There are a lot of ISO standards and they frequently get revised. Although much is made of the changes to standards, few people actually understand how ISO standards get created or revised. Who creates standards? Who revises them? What’s the process for creating or revising ISO standards? We’ve compiled this resource to answer common questions about the ISO standards revision and development processes.
What determines when ISO standards should be revised?
All ISO standards are reviewed (at least) every five years to establish whether a revision is required to keep them current and relevant for the marketplace.
What’s the process that ISO standards revisions go through?
All ISO standards go through a six-stage development process whether they are new or revisions to existing standards:
- Proposal stage. This first step is to confirm that a new or revised international standard in the subject area is really needed. A new work item proposal (NWIP) is submitted to the committee for a three-month vote. A simple majority of the participating (P-) members of the TC must approve the proposal and at least five must actively support it and nominate experts. A project leader is usually nominated at this time. If there are possible complications around copyright, patents, or conformity assessment they should be raised at this early stage. This stage can be skipped for revisions and amendments to ISO standards that are already published.
- Preparatory stage. A working group (WG) is usually set up by the parent committee to prepare the working draft (WD). The WG is made up of experts and a convenor (usually the project leader). During this stage, experts continue to look out for issues around copyright, patents, and conformity assessment. Successive WDs can be circulated until the experts are satisfied that they have developed the best solution they can. The draft is then forwarded to the WG’s parent committee to determine which stage to go to next (committee stage or enquiry stage).
- Committee stage. This stage is optional. (For guidance on when it can be skipped see Annex SS of the ISO/IEC Directives Part 1.) During this stage the draft from the working group is shared with the members of the parent committee. If the committee uses this stage, the committee draft (CD) is circulated to the members of the committee who then comment and vote. Successive CDs can be circulated until consensus is reached on the technical content. ISO defines consensus as, “General agreement, characterized by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests and by a process that involves seeking to take into account the views of all parties concerned and to reconcile any conflicting arguments.” Consensus need not imply unanimity.
- Enquiry stage. The Draft International Standard (DIS) is produced and is submitted to ISO Central Secretariat by the committee secretary. It is then circulated to all ISO members who get three months to vote and comment on it. The DIS is approved if two-thirds of the P-members of the TC/SC are in favor and not more than one-quarter of the total number of votes cast are negative. If the DIS is approved, the project goes straight to publication. However, the committee leadership can decide to include the FDIS stage, if needed.
- Approval stage. This stage will be automatically skipped if the DIS has been approved. However, if the draft has been significantly revised following comments at the DIS stage (even if the DIS has been approved) committees can decide to carry out this stage. (See the ISO/IEC Directives Part 1, 2.6.4 for more information.) If this stage is used, the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) is submitted to ISO/Central Secretariat (ISO/CS) by the committee secretary. The FDIS is then circulated to all ISO members for a two-month vote. The standard is approved if a two-thirds majority of the P-members of the TC/SC is in favor and not more than one-quarter of the total number of votes cast are negative. (See the ISO/IEC Directives Part 1, 2.7 for more information.)
- Publication stage. At this stage, the secretary submits the final document for publication. Only editorial corrections are made to the final text. It is published by the ISO Central Secretariat as an International Standard. Committee secretaries and project leaders get a two-week sign off period before the standard is published.
What’s a typical time frame for the entirety of the process for ISO standards revisions?
Typically, the process will take two to two-and-a-half years from the working draft (stage 1) through the publication of the revised international standard (stage 6).
Once new standards are released, what is the transition period to move from the old standards to the new?
Following publication of the new international standards, there is a three-year transition period during which old certificates will still be recognized. You may upgrade to the new standards (assuming you meet the requirements) at a recertification at any point during the transition period.
Who revises the standards?
The experts who make up the relevant TC or SC for the ISO standards revisions are volunteers who do all travel and other committee-related work on their own dime. They are not compensated by ISO or by their national standards body for any expenses.
Got questions about all of this? Post your questions about the ISO standards revision process in the comments section.