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By Carol A.

Adey, FSMPS,

xc !
and Graham K. Hill, P.E.

k N
oo O


Quality/ISO 9000 as
a Marketing Tool

What Is ISO? D oes your proposal address the real concerns of the client?
Can the client trust that your firm will protect and
enhance their assets? How does your firm validate its ability
ISO comes from a Greek word that means equal—as

in Isosceles triangle, isobars, etc. The word ISO, when to deliver superb customer care every time as well as the
linked to ISO 9000, is used to signify equal accep- technical expertise needed for a project? How is your firm’s
tance of standards around the world—the creation of excellence described and how are the distinctive features
a level playing field about reliability and improvement
promoted? Can your firm validate its ability to meet cost,
in service.
time, and quality?
New clients are concerned about how an untried relationship
The ISO 9000 Family will work. Existing clients will need assurance that care and

The ISO 9000 series is composed of 1) guidelines attention will continue over the life of a relationship—not just

to help guide selection and implementation and project by project. But today, superb technical qualifications

2) standards used to assess a company. The series and a strong technical track record will not separate your

contains the following documents. proposal from other equally well-qualified competitors.

Something more is needed!

1—Guideline on Selection
ISO 9000: This is used to help a firm chose which That “something” may be Quality/ISO 9000. A professional

standard applies to its business. As this is only a services firm can use Quality/ISO 9000 as a way to:

guidance document, a firm cannot be registered ISO

1. stand above the competition
9000. A company is registered either ISO 9001, ISO
2. construct distinctive proposals based upon excellence
9002, or ISO 9003.
3. remove hidden, emotional, or perceived client concerns
2—Applicable Standards
about a firm’s ability to deliver exceptional service
ISO 9001: The standard for a business that has a
4. raise customer confidence based on clearly validated quality
design, production, inspection, and service
capability. This is the definitive standard for design/

consulting firms. It contains 20 elements (criteria) 5. create operational methods that meet budget and schedule

that outline required good practice for the manage- and deliver exceptional customer service, time after time

ment of quality. A/E/C design and consulting firms

6. build lasting relationships with clients
would use this standard.
7. create operational methods that have the potential to raise
3—Guideline on Implementation productivity and lower operational costs.
ISO 9004: This guideline expands on the descriptions

of standard best practices. It covers different types of

businesses within its eight sections. The Changing Marketplace in

Note: Common practice has created a language where Quality and ISO 9000
firms often say they are pursuing “ISO 9000” or are Industrial clients have a strong history of quality. They have

“ISO 9000 Registered.” In truth, they will obtain a learned to run their businesses more effectively and what to

certificate for just the specific standard used to assess expect from other businesses that work with them. Their vision

their quality management. n of mutual and peer-based relationships has made them highly

selective about with whom they chose to work.

8 SMPS Marketer
Industry has set higher demands about what constitutes good Why Quality Is Important in
service based upon their own experience and ability to change
Our Marketplace
the norms of performance. They want to work and grow only
A prestigious institution engaged a respected architectural
with those who share the same values for constantly learning
practice (with an equally impressive history) to design and
and being the best. For many years, industrial companies have
oversee the construction of a major public building. The
been the leaders in ISO 9000 application. They do not want to
building won awards for its design. All the important dignitar-
partner with those closed to the notion of change or improve-
ies attended the opening award ceremony. The building met the
ment. They do not want to partner with those who say ISO
basic functional specifications of the design criteria. However,
9000 or quality is only a manufacturing issue.
client input regarding design aspects was consistently ignored or

When it comes to managing tax dollars, state governments overruled by the architects and the project was late and over

have also seen the benefit of demanding ISO 9000-style budget. The building worked—the quality of the relationship

performance from supplier firms. Departments of Transporta- did not.

tion in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York,

Outcome: The client has vowed never to use the architect again
California, and Massachusetts are among those either demand-
for any of its projects and retells this story, with delight, often
ing or giving notice of ISO 9000 requirements from their
and vigorously.
consultants. Federal government departments, such as GSA

Property Management Division, use ISO 9000 and expect

similar performance from their design consultants.

How Is Quality in a Design Firm
Global activity now makes ISO 9000 a minimum requirement Identified?
for RFPs in Europe, Australia, and the Southeast Asian A quality design firm consciously ensures that all aspects of a
communities. Canada, Mexico, and other Latin American client’s project flow faultlessly through each phase of work and
countries are also leaders in ISO 9000 application for design at a consistent level within each unit and among all personnel.
consultants. Quality is about taking as much pride and care over the

management of a project and the client’s relationship as in the

Commercial clients are becoming savvy about quality and the
technical excellence of the design. Quality is about meeting
specific benefits of ISO 9000 but lag behind the industrial
both the firm’s goals for excellence and profit as well as the
marketplace. Few individual commercial clients have embraced
client’s expectations for care and delivery of a desired solution.
ISO 9000 as a model. Health, education, and local government

groups have not, as of yet, adopted ISO 9000 as an operational A quality firm knows how well:
need—primarily from a lack of resources rather than a lack of

knowledge or desire.
n client needs have been understood and written down

n project criteria have been defined and communicated

Because of the risk of being accused of trade restriction, no

U.S.-based client will actually mandate ISO 9000 as a require-

n work plans have been prepared

ment for continued business. Most “requests” from clients are n team integration occurs at firm and client levels

expressed as a preference for the supplier to have a “quality n scope or design changes are managed
program” or to be ISO registered. This lack of a clear mandate

can be misunderstood as lack of client interest. However stated,

n a project is proceeding against plan

the implication is still there—listen to your client’s needs.

