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20 January 2015

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Case Study: Nicoll Curtin Technology

Nicoll Curtin Technology is a City based IT Recruitment Consultancy. Working predominantly for the banking industry, the company places contract and permanent technology professionals in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. They also cover Commerce and Industry and the Public Sector.

Why ISO certification?

Nicoll Curtin Technology is currently enjoying a period of growth, and wanted to ensure that structurally, the company was well equipped to expand rapidly. Lawrence Hargreaves, Managing Director, recognised that certification to the internationally recognised ISO 9001 quality and ISO 14001 environmental management standards would help.

“We’re looking to grow quite substantially over the next few years and we wanted to ensure that our organisation could cope with that growth, by ensuring the right processes were in place.”

Lawrence also wanted to ensure that Nicoll Curtin Technology was able to consistently deliver the high quality service that its clients expect.

“Banks and large companies require huge amounts of compliance, so we’ve had to organise our business structurally to meet these stringent requirements. The ISO framework has helped us to develop a process driven approach to move our business forward. Our clients put great value on ISO certifications – in all of our tenders now there is a requirement for ISO certification and some quite specifically ask for ISO 9001.”Nicoll Curtin talks to BAB

With mounting pressure on both the private and public sector to show responsibility towards the environment, ISO 14001 offers a process based solution that focuses on establishing internal policies, procedures, objectives and targets. Here’s why Nicoll Curtin Technology chose to implement ISO 14001 alongside their ISO 9001 certification.

““As an SME it’s easy for your environmental responsibilities to slip down the priority list even if you want to improve. Implementing ISO 14001 provides a framework for us to measure our environmental impact and develop greener practices going forward,.”

“We were confident in BAB’s ability help us achieve ISO 9001 and 14001 first time around, in the shortest possible time. When we discussed the step-by-step detail of how to achieve the certifications, BAB’s methods seemed to be the most comprehensive – it came down to a confidence factor.”

Why BAB?

BAB has over 40 years experience in the assessment industry. Their reputation was established in 1969 as a specialist in certification scheme management. In 1997, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry approved the use of the word ‘British’ in the corporate title in recognition of their pre-eminent status. After an initial search, Lawrence short listed a number of certification bodies to present to the management team. Lawrence tells us why he favoured BAB over the competition.

“It really came down to a ‘gut feeling’; we were confident in BAB’s ability to take us through ISO 9001 and 14001 and to achieve these first time around, in the shortest possible time. When we discussed the step-by-step detail of how to achieve the certifications, BAB’s methods seemed to be the most comprehensive – it came down to a confidence factor.”

The certification process

Once an organisation decides to go ahead with their certification, they are assigned a Lead Assessor who remains the principal contact throughout the registration process and beyond. Prior to a formal Audit, the Lead Assessor visits to explain the standard and undertakes a conformity assessment of the organisation’s current arrangements. The organisation then receives a detailed report including all required actions and together with their Lead Assessor, determines an appropriate timetable for the Audit Assessment.

Lisa Collins, Group Operations Manager, responsible for managing the implementation process of both ISO 9001 and 14001, ensured that Nicoll Curtin Technology was compliant with the two standards, by setting aside around an hour each day. Here Lisa tells us of her experience.

“My role was to collate and write the Quality Manual. I started by reviewing current practices, breaking these down into separate processes for each area. It was hard going, but it worked and having the processes in place is a great advantage for us now.”

“The support from my Lead Assessor was invaluable. I spoke to Nick about any queries as I went along, and he clarified any areas I was unsure about. In our initial meeting he was able to demystify the Standards and apply them to our business, and he was available by phone or email throughout the process.”

“There is a great sense of achievement when you pass – especially on the first go. The excellent feedback from the Auditor on our forms and general high standards was fantastic – it made all the hard work worthwhile. When I got the email to say we had passed there were a lot of ‘high fives’ going on!”

Benefits of implementation

Successful organisations recognise that their quality and its assurance are most credible when validated by a respected third party. The benefits include a more motivated workforce, less costly re-work and increased client satisfaction. Being certified can also help you to gain external finance, qualify for tenders and set you apart from your competitors. In fact, 1 in 5 of BAB’s clients see an increase in  new orders as a direct result of achieving ISO certification; according to findings from the 2010 client satisfaction survey. Lawrence and Lisa tell us of the benefits they have seen so far, 4 months after successful implementation, Lawrence says:

“We have only been certified for a short while, so the real benefits are still to come. As we grow, it will be crucial for us to remain process-orientated so that the service to our client and candidate base remains consistent. This was the main reason why we sought certification. Although we’d had quality systems in place, there is always room for improvement. ISO 9001 has allowed us to really develop our existing processes and as a result we are much more organised and ready for our planned growth.”

“ISO certification has also helped us to secure our place on the public sector’s national procurement portal – Buying Solutions. We wouldn’t have been considered without it.”

Lisa comments on improvements:

“Achieving the certifications has definitely helped us improve supplier processes and increase efficiency across our business.”

And finally…

Lawrence gives some sage advice for those about to embark on the ISO journey.

“Just do it… regardless of the time you think it will take. Although it is a lot of hard work, it really will improve your business and ways of working. If your business is in a period of growth it will make that growth much easier to navigate because you have a solid, process driven foundation to build on.”


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The BAB was very understanding about the misgivings of a small company going for ISO 9001. They were reassuring about the processes involved and very encouraging about something which is a big deal for us and seemed, at times, quite daunting. Ripley & Friends Ltd

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