QHSE Management Systems Quality Management Integrated Management Systems

ISO Standards, Management Systems and the Context of the Organization

ISO Standards Management Systems

ISO 9001: Quality Management Systems, ISO 14001: Environmental Management Systems, and ISO 27001: Information Security, all require that the context of the organization be defined as part of the Annex SL high-level structure template for management system development. The Annex SL template was introduced with the goal of providing a uniform framework for each management system to follow.

The Annex SL consists of 10 sections to categorize all of the content in a management system standard. We have summarised these 10 sections below and you can read more about each section in detail here.

  1. Scope
  2. Normative references
  3. Terms and definitions
  4. Context of the organization
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance evaluation
  10. Improvements

Context of the Organization

Clause 4 of the Annex SL management system framework requires that the organization’s context be defined. In this article, we take a detailed look at what this means and how it can be defined for the purposes of management system planning and development.

The context of the organization is the environment that the organization operates in, determined by external and internal factors, and the requirements of relevant interested parties. 

Identifying Interested Parties and Influencing Factors

When defining the context of the organization, first the relevant interested parties should be identified along with their needs and expectations. Relevant interested parties include your customers, suppliers, governing regulatory bodies, and key stakeholders.

Once the interested parties and their requirements have been identified, the context of the organization can be defined.

As shown in the workflow above, internal and external contexts can influence the strategy of an organization. It is important to identify all internal and external factors and issues that determine the environment within which the organization operates so as to ascertain strategic direction.

Internal Context of the Organization

The internal environment within which an organization operates is made up of factors such as:

  • The product and service offering;
  • Organizational structure, roles, and responsibilities;
  • Regulatory requirements;
  • Objectives, policies, and strategies; and,
  • Resource capabilities and knowledge.

External Context of the Organization

The external environment within which an organization operates is made up of factors such as:

  • Social and cultural issues;
  • Legal and regulatory requirements;
  • Technology and economic trends;
  • Competitive environment;
  • Key market drivers; and,
  • Relationships with external stakeholders.

Business Analysis Methods

To assist in identifying and analyzing the internal and external issues that make up the context of the organization, the business analysis methods of SWOT and PESTEL can be utilized.

SWOT Analysis

To carry out a SWOT analysis of your internal context, you look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in relation to your organization. To carry out a PESTEL analysis of your external context you assess the political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal impacts on the organization.

SWOT Analysis for Defining Context of the Organization

PESTEL Analysis

To carry out a PESTEL analysis of your external context you assess the political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal impacts on the organization.

PESTEL_Analysis_for_External_Context_Analysis_Context_Managemen_System_Planning

A Working Example

You can download our free integrated management system manual template below to view an example of how the organization’s context is defined for the purposes of clause 4 in management system planning and development.

Management System Experts

QSM Group specializes in integrated management system development and implementation. We are also able to assist with ISO Compliance and Certification, QHSE Consulting and Auditing, and IMS software solutions, such as the industry-leading Mango Live.

Contact us to see how we can help your business with its QHSE, compliance and integrated management system needs.

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