n design reviews find and eliminate errors and omissions

As a strategic goal, a firm can decide to anticipate client

n final design meets client goals

requests for equality in perspective with regard to quality and n project follow-up and closeout are practiced

be among the group of leaders—or the firm can decide to resist n personnel use the best methods for delivering superb service.
until actual loss of clientele and competitor gains become all

too clear.

The implementation of ISO 9000 may gain a firm some new The Fit for Design Firms
clients or market activity. However, the lack of ISO 9000 or a Many A/E/C firms have stringently followed the layout and

strong quality program will eventually lead to a loss of clients structure of ISO 9001 in designing their quality manual. (This

and contracts. In this context, ISO 9000 is similar to the is not required or recommended.) It is better that the ISO 9001

implementation of computer-aided design or electronic data elements be arranged to reflect the normal way of doing

interchange technologies during the late ’80s–early ’90s. business for the firm. Existing elements within the standards

covering benchmarking, strategic planning, continuous

It is important to note that liability insurance organizations
improvement, and customer satisfaction are currently being
provide discounts to professional design consulting firms
revised and strengthened.
registered to ISO 9000. Some membership organizations

provide funds directly to firms to aid ISO 9000 registration. n continued on page 10
February 2000 9
n Management, Basic Work Processes
continued from page 9
Diagram 1 below shows a typical model for a design practice

The 20 Elements of ISO 9001 and the flow of key events involved in performing project

ISO 9001 standards comprise 20 elements: activities for an owner or client. The events include the contract

stage (proposal and contract setting), the actual project control

1. management responsibility
(design) activity followed by the delivery of contract docu-
2. quality system
ments (drawings), leading to construction administration.

3. contract review

4. design control

5. document and data control Diagram 1

6. purchasing

7. customer-supplied product

8. product ID and traceability

9. process control

10. inspection and testing

11. control of inspection, measuring, and test equipment

12. inspection and test status

13. control of nonconforming product

14. corrective and preventive action

15. handling, storage, packaging, preservation, and delivery

16. control of quality records

17. internal quality audits

18. training

19. servicing

20. statistical techniques.

The different elements (or requirements) of ISO 9001 and their

fit with a design practice can best be shown through the

following diagrams.

Why ISO 9000?

Clients are better assured of getting what they expect when Operations are routinely benchmarked and tested to see that

a firm vigorously practices ISO 9000. In an ISO 9000- best practices and expectations are clearly defined for all

compliant organization, management leads by providing: personnel—across the complete customer relationship cycle.

n clearly expressed objectives, goals, and approach to

A complete customer relationship cycle would include

initial contact, proposal development, contract definition,

quality within the business
project/scope definitions, project control, review and release
n clear responsibilities of project deliverables, delivery, project closeout, support,

n company plans that are clearly understood at all levels performance evaluation, and customer satisfaction.

within the firm

Support structures for administrative processes are equally

n plans that are effectively implemented, well-tracked, well-designed. These cover:

reported, and reviewed

n document and data management and purchasing

n plans that are aligned with client needs (especially of subconsultant services)

n a commonly structured process for fixing problems and n archiving/records

making improvements
n training/professional development of employees. n
n a reliance on factual, objective performance data and


10 SMPS Marketer
Stage 1: Basic Business Diagram 2
Diagram 2 shows the key A/E/C events

with descriptors shown in bold. The ISO

9001-associated elements are shown in


ISO 9001 requires that each of the

processes listed in the diagrams be

defined in documents available to all

personnel. Documents can be in the

form of traditional text-based proce-

dures, flow charts, drawings, forms,

videotapes, etc., or any combination of

the above. Any media can be used to

capture and document the designated

process. Documents in the company

manual may be arranged to follow the

sequence set by ISO 9001 or to follow

the sequence set by the normal flow of


Stage 2: Administrative
Procedures and
Subcontracting Added
ISO 9001 requires clear descriptions of

the firm’s policies and procedures for

guiding personnel in the performance of

their work, providing training to

employees, and archiving project records

(see Diagram 3). Additionally, the firm

needs to describe how it supervises the

work of subcontractors it hires directly

(e.g., consultants, suppliers, reprograph-

ics, temporary labor) and how purchases

of materials or goods are handled. The Diagram 3

firm also needs to show how it protects

owner-supplied information (data, prior

drawings, etc.) in its care.

