It has become necessary, and also mandatory, for organizations to understand the needs and expectations of interested parties. Section 4.2 in the ISO 9001:2015 standard specifies that an organization must identify all relevant interested parties and understand their needs and expectations. This will help them to perform consistently while also being compliant with required regulations. In this article, we outline a few points to understand this requirement and navigate it successfully.
Interested parties are those persons or external organizations who have certain needs or expectations which may impact your organization’s ability to perform consistently to provide products and services, which fulfill custom requirements and comply with legal regulations.
While planning an organization’s QMS, one needs to list out all parties that may have an impact; including shareholders, suppliers, intellectual property owners, bankers, insurers, government organizations, non-government agencies, employees, customers, end-users etc. Once this is compiled, one has to carefully look at each party, their needs and expectations, to identify those that are relevant to the QMS.
To further understand about relevant interested parties, have a look at some of the groups below:
1 – Shareholders: These are always looking at how your financials are affected by the costs of producing products and services. They are particularly interested in how well your QMS performs. Their expectations around continual improvement are of key importance to this group.
2 – Governments and non-government agencies: These are mostly interested in ensuring organizations are complying with set legal requirements and local statutes. Failure to comply increases risk and costs to organizations. Hence it is important to understand the key requirements and expectations from this group in order to ensure overall compliance. There may be some non-government agencies who develop industry standards or codes of practice which are relevant to your products and services. One has to consider these factors while planning the QMS.
3 – Employees: They too are key interested parties who have certain needs and expectations of the organization in order to successfully provide the products and services required. Some of these being infrastructure or workplace needs required to perform their duties without any hindrance.
4 – Suppliers: An important group to be considered if your business is dependent on suppliers and contractors who are responsible for enabling you deliver your products and services consistently. Some of the areas to look at include supplier meetings, contracts and specifications, performance guarantees etc.
5 – Customers: Another important group, these are the people who use your products or services. Their needs and expectations are also to be considered since how they use your products and services directly affects or determines how you need to create the same. Areas to explore include contract specifications, purchase information, warranties, returned goods, customer feedback and complaints etc.
To better understand the needs and expectations of relevant interested parties, it is helpful to look at areas in the ISO 9001:2015 standard where these are included for consideration. There are six main sections where the needs and expectations are considered:
Scope of QMS: One has to include the requirements of interested parties while defining the products and services in the scope. This is helpful in understanding their needs and expectations more clearly.
Quality Policy: This requirement allows interested parties, who have certain needs and expectations, to check your quality policy. It needs to be determined which interested parties should be allowed access based on their needs.
Product design and development: While developing or designing products or services, one has to consider what is needed and what are the expectations for adequately designing these to fulfill the expectations and requirements.
Product or Service requirements: When delivering products and services, one has to include the needs and expectations from related interested parties. These may include customer expectations, guidance on usage etc. These need to be understood in order to successfully deliver.
Measurement traceability: Are we required to provide measurement traceability to interested parties including customers or legal-related agencies etc. This has to be clearly understood to implement the same.
Management Review: This is the stage where issues concerning relevant interested parties need to be addressed like product failures or complaints received from customers etc. It is imperative to understand these needs and expectations clearly in order to resolve issues arising out of needs that are not met with.
To summarize the above, the purpose of conducting these activities is to get a more clearer understanding of the needs and expectations of relevant interested parties. This information can be used to improve your products and services which in turn will increase satisfaction and compliance for all.
Moreover, if needs and expectations of relevant interested parties are fulfilled, the organization is able to improve customer satisfaction, which ultimately is the prime objective behind having a quality management system.
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