ISO 9001 is the international standard for quality management systems (QMS), published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO standards are the most widely used quality management standards worldwide.

Increasingly, your customers are looking for a guarantee that the products they’re buying from you have gone through quality management best practices. Adopting the ISO 9001 standard is one step toward offering that guarantee. The current version is ISO 9001:2015, which was released in September 2015.

The goal of ISO 9001, part of the ISO 9000 family of quality management standards, is to help you prevent quality issues that could affect your customers, employees, business partners, and even your industry. 

ISO 9001 defines the requirements for creating a quality management system. The QMS is a uniform and well-organized process approach to governing quality and control objectives to ensure continual improvement. 

Before you decide to adopt ISO 9001, you should have a thorough understanding of the basics of the standard. 

Understanding ISO 9001

The ISO 9001 quality management system focuses on meeting customer requirements, customer needs, and overall customer satisfaction rather than just adhering to product specifications and requirements. That’s because, ultimately, the quality of your products depends on whether and how well they meet customer needs.

At the center of the ISO 9001 are eight key principles of quality management:

Customer focus

The focus of quality management is mainly about meeting customer requirements and doing your best to exceed your customer’s expectations. You can establish this focus by attempting to understand their expectations and requirements. 


Organizations succeed when their leaders establish and maintain work environments that enable employees to become fully involved in achieving the organizations’ unified quality goals. You should help your company’s leaders at all levels establish a single purpose and direction as well as create conditions to encourage employees to work toward your organization’s quality objectives. 

Involvement of people 

Engagement of people is one of ISO 9001’s most important principles. Employees who are engaged become more empowered, more competent, more dependable and better able to help you achieve your top objective—better meeting your customers’ needs. Engaging your employees means you should respect them as individuals. Recognize them for their achievements, help them with their personal and professional development, and constantly communicate with them. The way for your company to succeed is to retain competent employees by engaging with them.

Process approach 

An organization will operate more efficiently when leaders manage and control the business processes, linking them together to form a single system. Adopting this process approach will help your company achieve more predictable and consistent results. It will also help people focus their efforts on key improvement processes.

System approach to management

The process approach is part of the system approach. That means you have to understand, analyze, and manage interrelated processes so you can develop a cohesive system to attain your organizational objectives. You’ll continue to be successful when you manage your business processes as one cohesive quality management system.

Continual improvement 

It’s critical to maintain an ongoing focus on improvement throughout your organization. Continual improvement is an ongoing effort to enhance your company’s products, services, and processes. It should be a key part of your quality management strategy. 

Factual approach to decision-making

During the decision-making process, competent staff members should analyze and evaluate all available data and information using the appropriate tools and methods. However, all this data should be accurate, reliable, and secure because accurate facts and proper data analysis will allow you to make the best business decisions. 

Relationship management

Successful companies establish relationships with relevant partners, including business associates, vendors, investors, and resellers, to ensure the continuity of the supply chain.

Understanding the basics of ISO 9001 and its focus on the customer will help you determine why—and whether—you want to implement the standard.