Cloud-based QMS Software supports ISO 9001 Compliance
Posted by Laurie Hendrickson ● 7/29/21 3:20 PM

What is ISO 9001?

ISO 9001 Meaning

In a nutshell, ISO 9001 is the standard outlining the requirements an organization’s quality management system must meet or exceed to be certified.

To give you a bigger picture, the ISO 9001 standard is one part of the group (or “family”) of ISO 9000 standards. This ISO family is focused on quality management systems (QMS) that help organizations “ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements and that quality is consistently improved.

However, ISO 9001 is the only standard that lists actual requirements. It’s also the only one that needs to be certified. The rest of the 9000 standards only provide supporting guidelines and information. 

However, ISO 9001 is the only standard that lists actual requirements. It’s also the only one that needs to be certified. The rest of the 9000 standards only provide supporting guidelines and information. 

The ISO 9000 Family

It’s impossible to talk about ISO 9001 without mentioning the rest of the ISO 9000 standards: ISO 9000, ISO 9002, ISO 9003, and ISO 9004.

Of these, ISO 9000 is the most important because it’s the base for all of the other ISO 9000 standards. 

ISO 9000 provides guidelines on the concepts that make up a quality management system. It contains two sections: fundamentals, which lays out the basic principles of quality management, and vocabulary, a dictionary of QMS terminology. This standard is crucial because it provides the background information on how to properly structure and implement a QMS and, in turn, achieve an ISO 9001 certification.

The ISO 9000 standard is based on quality management principles:

  1. A customer focus
  2. Leadership from top management
  3. Internal engagement
  4. A process approach
  5. Continuous improvement
  6. Evidence-based decision making
  7. Relationship management

It’s important to note that ISO 9000 is only a guideline and doesn’t outline any requirements. So, anyone claiming to be “ISO 9000 Certified” has probably fallen victim to a typo.

ISO Development and Importance

Because a company can have essentially any type of quality system it wants, customers usually do not know in advance whether the system is good or bad. To assist, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has intended to correct this by standardizing quality systems. 

Adopting ISO 9001 is simple. Companies voluntarily adopt the ISO 9001 rules to show that their systems are based on internationally accepted criteria, meet minimum requirements for quality, and, essentially, are “good.”

What is a quality management system (QMS)?

What exactly is a quality management system? In the eyes of ISO, a quality management system is a way for organizations to define how they can meet the requirements of their customers and other stakeholders who are affected by their work. To put this type of system in place, organizations need to align their structure, planning, processes, and resources to meet their quality objectives. 

It’s worth noting that ISO 9001 quality management system standards are not product standards. Instead, they’re focused on good management practices that will ensure high levels of quality.

To avoid some confusion later on, you may have noticed that a lot of technology companies (AODocs included) offer software that is branded as a “quality management system.” So, what’s the deal?  

It’s best to think of this QMS software as the technical systems that allow organizations to make the conceptual processes outlined in ISO’s definition of a QMS a reality. For example, if you defined a change request process to meet your ISO 9001 requirements, you would use AODocs’ QMS to put that process in place.

Regardless of your preferred definition, the benefits of QMS software don’t end at ISO 9001. They also help you comply with other regulations like GxP (which includes GMP, GCP, GLP, and more).

Learn more about cloud QMS software for life sciences

What are the requirements of ISO 9001?

Generally speaking, the ISO 9001 requirements are quite generic. That’s because they’re meant to be able to be applied to any organization, big or small, in any industry. It explains why there are over a million organizations in more than 170 countries holding this certification.

The most important concept of ISO 9001 is the idea of continuous improvement. That’s why you won’t find any specific requirements of what “quality” is. Instead, companies are made to define their objectives themselves and then work to improve their processes to meet those objectives. However, a certified QMS still needs to do the following:

  • Meet the requirements of other stakeholders (for example, customer requirements and regulatory standards)
  • Ensure that employees receive a training course outlining the quality requirements
  • Determine and document the processes, their interactions, and their results
  • Be able to produce records to prove that system requirements have been met
  • Constantly monitor QMS performance
  • Address any risks that could result from any changes
  • Perform internal audits and correct any issues
  • Continuously improve the QMS

With that in mind, ISO 9001’s purpose is to evaluate whether a QMS does a good job of managing your processes while also being able to help you identify areas that need improvement. In simple terms, ISO 9001 helps companies and organizations who could make an excellent product most of the time, make an excellent product every time.


Laurie Hendrickson is a Senior Quality Manager at AODocs. She has 20 years of quality management and process improvement experience with certifications as a Six Sigma Greenbelt, ISO internal Auditor and IATF 13949. This experience spans companies like Nokia, HERE and Uber ATG.  

Tags: Compliance