Friday, December 12, 2008

Why we are NOT into the Quality Certifications Business!

This is a common question that a lot of people ask me in professional and personal meetings.

We know that a lot of companies around the world spend a lot of money to get certified or assessed against standards or frameworks like ISO 9001, ISO 27001, ISO 2000, P-CMM, CMM-i, etc. etc. etc.

This is line of business that has very close relationships with some of the strong competencies, some our consultants have. For example I myself am a lead auditor of ISO 27001 and ISO 20000, have helped two companies get assessed at CMM-SW Level 5, one company get assessed at P-CMM Level 5, and very closely involved in getting a company certified at ISO 27001. Some of our consultants have more detailed experience in CMM-i, ISO 9001 and the list goes on.

In the earlier days these certifications were considered to provide cutting edge competitiveness to the market players. They were mandated by companies looking for vendors and vendors got them. Once a vendor got it in a certain market, the rest followed. There was a rush. Everyone wanted to be certified. A huge market opportunity around certifications sprung up.

Senior Management were given goals to get their companies certified in 6 months, in 1 year and so on. Most of them did their job, they got their companies certified. I still remember seeing a resume which said "I spearheaded the CMM-SW Level 5 assessment program for our company, and we got assessed at Level 5 (from Level 0) in a record 6 months". I thought, 'wow'!

In the earlier days, these certifications were appreciated and spoken proudly about during sales meetings. These days, no one wants to speak about them in sales meetings. They are a part of the sales presentation (most of the times), but mostly in corners.

A couple of months back, I met the Management Representative of a Large Indian Bank. She had called me for help. I met her and was sure trying to help her. She kept asking me 'Will this be enough to get the certification? I want to know what is just enough to get certified?". She asked me at the end, if we certify companies and if would be interested in their opportunity. I replied 'No, we are not in this business'.

I personally have learned a lot from these frameworks and standards. I was introduced to corporate systems 8 years back, through these frameworks and standards. They are excellent and continuously evolving. I would never have been here today, without learning and implementing them. I also believe that every company that has implemented them (to whatever level) has definitely benefited from them (to various extents).

But the reason they are sought after today, is not the primary reason for why they were developed in the first place. No wonder Software Engineer Institute (the keeper and developer of CMM frameworks) has tightened the assessment process. No wonder the International Organization for Standards (ISO) is tightening its standards. If not, it will not make sense for them to exist in the first place.

If a company is willing to invest towards a certification for helping their end customers and thus themselves, we are willing to help. If not, we are not interested.

We will never get into the business of certification ourselves. We will only help if the above prerequisite is met.

One of our corporate value says 'Delivering Sustained Strategic Value; Professionally and Ethically'. I want to highlight the word 'Ethically'!

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