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The objective of this article is to articulate how we can address the requirement of “needs and expectations of interested parties” as in ISO 9001:2015 standard. In fact, it is an innovative concept to focus on this area’s mandatory requirement of ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 27001, ISO 45001, and many other management system standards. The concept of interested parties extends beyond a focus solely on the customer. It intensifies the focus that every interested party (other than the customer) should be given, as an integrated element of the whole supply chain. It has been made a part of the Annex SL and will henceforth be a common terminology across the majority of ISO management system standards.

ISO  defines “interested party” as a person or organization that can affect, be affected by or perceive itself to be affected by a decision or activity.  In fact, it is about actively and clearly understanding and managing the positive, negative, and changing effects that can influence different stakeholders of the business.  It can be noticed that the requirement to capture the needs and expectations of interested parties is expressed almost identically in each standard by way of simplifying this concept for better perception, and holding firm on the ground.ISO 9001:2015 specifies that

The organization shall determine:

  1. The interested parties that are relevant to the management system
  2. The requirements (needs and expectations) of these interested parties that are relevant to the management system

The terms “needs” and “expectations” have been quite smartly used to enhance the catchment of the overall demands of the interested parties or stakeholders. The “needs” widely focuses on the specified or documented expectations of the interested party. While the “expectations” may have a wider catchment that activates the management system to keep an eye on the implied needs of the stakeholder.

It is the responsibility of the organization to define what actions are essential to satisfy the needs and expectations of those relevant parties to reduce the risks of deviations and to exploit the opportunities therein. The word ‘relevant’ needs to be focused too. This means that the organization needs to determine only those interested parties that are relevant to the purpose of the management system. Hence, depending upon the size and complexity of your organization, it is very likely that you will have a good feel for the interested parties you have regular contact with.

Let’s study in which clauses this requirement is addressed in

ISO 9001:2015 standard:

-Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties (clause 4.2)

-Quality management system (QMS) scope (clause 4.3)

-Quality policy (clause 5.2.2)

-Measurement tractability (clause 7.1.6)

-Requirements for products and services (clause 8.3.2)

Design and development planning (clause 8.3.2)

Management review (clause 9.3.2)

Clause 6.1.1 (risks and opportunities) indirectly includes interested parties by referring to clause 4.2

Starting point

Initial brainstorming will be a quite handy tool to understand the needs and expectations of interested parties. Further, the use of expert judgment, analyzing contractual documents can also be used as some other means to recognize the needs and expectations of interested parties

Examples of interested parties

ISO 9001

Customers, owners, employees, service providers, bankers, regulators, unions, partners, society, competitors, pressure groups, distributors, retailers, vendors

ISO 14001

Customers, employees, communities, suppliers, regulators, NGOs, Investors,

ISO 45001

Workers, top management, managers, external providers

In order to carry out an easy analysis of the needs and expectations of interested parties, we can use the 2*2 matrix of Power Vs Interest (Significance and Relevance) as follows:

Interest of Stakeholders

Even though ISO 9001 does not require a written procedure for addressing interested parties, it should be beneficial to document the process. Thus, it can be repeated later whenever information on the needs and expectations of interested parties is updated.  There are proactive and reactive methods to comprehend the interested parties and their true requirements in an organization. In certain cases, the new interested party would emerge due to changes in organization or business strategy. For example, if an organization decides to set up a new factory overseas, this may have both negative and positive effects on the local staff.  Therefore, it is very imperative to consider the changing environment in identifying the needs and wants of interested parties.  It is clear that this new requirement shoves the management to think beyond their own organizational boundaries. For example, if the government wants to enforce special traffic for a certain product, it will be possible for the organization to take necessary precautions with the help of other industrialists in the field well in advance.  Further, if your competitor has developed a breakthrough technology in product and service offering, you may be able to address the needs and expectations of your interested parties and face the situation successfully.

All in all, it can be seen that identification of needs and expectations of interested parties in the business is a very useful aspect introduced to ISO-based Management System Standards to reduce the risk level and exploit opportunities to drive the business successfully.

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