What is the Simple Differences Between an ISO Technical Specification and an ISO Standard?

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We all know about ISO standards, and this very blog has covered several certifications, but we haven’t uncovered ISO technical specifications.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has dedicated a lot of resources into setting up the standards needed so that companies can achieve certification. Standardized approaches such as using ISO 9001 for developing a quality management service (QMS) are ideal for businesses that need guidance in instituting this particular element of their company. However, standards, such as ISO 9001, aren’t the only documentation that the ISO produces. There is also the issue of ISO technical specifications, which this article will intend to shed some light on.

Defining an ISO Technical Specification (TS)

In a previous post, we covered what defines a standard, namely, a series of requirements for standardization and quality assurance. ISO technical specifications are distinct from this definition because they relate to areas that the ISO hasn’t fully developed complete standards on just yet. The ISO mentions that a TS addresses work that hasn’t completed the entire range of technical development.

In the future, the specification may form the basis of an International Standard. Unfortunately, unlike the rigorous feedback system that established ISO standards puts in place, technical specifications have no means of delivering feedback to know how well the system works.

Why Do ISO Technical Specifications Exist?

Even though they lack feedback mechanisms, technical specifications are still useful in providing a guideline for companies engaged in work within an industry that doesn’t have a current international standard. They are published to be used as-is, while the final instructions are going through the process of industry consensus.

Before the TS becomes publishable, however, two-thirds of the participating members of an IEC technical committee or subcommittee must first approve a technical specification. The final approval is similar to that of a complete standard with the exception that the final vote for approval takes place at the Draft Technical Specification stage as opposed to the Committee Draft phase.

The Difference Between Requirements and Guidance

At its heart, the difference between an ISO standard and a technical specification can boil down to the question of guidance or requirement. Standards have a list of requirements that the companies that intend to seek certification must conform to. Among these include well-designed feedback mechanisms and audits to ensure that the company maintains the standards they previously achieved.

On the other end of the spectrum is the technical specification. The TS doesn’t come with any rules that a business needs to follow. Instead, they offer a valuable guide to developing systems that may achieve certification if the specification evolves to become a full ISO standard.

The major difference, therefore, between the standard and the specification are twofold. The standard states requirements for certification and is fully fleshed out to offer critical feedback for improvement. The specification, on the other hand, lacks feedback mechanisms, and offer suggestions as opposed to hard requirements.

Are ISO Technical Specifications Useful to a Company Seeking ISO Certification?

If a company is seeking certification for an established ISO standard, they can rely on the published requirements to help streamline their processes. However, if a business is investigating an area that hasn’t yet had an ISO standard defined, then the only publication they can rely on would be the technical specification. Sometimes it may take a while for a technical specification to become a standard because consensus hasn’t yet been reached or because standardization may be viewed as immature.

Even so, the technical specifications can rival compete ISO standards in terms of completeness. They can provide a useful roadmap to companies that don’t yet have a finalized list of requirements to work with to gain certification. Are you interested in following the guidelines set up for your industry by the ISO, but don’t know how to implement the suggestions of a technical specification? Give us a call today to learn more about how these technical specifications can improve your competitiveness and how Sync Resource can help you meet the high bar for international standards.

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