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ISO Consultants: Risks and Rewards

How you perceive and partner with a consultant dramatically affects the ROI of the engagement. In 20 years of working with ISO standards, both consulting and auditing, I have seen many of these good and not-so-good results.


ISO Consultants can bring many wonderful advantages to companies seeking the next level:

  • Real-world experience saves you time and $$$

  • In-depth understanding of the discipline & tools you are seeking to implement

  • Ability to see the gaps and needs in your current practices

  • Best-practice ideas for application in companies your size or industry.

Some very good reasons to hire a consultant toward ISO certification: 

  • For those just starting the ISO certification journey, or seeking to implement a new standard, a consultant can solve the daunting ‘knowledge gap.’  

  • A small company may not feel they can devote a staff member to learn the requirements, and then developing and implementing a QMS or EMS. 

  • ISO can feel like legalese – someone with experience can translate the nuances into understandable English, and manageable tasks. 

  • If your QMS has stalled, and if you can’t figure out what’s not working right, an expert can help you get unstuck and move to the next level

Not-so-good reasons to hire a consultant:

  • Thinking you can delegate compliance to a consultant so you can pass the audit. This results in little staff understanding of good practice.  Thus, ROI is low. 

  • Wanting to ‘get certified’ by simply adding some paperwork to your system. 

The risks of this approach include:

  • Limited understanding and adherence to QMS requirements

  • Limited corrective action and improvements: When no one understands the improvement indicated by the consultant, things easily drift back to business as usual, resulting in limited ROI.

  • Limited management engagement: Management is responsible for the effectiveness of the QMS; to understand, resource, and drive a culture of improvement, efficiency, cost reductions, risk mitigation, and next level staff engagement. Without management commitment and engagement, even the best designed QMS will founder.

  • Low Shared Knowledge.  If only the consultant understands the system, and if they become unavailable, the QMS and your certification are at significant risk.

Best Practice Ideas – Top management keeps responsibility for the QMS and uses the consultant as a mentor and coach for your staff. 

  • Train department heads or influencers in the requirements of the standard you are pursuing.  Those persons are the drivers and supporters of culture.

  • Have staff shadow/partner with the consultant as they help YOU implement, monitor and improve your system. Employee understanding, engagement and process improvement flow from this.

  • Actively ask not just “what” but “why,” the reasons, benefits, and risks associated with actions, tools, and decisions the consultant recommends.  A culture of risk-based and continual-improvement thinking at all levels drives improvement of process controls and system effectiveness.

Remember, consultants, coaches, and mentors to help us get to the next level, but we are always responsible for our own results.

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