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What Is A 'context Analysis' In ISO Management Systems?

To help understand your business’ internal issues, at the micro-level, you need to understand its strengths and weaknesses and be able to identify relevant opportunities and threats.

"Context of the organisation" is a clause of the main ISO management systems (for example, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, etc) and this requires organisations to consider both the internal and external issues that can impact on their strategic objectives and how they plan their management system.

This means you will need to determine and understand the various quality, safety and environmental conditions that could become inputs to internal and external issues, which are typically experienced in your type of organisation that can have positive or negative impacts.

There should be no need to have separate a contextual description for each environmental, health and safety or quality management system. A single, integrated, contextual statement that suits the requirements of each management system will suffice since there will be a degree of overlap between the context of an OHSMS, a QMS, an EMS or an ISMS.

In practice however, the needs and expectations and the types of interested party will likely have some degree of overlap too, as well as subtle but important differences which would require clear definition. You should consider the focus of your QMS as being different to the focus of your EMS, IMS or your OHSMS management system - your organisational context must reflect that.

Identifying internal issues

To help understand your business’ internal issues, at the micro-level, you need to understand its strengths and weaknesses and be able to identify relevant opportunities and threats. Undertake a SWOT analysis to review and evaluate current business strategies, the position and direction of your organisation, business propositions and other commercial leads.

The SWOT analysis should be developed in such a way that the weaknesses and threats become inputs to determining risk and opportunity. Internal issues might typically be influenced by the following:

  • Organisational activities;

  • Types of product and service;

  • Strategic direction;

  • Capabilities (people, knowledge, processes, systems);

  • Working practices;

  • Employment practices;

  • Location and conditions;

  • Worker knowledge;

  • Organisational structure;

  • Policy and objectives;

  • Values;

  • Strategy;

  • Competence;

  • Culture;

  • Knowledge;

  • Performance;

  • Quality, safety and environmental conditions capable of affecting or being affected by your organisation.

Sources of information relating to internal issues might include:

  • Organisational structure, including the identification of roles and responsibilities and governance arrangements;

  • External reports showing how well your business is performing;

  • Statements relating to your organisation’s mission, vision and core values;

  • Emphasis placed upon business ethics and organisational codes of conduct;

  • Feedback obtained from employees through opinion surveys;

  • Information management systems and processes for capturing and deploying knowledge and lessons learned;

  • Organisational capability studies, identification of load/capacity and resource requirements to achieve demand;

  • Register of identified internal risks and their treatment.

Below are typical examples, however each issue will be focused on the individual organisation:

Strengths are characteristics of our organisation that allow operation more efficiently and effectively than competitors. Consider:

  • What does our organisation do well?

  • What advantages does our business have over other internal sections or external organisations, including competitors?

  • What makes our organisation different from competitors?

Weaknesses are areas that are recognised as needing improvement. Consider:

  • What can be done better?

  • What causes problems or complaints (information from root-cause analysis)?

  • Which capabilities need modifying, strengthening or divesting for the future?

Opportunities are trends, circumstances or business opportunities that may be taken advantage of. Consider:

  • What are the changes in technology or markets?

  • What local and global events may be useful?

  • What are the changes in customer/societal values?

Threats can be external or internal and are anything that can adversely affect business or operations. External threats could be economic, new legislation or even a new competitor in the market. Internal threats could be a skill or staff shortage within your organisation. Consider:

  • What obstacles are there for ongoing operation?

  • Are there any potential competitors to the business?

  • Who might be the new competition?

  • Are there any potential changes to staffing, products, services or technology that could threaten your operation or business?

Examples of internal issues suitable for SWOT Analysis include:

  • Governance, organisational structure, roles and accountabilities;

  • Policies, objectives and the strategies in place to achieve them;

  • Resources (including human), knowledge and competence;

  • Culture within the organisation and the relationship with workers;

  • Process for the introduction of new products, materials, services, tools, software, premises and equipment;

  • Working conditions.

If you would like to look at how to implement an ISO management system, then simply contact us.

Or, if you want to see what's involved in more detail, then get a completely free, no obligation, totally tailored ISO Gap Analysis for your business (only available to UK businesses).

Article originated in The Ideas Distillery blog

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