Friday, July 30, 2021

ISO 9001 Revision: To Be or Not to Be?

by Scott Paton

ISO 9001:2015 and its accompanying standard ISO 9000:2015 (fundamentals and vocabulary) are now more than five years old. As such, they are subject to a review process to determine if they need to be updated. This is a process all standards go through, and many are not updated at the five-year mark. Some are withdrawn, some receive minor updates, some are amended or revised, and some are replaced.

Given that ISO 9001 is the big daddy of all management system standards and an entire industry of accreditation, certification, training, and consulting bodies earn millions from its use, there is palpable anxiety about the standard’s status.

Here’s where things now stand. First how the process works: To ensure that they remain up-to-date and globally relevant, standards are reviewed at least every five years after publication through ISO’s systematic review process. Through this process, national standards bodies review the document and its use in their country (in consultation with their stakeholders) to decide whether it is still valid, should be updated, or withdrawn.

The systematic review results in one of three outcomes:

  • Confirmation (retention without technical change)
  • Revision or amendment (retention, with change/s)
  • Withdrawal

ISO TC 176 published the results of the systematic reviews of ISO 9000:2015 and ISO 9001:2015, which closed on December 2, 2020, on its website. Here are the results:

ISO 9000:2015

The systematic review of ISO 9000 resulted in 33 members voting in favor of confirming the standard and 28 voting in favor of revising it. So, no revision? Not so fast… The vote is just the first step in the process. ISO/TC 176/SC 1 will make a final decision in early May after review of the following:

  • Annex SL revision
  • ISO SR 9000 vote results
  • ISO SR 9000 ballot comments
  • Revisions to IS using ISO 9000 as a normative reference
  • Requests for modifications to ISO 9000:2015

This review process is a normal part of the systematic review process.

ISO 9001:2015

The systematic review of ISO 9001 resulted in 36 members voting in favor of confirming the standard and 32 voting in favor of revising it. Again, no revision? Again, not so fast…

An ISO 9001 User Survey closed on December 31, and ISO/TC176/SC2/TG5 is currently processing the results of the survey.

A meeting of the ISO/TC 176/SC2 Strategic Planning and Operations Task Group (SPOTG) will be held in March. SC2/TG5 will present the results of the survey to that meeting along with other inputs, including:

  • The TC 176 work on Future Quality Concepts
  • The TC 176 work on Brand Integrity
  • The work of the ISO 9001 Auditing Practices Group
  • The interpretations issued on ISO 9001
  • The revision of Annex SL
  • The WG24 Project Review report on the development of ISO 9001:2015

The SPOTG will review the systematic review results along with these inputs, before making a recommendation on what action to take on ISO 9001. The SPOTG’s recommendation will then be circulated among SC2’s members for a one-month ballot, closing on May 1.

If the SPOTG’s recommends a revision or amendment and is approved, SC2/TG 5 will create an initial draft of a Design Specification for the revision, while a new Working Group is constituted to undertake the revision/amendment work.

The Design Specification will then be transferred to the new Working Group for review and amendment prior to being circulated for a one-month ballot in SC2 (around June/July). Once the Design Specification has been approved, the new WG will then be able to start drafting the revision/amendment to the standard. The revision/amendment process could take up to 3 years.

In contrast, if the SPOTG’s recommends confirmation, and the recommendation is approved, then no further action will be planned for ISO 9001 in the immediate future.

So, even though a small majority of member bodies recommended confirming the ISO 9000 and ISO 9001 standards, which would mean that they would not be revised, they may yet be revised.

While not the only consideration, but certainly one for stakeholders, is Annex SL, the high-level structure that forms the foundation of all management system standards. Annex SL has recently been revised. If ISO 9001 is confirmed and not revised, it will be using an outdated version of Annex SL as its foundation. The only way to incorporate the latest version of Annex SL into ISO 9001 would be to revise the standard.

Will the standard be revised just to incorporate Annex SL or will it continue for another five years using an outdated version of the high-level structure?

This is going to be an interesting few months.

About the author

Scott Paton is president and CEO of Certus Professional Certification Inc. He has more than 35 years of experience in the standards and certification profession. He was editor and publisher of Quality Digest for more than 20 years; founded Paton Professional, a leading publisher of quality and standards-related books; he launched The Auditor newsletter, served as global certification manager for Exemplar Global; and has just launched InsideStandards.


  • “Guidance on the Systematic Review Process in ISO,” ISO, Geneva. 2019.
  • ISO TC 176 News webpage, 2020.


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