The University of the Free State (UFS) has achieved international standardisation certification (ISO 9001:2015) for its Information Technology (IT) operations after certification audits were conducted last year following a nine-month programme to address capacity issues and drive greater efficiencies. This makes it the only South African university to achieve this nationally.
International Organization of Standardization (ISO) is an independent, non-governmental international body that develops business management standards to ensure the quality, safety and efficiency of products, services and systems across a multitude of industries. It’s designed to uphold checks and balances in an increasingly globalised marketplace where consistency and quality from one industry or country to another can slide.
WWISE, a leading ISO training and implementation specialist facilitated the audit and online training programme. The Centurion-headquartered firm employs 35 fulltime consultants who specialise in more than 40 industries locally and abroad, training and implementing ISO standards and programmes for a broad range of small, medium and large-scale business and organisations. Since 2017 the company’s ISO-e-learning numbered over 16 000 delegates which attended courses from 16 different countries.
Kate Smit, head: risk and quality management: ICT Services at UFS, says, “Certification to ISO standards demonstrates that your organisation works to international or national best practice, demonstrating your credibility and competence to stakeholders and customers. ICT Services achieved this certification the first time around with no audit findings.”
The reason why the university undertook this ISO certification was in part because Smit was not convinced that they were operating at full capacity and utilising their time effectively. “Time and resources are always in short supply at tertiary institutions,” she adds wryly. Processes needed to be optimised to increase operational effectiveness.
“This was one of the primary reasons we started on the journey of implementing a Quality Management System aligned to ISO 9001:2015. This certification is a motivation to continuously improve because it is a key ICT operational objective in our focus on retaining the certification.”
Prior to the accreditation of the relevant ISO certification, ICT Staff were trained on the documentation developed in their respective function areas, along with the implementation of risk assessments, policies, procedures, and standard operating procedures.
ICT Services conducted awareness sessions for all employees to understand the ISO 9001:2015 requirements and create a culture of commitment from management on the quality principles and objectives. “The importance of following processes and risk-based thinking is now entrenched in the culture of ICT Services,” she enthuses. “We now have a documented strategic plan, with our business and quality objectives closely monitored to ensure the effectiveness of our ISO management system.”
According to Smit, WWISE was instrumental in the successful implementation of the ISO standard by providing a dedicated group of consultants, with a hands-on and exceptional customer focus approach. “Their methodology is unique and easy to understand, and in conjunction with their intimate knowledge of the ISO 9001:2015 standard ensured that we could achieve implementation and certification in record time,” enthuses Smit.
Support and guidance was provided throughout the ISO 9001:2015 implementation period to meet the requirements of the standard. The scope of work included training, developing documentation, implementation and certification audit preparation.
“WWISE guided us meticulously through the development of an efficient system that is unique to ICT Services,” explains Smit. “The WWISE online platform provided excellent training for ICT staff in terms of internal quality auditing and quality awareness based on ISO 9001:2015, with staff undergoing the WWISE online training in their own time at their own pace.”
The implementation of a quality management system afforded ICT Services at the UFS the opportunity of looking at its business practices and setting a standard of excellence for its core services. The requirements represent an excellent foundation of planning, control and improvement. ISO 9001:2015 is a model for managing and improving an organisation with risk lying at the heart of the standard. It is a framework for long-term success and customer satisfaction.
“This certification confirms that we value quality, innovation, flexibility, agility and reliability, and it has improved our business operations by providing more consistency and transparency in the way we work,” Smit concludes.