Stage 3: Adding the

Management Components
The firm should have a clear organiza-

tional structure, stated company policies

with objectives, and someone responsible

for quality (see Diagram 4 on the next

page). The management team should

perform routine reviews of the business

to test its effectiveness. Additionally,

management should have established

indicators and measures for the key parts

of their business and for customer

satisfaction. To collect data for these

reviews, there should be planned internal

audits of effectiveness.

n continued on page 12

February 2000 11
Diagram 4

n Management,
continued from page 11
n Cost/Profit Profile: Systematic The benefits to marketing are:

methods implemented through ISO

n improved customer relations
Finally, it is required that firms have a

formal process in place to identify and

9001 can be used to create larger

margins in the cost/profit profile.

n clear agreements about expectations

(fewer changes)
take action on problems and opportuni- Consistency and speed are among the

ties for improvement. The process keys—plus a “right-the-first-time” n increased reliability (in budget,

should be accessible to employees and mentality (accuracy). This is project on time)

include subcontractor performance and management par excellence. n recognition (firm benchmarked)
customer complaints.
n Scope Definition: Scope drift is an n improved qualifications to bid
enemy to the design consulting firm.

ISO 9001 processes can clarify,

n broader market coverage.

Benefits of Quality/ISO define, and control client demands. The benefits to operations include:

9001 Implementation Nurturing the client includes

n commonly understood best practices
The benefits of ISO 9001 are: proactively managing scope defini-
n a focus on project management
n Efficiency: ISO 9001 can manage the
tion. ISO 9001 can reduce scope

“drift” through strong, clear,

allocation of time and skills in a

planned, structured manner.

proactive management of the client n a reduction in project design rework

n Effectiveness: ISO 9001 can deliver

at the start of the project and during n enlarged resource capacity
each of the project design phases. (throughput)
significant improvements in the use

of time and how work is managed

This is customer service par

n data-based management

(productivity) and bring about

n Consistency: ISO 9001 methods
n less variability in techniques
positive changes in work habits.
n reduced project overruns
ensure that all employees work from
Creativity: ISO 9001 helps reduce (time and cost).
a common model of efficiency and
wasteful time. Improvements in the
effectiveness in project management.
To summarize, ISO 9001 is not about:
management of time mean less time

on production and more time for

New employees are brought on

board more quickly.

n controlling innovation or creativity

creativity. n abandoning individuality

12 SMPS Marketer
n regimentation or repetitiveness

n paperwork, paperwork, paperwork

How Can Quality Be Addressed in a Proposal?
n quality engineering By including the firm’s quality policy. A quality policy states where the firm is

n changing the business to suit ISO

now, not where it intends (or hopes) to be. The integrity of any policy statement

is entirely dependent on the ability of the firm to validate its claims through
proven examples supported by solid historical data.

ISO 9001 is about:

Here is an example of a quality policy:
developing best practices in the
Customer focus is the basis of our actions. This is demonstrated in the way we:

n leadership and energy

1. satisfy customer expectations through designs and professional services

that conform to client specifications
simplicity and guidance

2. continually review our performance through objective data regarding both
quality management by everyone
our processes and result measures. These also help drive our opportunities

n staying with what you do best for improvement.

n improving the business We achieve our customer focus through a quality management system that

n shaping ISO 9001 to suit your utilizes standardized management practices with the following features:

business. 1. routine business planning, clearly set strategies, and goals and objectives

communicated and assigned for action within the firm

2. employees know what is expected of them regarding quality, are trained in

Additional Resources standardized tools and methodologies, and know how they relate to each
For more information on ISO 9000,
other in taking responsibility for their own work
contact the following sources.
3. clear expectations, quality information, and job standards are communi-
ISO Central Secretariat cated, via controlled means, to those involved in our project teams, both
Switzerland for client work and our own improvement teams
Phone: 41-22-749-01-11
4. consistent processes and capable employees are in place so that work is
Fax: 41-22-733-34-30
performed in a quality manner

American National Standards 5. errors revealed in our work, or indicated by records, are investigated for
Institute root cause to prevent recurrence.
New York, NY
Management considers these principles to be of such importance to our
Phone: 212-642-4900
business that a member of our executive management team has been
Fax: 212-398-0023
appointed as quality manager. The assignment includes a responsibility to
ensure that all employees are aware of and understand these principles and
American Society for Quality that the quality management system continues to work effectively. n
Milwaukee, WI

Phone: 800-248-1946

Fax: 414-272-1734

About the Authors

International Organization of
Carol A. Adey, FSMPS, is president of Adey Associates,
a Medford, MA-based consulting firm supporting the
organizational and business development activities of A/E/
All the ISO standards and information
C firms. Past SMPS National Secretary-Treasurer, she was
from the international body are available
project manager for ISO implementation at the first design
on this site.
firm in New England to be certified. Carol can be reached

at 781-391-6636 or via e-mail at

CFITS Standards Document Library Graham K. Hill, P.E., an international consultant with
by_org.html more than 30 years’ experience, is president and CEO of

Standards organized by the different Tomlin Inc. of Falmouth, MA, a consulting firm supporting

publishing bodies. Updated regularly by A/E/C firms in best practices implementation of project

SDL-Webmaster for American National management, quality systems, and professional develop-

Standards Institute. n ment. He can be reached at 508-495-0033 or via e-mail


February 2000 13