whether or not the organization seeks ISO 9001:2000 certification.

Victoria Hailey concludes, "ISO 90003 incorporates international best practice. It is useful for every software organization - whatever its level of maturity - that is serious about improving quality."

ISO/IEC 90003:2004 costs 150 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat. It was developed by the joint technical committee established by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and the IEC (International Electrotechnical Committee) ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information technology, subcommittee SC 7, Software and system engineering, working group WG 18, Quality management.