Explain ISO 9000 certification

ISO (International Standards Organization) is a consortium of 63 countries established to formulate and foster standardization. ISO published its 9000 series of standards in 1987. ISO certification serves as a reference for contract between independent parties. The ISO 9000 standard specifies the guidelines for maintaining a quality system. We have already seen that the quality system of an organization applies to all activities related to its product or service. The ISO standard mainly addresses operational aspects and organizational aspects such as responsibilities, reporting, etc. In a nutshell, ISO 9000 specifies a set of guidelines for repeatable and high quality product development. It is important to realize that ISO 9000 standard is a set of guidelines for the production process and is not directly concerned about the product itself

Types of ISO 9000 quality standards

ISO 9000 is a series of three standards: ISO 9001, ISO 9002, and ISO 9003. The ISO 9000 series of standards is based on the premise that if a proper process is followed for production, then good quality products are bound to follow automatically. The types of industries to which the different ISO standards apply are as follows. ISO 9001 applies to the organizations engaged in design, development, production, and servicing of goods. This is the standard that is applicable to most software development organizations ISO 9002 applies to those organizations which do not design products but are only involved in production. Examples of these category industries include steel and car manufacturing industries that buy the product and plant designs from external sources and are involved in only manufacturing those products. Therefore, ISO 9002 is not applicable to software development organizations. ISO 9003 applies to organizations that are involved only in installation and testing of the products

Need for obtaining ISO 9000 certification

There is a mad scramble among software development organizations for obtaining ISO certification due to the benefits it offers. Some benefits that can be acquired to organizations by obtaining ISO certification are as follows:

  •  Confidence of customers in an organization increases when organization qualifies for ISO certification. This is especially true in the international market. In fact, many organizations awarding international software development contracts insist that the development organization have ISO 9000 certification. For this reason, it is vital for software organizations involved in software export to obtain ISO 9000 certification.
  •  ISO 9000 requires a well-documented software production process to be in place. A well-documented software production process contributes to repeatable and higher quality of the developed software.
  •  ISO 9000 makes the development process focused, efficient, and cost-effective.
  •  ISO 9000 certification points out the weak points of an organization and recommends remedial action.
  •  ISO 9000 sets the basic framework for the development of an optimal process and Total Quality Management (TQM).

Salient features of ISO 9001 certification

  •  All documents concerned with the development of a software product should be properly managed, authorized, and controlled. This requires a configuration management system to be in place.
  • Proper plans should be prepared and then progress against these plans should be monitored.
  • Important documents should be independently checked and reviewed for effectiveness and correctness.
  • The product should be tested against specification.
  • Several organizational aspects should be addressed e.g., management reporting of the quality team.

Limitations of ISO 9000 certification

Even though ISO 9000 aims at setting up an effective quality system in an organization, it suffers from several shortcomings. Some of these shortcomings of the ISO 9000 certification process are the following:

  •  ISO 9000 requires a software production process to be adhered to but does not guarantee the process to be of high quality. It also does not give any guideline for defining an appropriate process.
  •  ISO 9000 certification process is not fool-proof and no international accreditation agency exists. Therefore it is likely that variations in the norms of awarding certificates can exist among the different accreditation agencies and also among the registrars.
  • Organizations getting ISO 9000 certification often tend to downplay domain expertise. These organizations start to believe that since a good process is in place, any engineer is as effective as any other engineer in doing any particular activity relating to software development. However, many areas of software development are so specialized that special expertise and experience in these areas (domain expertise) is required. In manufacturing industry there is a clear link between process quality and product quality. Once a process is calibrated, it can be run again and again producing quality goods. In contrast, software development is a creative process and individual skills and experience are important.
  •  ISO 9000 does not automatically lead to continuous process improvement, i.e. does not automatically lead to TQM.

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