Documented Management System – Is this the end of the ISO Manual?

What does the Standard require?

Companies that have – or are looking to implement – ISO certifications involving the development and usage of a Management System must, as part of the Standard, produce and maintain a series of documents describing and supporting the operation of their processes. What they may not know is what format these documents should take. The International Organization for Standardization does provide a guide to documentation for ISO 9001:2015 which sets out what needs to be documented for this Standard, but the specific format that this should take is never mentioned.

Although the processes that need to be documented may change depending on the type of industry you are in, the general aim is to allow for a consistent level of performance to be maintained. For example, if you describe how a process is to be carried out, it should always follow this format. Documentation also allows for knowledge sharing and provides evidence that your Organisation is conforming to the Standard by showing what was planned and what was done.

Documents that describe your Organisation’s processes are referred to as a documented Management System. This is not a specific type of documentation process or structure and as such the documents themselves may be held in separate locations and even kept on separate media. Such systems may be indexed and formatted similarly for convenience and ease of use but this is not always the case and certainly isn’t a requirement for certification.

The benefits of the Manual

Even today, the most thorough method of documenting your Management System is still a Manual. A Manual covers all the features required of a documented Management System but it is written as a single document. A Manual has consistent formatting and because it is a single document it is stored in one place.

Manuals also follow a set structure which makes it much easier to be updated, especially if the structure of the Standard is used. In addition, if the Standard being implemented uses the same Annex SL structure as the ISO 9001:2015 (which some of the most popular Standards do) then you are easily able to develop an integrated Manual that covers – and prepares your Organisation for the introduction of – additional Standards.

At QMS we can provide a fully compliant Manual for your Organisation that follows the structure of the ISO Standard that you are seeking certification for.

The benefits of a QMS Manual vs a more general Documented Management System are shown in the table below:

Benefit QMS Manual Documented Management System
Enables your Organisation to operate in a structured way
Ensures responsibilities are clear to everyone
Maximises efficient use of time and resources
Ensures nothing important is overlooked
Keeps all documents in one place
Has a consistent format
Follows the structure of the Standard
Easy to update for a change in the Standard
Easy to manage version control
Easy to distribute throughout the Organisation

If you are interested in the QMS approach to documentation, contact a member of our team at and we’ll be happy to talk you through your options.