ISO 9001:2015 – Newsletter – Issue 52



Issue 52 – Clause 7.4:  Communication


ISO 9001:2015…

Clause 7.4:  Communication


What’s the intent of Clause 7.4?… In our last Newsletter (ISO 9001:2015 Newsletter Issue 51) we discussed the topic of “awareness”, and now here in Clause 7.4 we address the area of “communication”.  The intent of this Clause is to make sure that the “left hand knows what the right hand is doing”.  At first glance you may think that meeting these requirements shouldn’t be difficult however “effective communication” is a real challenge for many companies, large and small, and it’s likely why they beefed up this section in this latest revision to the Standard.

Note A:  This Clause DOES NOT include requirements for “documented information”.
Note B:  In case you were curious, the content for these Newsletters comes from working in the field with my Clients, and with their ISO Certification Bodies. I gain a lot of hands-on experience from conducting training workshops, gap audits and internal audits, where the requirements of the Standard have to be interpreted and applied to each unique situation.  A popular training request is our on-site Internal Process Auditor Training for ISO 9001:2015 since you will need to do a complete round of internal audits to the new Standard prior to your external upgrade audit.  On that note, some organizations are opting to use an outside resource to assist with their internal audits in order to meet deadlines (…more details on this service, as well as the training sessions we offer, can be found below).


The new numbering format… 

Element 4 – Context of the organization
Element 5 – Leadership
Element 6 – Planning
Element 7 – Support
Element 8 – Operation
Element 9 – Performance evaluation
Element 10 – Improvement


Clause 7.4  Communication consists of zero (0) Sub-Clauses…

The requirements within this Clause cover both “internal” and “external” communications that are relevant (and that’s the key word) to your QMS.  For “external” communications think about your interested parties covered back in Clause 4.2, since you need to have a method or process to communicate with those interested parties you’ve identified.  With respect to external communication with Customers, I would simply insert a reference to sub-clause 8.2.1 since that is where you will handle Customer communications.  They’ve added more substance to these communication requirements then in the past, as outlined in Clause 7.4 parts [a] through [e].  With this in mind, I suggest you explicitly state who you consider to be “relevant” to your QMS since for each one you will then need to demonstrate the who – what – when – where and how, with respect to how you communicate with them.  This is another example of why I recommend you retain a Quality Manual in order to capture how you’ve interpreted and addressed various ISO 9001 requirements, such as this one.  I recommend that you make a statement on how you will generally handle “communication” and then follow that up by saying that the specific methods used (who-what-when-where-how) depends on the topic being communicated.  If the auditor request more details I would let the auditor pick a topic and then you can proceed to explain the ins-and-outs of how communication is handled in that specific instance.

I believe organizations will continue to use their existing communication processes to address all of the requirements within this Clause, and the challenge will be in how to deal with communications to those “external” parties they’ve identified as being relevant to their QMS.


Be sure to watch for our next Newsletter issue where we will cover another section of ISO 9001:2015…


PS: Don’t forget to look at the Q&A section below for some final thoughts…


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ISO 9001:2015 Internal Audit Outsourcing (we can do it for you OR with you!)

For cost effectiveness, the Internal Audit function can be outsourced to an external experienced auditor on a periodic basis. This will provide an independent and objective assessment to management, of where process issues may exist, along with identifying opportunities for improvement.  It will also provide the evidence needed to satisfy the Internal Audit requirements in the ISO Standards.  We have used two different approaches with this service: a) We conduct the entire audit ourselves, or b) We act as the lead auditor, and along with your Team of internal auditors, we complete the entire audit together.  This latter approach allows your people to receive guidance and direction from an experienced lead auditor while at the same time maintaining significant involvement in the internal audit process.


Documentation Development Training Workshop for ISO 9001:2015

This Documentation Development Training Workshop for ISO 9001:2015 Session is intended to be a very interactive, hands-on session (hence the name Workshop) where your QMS documentation will be created/revised, with guidance from an experienced facilitator.  This type of session can help launch your transition efforts by getting a lot accomplished within a compressed time-frame.  If your organization has already begun the re-write then this session can be used to validate what you’ve accomplished so far, or if you haven’t yet begun, it can be the catalyst to get things started (…which is usually the hardest part).  Deciding how to move from your current QMS structure into a new one can be a daunting task and this session can help you navigate through it.  A copy of a sample Quality Manual (re-iterating the “shall” requirements found within the ISO 9001:2015 Standard) will be provided to each participant.  As always, our focus will be on how to develop a simplified and streamlined quality management system, that helps to drive improvement in your business.


Internal Process Auditor Training for ISO 9001:2015

The two (2) day Internal Process Auditing for ISO 9001:2015 Training Session is focused on a process approach to auditing with the objective being not only to assess conformance of the quality management system, but also to uncover process improvements during an audit. This goes hand in hand with the process auditing requirements found within ISO 19011 and the process approach covered in ISO 9001:2015, which promotes continual process improvement throughout this Standard. An enhanced checklist is developed, and there will be workshops throughout, to reinforce learning, as well as a live, practice audit. If you are looking to meet the ISO 9001:2015 internal audit requirements and to “raise the bar” for your internal audit program then this is the course you should consider.


ISO 9001:2015 Essentials + Gap Audit

This combines the ISO 9001:2015 Essentials Session with a Gap Audit – This approach is used to assist organizations in launching their transition efforts for this new ISO Standard. This event accomplishes two things: a) it provides education on the new ISO 9001:2015 Standard for your key personnel (i.e. internal auditors; etc.), by highlighting the differences from the 2008 version; and b) assesses the gap from where you are today to where you need to be to achieve compliance to this new ISO Standard. Training certificates covering education on the new ISO 9001:2015 Standard, as well as issuing of a Gap Audit Report for distribution to your Top Management, are the two deliverables from this event. On a final note, a closing meeting can be arranged with key individuals so they can hear first hand the results of the Gap Audit that was performed.  PS: We’ve also done this session with just the QMS Management Rep attending, which allowed them to quickly get up to speed on this new Standard, as well as to see how much of an effort the transition will be… and of course they receive their own Training Certificate as part of this event.  This also allowed them to avoid traveling offsite to get the training they needed anyways, as evidence for their Certification Bodies.



Q:  How do you perform an audit for Clause 7.4 of ISO 9001:2015?

A:  For Clause 7.4, an Audit Checklist should cover these areas:

– How does the organization determine what internal communication is relevant to their QMS?
– How does the organization determine what external communication is relevant to their QMS?
– How is internal communication carried out? (Who-What-When-Where-How)
– How does the organization determine what internal communication is relevant to their QMS?
– Who (or what) is considered external to the organization?
– How is this external communication carried out? (Who-What-When-Where-How)

(Make sure to interview more than one person and obtain examples for the items listed above)


Until next time…

Tim Renaud

Helping Business Professionals Reduce Risk and Remove Waste!