In the business world, a certification for your management system can go a long way. A certificate can signify a business's credibility and ability to meet legal or contractual requirements. For many industries, certification is actually required for companies to conduct business based on a set of documented controls. But achieving a standard certification for your Management System should not be your company's end goal; certifications are short-term goals that do not include a company-wide business-focused management plan.

Companies small and large are keen to adopt these International Organization for Standardization (ISO) systems for two big reasons. For one, most businesses require these certifications to engage in a client contract; it's a requirement that is non-negotiable. The second is for marketing purposes; some companies adopt an ISO system as a way to promote their authority and credibility to others in the same industry. With thousands of businesses in the same industry offering similar services, a certification can differentiate one company as a standout option.

Certifications don't always translate into business results. ISO systems aren't perfect, and many of them tend to fail. "When an organization focuses largely on certification, one forgets that whilst achieving certification is an important milestone, it is done only based on meeting a minimum set of requirements," says Eoin Kelly, President of the Kelmac Group, Inc., an ISO business consulting firm. "Many other factors such as culture, ensuring the approach is company-wide and complete top management engagement might be missing which can be detrimental to achieving real business results." The majority of management systems are divorced from the everyday business within an enterprise and organization culture is usually ignored.

Here's how typical standard certification systems fail:

Cookie Cutter Solutions
Lack of Desire for Improvement
Stakeholder Expectations Aren't Met
Organization Behavior is Forgotten

In the process of becoming certified, many businesses neglect incorporating a full-service management process that goes beyond simple certification. Instead of looking to just receive an ISO certification, enterprises should look for a differentiation strategy that includes certification. A strong business-oriented approach in conjunction with an ISO certification that delivers tangible and effective end results are what will propel your business forward.