By Anjalika Singh
Management system implementation reminds me of the advice my gym instructor gave when I first enrolled at my local health club: “Losing weight doesn’t happen in one day and with crash diets,” he said. “You gotta work out, gotta sleep the right amount, have a little fun in life. Yes, food is the most important factor, but a combination of all those will give you a satisfactory result, and you’ll be a happier person. No shortcuts.”
Similarly, with integrated management systems, organizations want to address multiple areas of concern, such as quality, environmental protection, safety, security, and happier stakeholders. When well implemented, integrated management systems enable improvement across various facets of the system.
What is an integrated management system?
These days search engines like Google are the go-to source for all the answers, angles, interpretations, and everything else. As I thought about integrated management systems and their benefits, I too turned to the Google for insights. This is what I understood: “A management system is a set of policies, processes, and procedures used by an organization to ensure that it can fulfill the tasks required to achieve its objectives. These objectives cover many aspects of the organization’s operations, including financial success, safe operation, product quality, client relationships, legislative and regulatory conformance, and worker management.”
An integrated management system combines multiple management system standards to which an organization is registered. The management systems are developed, implemented, and maintained via one system with processes that cover each standard’s requirements.
An applicable example is how a country runs. Politics, religion, economics, and business all blend together with a spoonful of science and logic… though the last two are debatable. A successful balance is needed, and the country must be well-managed for it to be successful and have happy citizens.
There has been an increased demand for integrated management systems in recent years. Organizations are beginning to recognize how these systems enable improvement across various facets of the business. For organizations seeking continual improvement and efficiency as well as ensuring the security of their information, the question is: Why implement two different systems when one can meet both requirements?
Since 2013, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has been aligning its standards to a high-level structure of 10 clauses and identical subclauses. The high-level structure allows for easier integration of management systems into an existing system and ensures that the policies and objectives for each standard don’t conflict with those of another. ISO standards use the basic plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle to achieve continual improvement through vigorous use of the system.
Benefits of integrated management systems
Integrated management systems allow organizations to identify and address various and different kinds of risks to their systems: financial, strategic, competitive, security, safety, environmental, and others. All this while ensuring continual improvement of the organization. This approach enables organizations to meet the needs of their stakeholders and to adjust to changing needs through systematic, planned adjustments.
Back in the good ol’ days, we didn’t have to worry about computer hackers, although there were other means by which organizational security was threatened. An information security breach can be a large liability for many organizations these days. How do we ensure that our organizations are prepared for such potential breaches? By integrating a cybersecurity system within our operating systems.
Integrated management systems also are more cost effective in the long run. There are cost savings in implementation, training, and auditing. Why pay for two or three different system audits to meet the requirements of each standard, when an integrated audit can assess the common requirements of each standard at the same time? These include competence, control of documented information, and system measurement and analysis. For system users, the benefits include objectives that align with the integrated policy, reduced duplication of effort, and no conflict in management’s expectations with respect to each policy. This makes the system more efficient, effective, and progressive. It also makes the system more flexible and adaptive to the changing context of the industry and needs of relevant interested parties.
By using a common structure in lieu of discrete systems, an integrated management system can help organizations align their existing systems to the requirements of multiple international standards, including their scope, policies, objectives, programs, processes, protocols, and many other elements. This reduces duplication and redundancies. For example, in the maritime industry, ISO 9001:2015 can easily be merged with the ISM Code. It can merge with aerospace requirements along with requirements for occupational health and safety. To meet the growing demand of stakeholders for environmental sustainability, you can also add on the requirements of ISO 14001. Add security to it, and you have an effective, integrated system.
A lot of time and money can be saved by implementing integrated management systems. They also help to ensure accountability and consistency. Once your management system is integrated, you will notice reduced bureaucracy along with reduced duplication of efforts, redundancy, and expense. Integrated management systems will optimize resources and streamline processes as well as help with the following:
• Curb conflicting objectives
• Eliminate conflicting responsibilities and relationships
• Improve internal and external communication
• Harmonize practices for each standard
• Unify business focus to maintain objectives and goals
• Maintain a customer focus
Lastly, remember that there are no shortcuts. Templates come with many promises but don’t enable the long-term gains of a well-implemented system.
About the author
Anjalika Singh is the president and CEO of iCertifications, LLC (iCert). She oversees the human resources, administration, and finance departments at iCert and manages the quality management system.