Every year we receive a visit from the Swiss Association for Quality and Management Systems (SQS) to ensure that the standards laid out by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are being upheld within our company. Things get even more interesting and demanding when we have to be recertified, this occurs every three years. So far there haven’t been any hiccups and we can still proudly claim to be ISO 9001 certified. Internally we are aware of what it takes to uphold the certification and how it influences our daily work life, but because a large number of our clients and partners are either scientists or researchers, we often feel that the benefits they receive by working with a certified company aren’t perceived. In this blog post we want to change that: We will explain why there is a need for ISO 9001, what the benefits of being certified are for EU proposal preparation and project management and a look behind the scenes to give you a look at how we work.
Why ISO 9001?
The ISO 9001 certification ensures that our management system, service and documentation all have the requirements for standardisation and quality assurance. In 2008, we introduced a High Performance Business Model (HPBM), the second basic principle on which a management system is built, to define processes and work flow within accelopment. Having a standard ensures that our system is uniform and every employee at accelopment knows where to find the data they are looking for. For example, writing a proposal is never a one-person show. Input for a company profile or a new revision of a proposals impact part for a proposal generally come from different sources and thanks to our standardised file system, we know exactly where to put each file. As such, it’s possible for me to work on a file and then hand it to a co-worker without any lengthy explanation about directories or versioning. Through a Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) we are able to ensure that documents, files and ultimately processes are adapted to the needs of a changing funding and project environment and continuously improved. Saving time and working as efficiently as possible helps us keep our expenses down and our clients happy.
Benefits to proposals and projects
For this part, some background information might be needed: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is “an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations.” The ISO is independent, non-governmental and has a membership of 163 national standards bodies. They are based in Geneva, Switzerland and have are more than 21000 international standards and related documents published. The Swiss Association for Quality and Management Systems (SQS) are partner of IQNet, an international network that provides certification services and assessments, with a focus on management systems.
What that means in real life will be explained with the help of the H2020 funded XoSoft project. We were on board with XoSoft from the beginning and continued our cooperation past the proposal phase and now also manage the project. For every proposal and project we use our Quality Management System (QMS) to ensure that all the necessary steps are being taken and everyone is on the same page. During the process of writing the proposal for XoSoft our QMS includes simple tasks such as “update the proposal acronym” – it might sound like something that appears obvious, but because this task has to be carried out in multiple Word documents and in the Participant Portal, it’s easy to forget an adjustment when everyone is working at full capacity. Our QMS also includes links to all relevant directories and files, saving us clicks when looking for a certain document.
Work didn’t stop once the XoSoft proposal was successful; we simply opened the next tab in our QMS and immediately saw what steps need to be taken next. Because we are also a partner on the XoSoft, handling the project management and dissemination, the phase between being funded and the project actually starting, is critical for us. For example, there has to be a website – but before that can happen we need to choose a domain and find out if it’s available. Do we have the domain? Great, now set up a mailing list. Tasks like these build up on each other and need to follow a chronological order and that is what the QMS provides us with.
The QMS also provides us with clear responsibilities for each task. XoSoft has got a total of eight partners (accelopment included) and knowing who needs to receive which email is a great relieve for any uninvolved persons inbox.
Our standards also mean that our “inter-project” filesystem is consistent. I could open any project from my desktop and find the second progress if anyone has a question about it. Or if my co-worker needs to give someone details of an ESR working on an ITN during a phone call, I know where to find them, even if I’ve never been involved in the project.
Being ISO 9001 certified helps us internally as well as you as our partner. We are always striving for more efficiency, having clearly defined tasks and knowing who is responsible for what helps us save time wherever possible. The benefits for a company managing many projects simultaneously are better understanding between co-workers, clearly defined processes and a task list for all major actions (to name a few). Our IQNet and SQS certificate can be viewed online.