Section 4.2 of ISO 9001:2015 states that an organization must understand the needs and expectations of interested parties.
This is right at the beginning of the standard and is a fundamental requirement.
What are “interested parties”?
Interested parties are those who have an effect on your organization’s ability to provide products and services that meet customers’ requirements.
Examples are customers, employees, governmental organizations, and shareholders. However, there may be many other interested parties, too.
So how do we go about identifying interested parties and their needs?
Identifying interested parties
There are two main categories of interested parties to identify.
Internal interested parties
Look internally and make sure to include your management team, staff, and any other internal shareholders. Each of these parties has its own needs, and is likely to interact with many other interested parties.
External interested parties
Examples of external interested parties to consider include:
- the customer – depending on the industry, there may be an intermediary, as well as the end user
- government, legal, or regulatory parties – these may have an impact on the laws and regulations affecting a business
- financial institutions, unions, and the local community
- suppliers – their performance will impact the organization’s ability to meet objectives.
Identifying decision makers
An important element of identifying the interested parties is determining who the decision makers are in each of them.
This is easy for a small business, where there may be a single decision maker. In a large corporation, however, there may be a number of decision makers, as well as influencers. This makes the decision process lengthy and complicated.
Understanding the decision-making process and the players is a starting point for determining each party’s expectations, objectives, and priorities.
Determining needs and expectations
Each party has different needs. A customer’s need for the right price and on-time delivery is very different from an employee’s need for job security and a living wage.
Conducting a needs assessment
Start by looking at what issues may arise that may be of concern, and then come up with potential solutions. Then assess risks and opportunities associated with each of these.
For example, suppliers should get detailed specifications for the materials they supply. If the specifications are late, the product will not be available and there will be unhappy customers. A solution could be to provide specifications early and have a signed supply contract.
You may also discover opportunities at this stage.
Communicating with parties is key to clarifying their needs and expectations. That way, issues can be identified early and processes can be changed to improve the parties’ experiences.
It’s important not to lose sight of your organization’s interested parties. Their needs and expectations are likely to change over time, so it’s important to review these regularly.
At isoTracker, we offer modular, cloud-based quality management software that can help you track and address the needs of interested parties, along with meeting other ISO90001 requirements. Sign up for a free 60-day trial of isoTracker’s software or contact us to discuss your needs.