Raising awareness of the benefits of certification and assurance services


Accredited certification benefits

Smaller enterprises’ experiences with ISO 9000

International Journal of Quality & Reliability MgtSmaller enterprises’ experiences with ISO 9000’ (Brown, A., Van der Wiele, T., Loughton, K., 1998), carried out research in Western Australia of ISO 9000 certified companies. Of the 160 respondents, 91% were SMEs, defined as small, <100 employees in a manufacturing company, <20 employees in a service company and medium <500 employees.

The research asked why ISO 9000 certification was sought. The findings showed a difference between those companies who certified due to ‘external’ or ‘internal forces’. External forces include: being considered for tenders; increasing market share; staying in business; gaining marketing benefits. Internal forces include: developing a base for quality improvement; improving customer service; improving efficiency; being a role model to suppliers; changing culture, etc. On a five point scale, external forces scored a mean value of 3.64, against 3.01 for internal forces suggesting external factors were a greater driver to certification.

The report states ‘ISO 9000 certification is considered to be a good basis from which to start the process of quality improvement’. But the strength of the external forces shows SMEs often feel pushed to certification. However, this doesn’t stop the benefits flowing as the research shows the most significant benefits are:

  1. More quality awareness (3.97)
  2. Improved awareness of problems (3.90)
  3. Improved customer service (3.59)
  4. Improved management control (3.58)
  5. Improved product and service quality (3.58)
  6. Great discipline and order (3.55)
  7. Consistency across organisation (3.49)

‘This (the results above) reinforces the view that certification is a good foundation upon which to start the quality improvement process’.

‘Even though most SMEs go for ISO 9000 series certification for external reasons (being forced to do so), still the major significant improvements reported are related to internal arrangements’.

The report concludes,‘If it (the approach to ISO 9000) is seen as a means of improving internal efficiencies and involves employees in documenting systems and so on, the outcome is more likely to be a workable system. If ISO 9000 series quality system certification is only a reaction to external pressure from customers of government bodies, it will be more difficult to perceive improvements coming from the quality system’.

‘Involvement of employees in the process of gaining certification enhances the outcomes and commitment’.

‘If the manager of the business sees certification as an opportunity to improve internal processes and systems from the outset, rather than a mechanism to get a certificate on the wall, it is likely to yield positive results’.

Paper available to purchase


  • Brown, A., van der Wiele, T., Loughton, K., (1998), ‘Smaller enterprises’ experiences with ISO 9000’, International Journal of Quality & Reliability, Vol 15, No. 3, pp 273-285.

Edith Cowan University, Perth (Brown, Loughton), Eramus University (van der Wiele)