ISO It’s time for an Upgrade

ISO standards and certifications are in the market since few decades now. They have made a significant impact on the industries and has created their own stand. They are now a synonym for an effective Quality-measuring tool. With due course of time, the ISO standards have been improved and are in accord with the current trends. High-LevelStructure of ISO has seen a complete revamp to accommodate the need for an Integrated Management System (IMS).

Need for IMS

An organization usually opts for more than one certification, due to need to remain in the competition and for better business opportunities. It was observed that the company was going through a pain while maintaining the documents related to the ISO standards. There was a lot of duplicity found in various scenarios and the purpose of ISO guidelines was being deviated from the expected.

Hence, the ISO came out with a solution for this problem – Integrated Management System (IMS). An IMS is a framework established after merging more than one standards to give the optimised effectiveness. In such a kind of system, the guidelines and the specifications of the standards are combined together in such a way, that all applicable clauses are included and implemented without any overlapping or repetition.

Integrated Management System

ISO 9001 (Quality Management System – QMS), which is the basic and common standard, is usually the centre of the IMS. ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System – EMS), OHSAS, ISO 20001, ISO 27001 are then integrated around the QMS.

ISO decided in early 2012 that all Management System standards (i.e. QMS, EMS, ISMS etc.) should use a common framework containing consistent high-level structure, common text and terminology. This will further reduce the paperwork. All the management standards are supposed to be reviewed and updated in every 5 years.

Since then, starting with ISO 27001, all the management standards are updated and revamped to incorporate the new changes related to the common high-level structure. This will be applicable for all the new standards and upcoming revisions of existing standards.

The Key objectives for the common framework

  • Standardization and effectiveness in standards development (for ISO Technical Committees)
  • Enhanced alignment and compatibility of standards which is especially beneficial for organizations implementing an Integrated Management System (IMS)

Common Framework

High Level Structure (HLS) is a proper standardized way for all future ISO Management System standards. This will ensure consistency among the upcoming and revised standards and allows in easy integration of management standards. All Management System standards will have a common core and should include the following elements:

  • HLS is containing 10 main clauses with sub-clauses (numbers & titles).
  • These common clauses will have identical core text, Common terms and core definitions, identical chapters, article numbers etc.
  • No Exclusions will be allowed in HLS (4-10) common clauses.
  • HLS will have common introductory texts for identical articles and identical wording for identical requirements.
  • Individual management systems standard will add additional “discipline-specific” requirements as required, however there are limiting “rules”.


ISO 55000 (Asset Management) was the first standard to have the HLS implemented. ISO 55001:2014 wad published in January 2014. ISO 27001:2013 (Information Security Management Systems) was then revamped as per the new HLS. The final draft for the same was published on 25th September 2013. The deadline for transitioning to the new standard was 25th September 2015. After successful implementation of the new HLS for ISO 27001:2013, the next in line are the standards ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. The final draft for the same was published in July 2015, and the official standard was available in September 2015. All the Organizations are allowed to transit their standard from ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015 by the end of September 2018.

Next in Queue

The next standard expected to hit the market with the HLS is, ISO 45001, widely based on ISO 18001 (Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems). ISO 45001:2016 is expected to be published in December 2017.

Following in the queue will be ISO/TS 16949, which is expected to be released in December 2016, and the transition period will be supposedly until September 14, 2018.

The changes in the ISO standards for the common High Level Structure, helps organizations in easy integration and less complexity and duplicity for companies that conform to multiple ISO standards. Hence, all upcoming ISO standards and the revisions of the ISO standards will be aligned to the new High-Level Structure.

Samual Sam
Samual Sam

Learning faster. Every day.

Updated on: 22-Jan-2020


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