Client perceived value within ISO 9000 consultancy projects

Ray Murphy (42 Eastbourne Road, Tooting, London, UK)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Publication date: 1 March 1999


For many small and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs), quality systems, and ISO 9000 (BS EN, ISO 9000‐1, 1994) in particular, are a fact of life. Quality systems are seen as a necessary qualification for trading in certain markets. This can encourage businesses to think of quality only in terms of the cheapest way to obtain a certificate, thereby failing to appreciate the organisational benefits which could be obtained if more resources were applied to the development of effective quality systems. The use of quality consultants is widespread as a means of implementing ISO 9000. The selection and use of consultants can have a major influence on the commercial impact of quality systems developed through their work. Clients do not always appreciate differences between consultants, who all promise registration. As a consequence, a client often places its trust in the cheapest consultant, the first one to come along, or a friend. This paper, which is based on a survey of SMEs registered to ISO 9000, and will be presented at the Small Business and Enterprise Development Conference, 22nd and 23rd March, 1999, explores clients’ perceptions of value through the development of a model of client‐consultant relationships. It is argued that both clients and consultants need to have awareness of these perceptions at different project stages in order to realise the benefits of consultancy relationships. Clients’ perceptions of value are identified in both the experience of the consultancy relationships as well as the outputs. By viewing client‐consultant relationship development as a process, key activities within a project can be investigated, such as initial contracting and ultimate project outputs. The paper concludes that ISO 9000 can act as a bureaucratic constraint on improvement activities, but can also provide an opportunity to develop structures and processes that help to achieve improvements in a controlled manner. It is argued that the achievement of third‐party registration is largely irrelevant to the effectiveness of a quality system in bringing about improvements, although the prospect of registration is often a necessary driver towards instigating a system. It is shown that quality consultancy relationships are perceived by clients as having widely differing outcomes. These can be both favourable and unfavourable, whilst still meeting the objective of registration.



Murphy, R. (1999), "Client perceived value within ISO 9000 consultancy projects", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 37-54.

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Copyright © 1999, MCB UP Limited

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