How to get more value from your interested parties table
3 June 2021
When ISO 9001 was updated in 2015, it introduced requirements on the subject of interested parties. While it's quite simple to address the basic requirements, a little more thought can help to achieve greater benefits all round.
Interested parties are those that may have an effect on, be affected by your organizations' decisions or activities. In addressing the requirements of ISO 9001 clause 4.2, you need to consider; Who are the relevant interested parties for your QMS? What are their relevant needs and expectations? There is no need to consider interested parties where your organization has decided that they are not relevant to your QMS. If it is decided that an interested party is relevant, you may then decide which of their requirements are also relevant to your QMS.
Who are your interested parties?
The list would vary from one organization to another. However, the following are some of the possible examples:
Some of these may be sub-divided into separate groups - where they may have diverging requirements. For example:
- Customers may be divided into separate cohorts based on geography, products or services provided to them, or another significant factor.
- Management is often considered separately to workers as they are the interface between the workers and owners.
- Suppliers may be sub-divided into product vendors and sub-contractors if they have different needs and expectations.
You will need some means of ensuring and demonstrating that you have determined, monitored and reviewed information about interested parties, and their relevant needs and expectations. Once again, although ISO 9001 does not specify any required documents, you might consider that some type of document would be useful to capture the relevant information and enable it to be monitored, reviewed and updated over time. One option is to maintain an ‘Interested parties table’ as a standalone document and / or as part of a documented QMS Overview or Quality Manual.
You may choose to meet the standard’s requirements for a review of interested parties and their requirements by including it as part of overall management review process or as a separate exercise.
The following is an extract from a simple 2-column table that may be included in an overview or manual. We’ll just focus here on customers.
A 4-column layout offers a more expansive model:
- The 1st column is to list the interested parties.
- The 2nd column is to list their relevant needs and expectations.
- The 3rd column identifies whether the item is a 'compliance obligation' e.g. a legal, contractual requirement or other requirement that you choose to comply with. This column is of particular importance in integrated systems
- The 4th column references what you do to meet the identified needs / expectations.
For example, expanding just one of the items listed in the previous table, we may get:
As another example, we may identify a trend towards communicating by a particular technology, or using a specific social media platform. Such a trend may reflect just one cohort of your customer base or be more widespread. Identifying and acting on that information can add real value for both the organization and its customers. So, in this example, we address that requirement with additional / alternative means of communication about an element of your business transactions. For example, it may be an email or SMS reminder, or LinkedIn posts / messages etc. In the ‘new COVID normal’ it may be facilitating online meetings for subjects such as product training or service delivery information. Those may be facilitated by Zoom, Teams or other platforms. Hopefully, the above illustrates the need to regularly review interested parties’ requirements and adapt to them.
To some degree, interested parties and their needs and expectations could also be referenced in a Mission Statement. Although it is not an ISO 9001 requirement, such a statement may also serve to define the purpose of the organization, provide motivation, and help create a clear focus on the customer. The following is just such an example. It’s the mission statement of that very well-known brand, Harley Davidson:
"We fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling, by providing to motorcyclists and to the general public an expanding line of motorcycles and branded products and services in selected market segments".
While not products and services may have the same glamour as a Harley Davidson, all quality systems can use their interested parties table to focus on providing greater customer satisfaction and value.
Interested Parties templates are available now in ISO 9001 Quality Toolkit.
Check out these other great Quality management articles on this web site:
Thanks to Harley Davidson, icon8-team, Unsplash, and Qudos Dev. Team for images