How to Identify the Context of the Organization in ISO 9001:2015

9 April 2024

The ISO 9001:2015 standard contains the requirements for an organization's quality management system. Within this standard, Clause 4 focuses on the context of the organization. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of Clause 4 and explain how to identify the context of the organization.

Understanding the Context of the Organization

The context of the organization refers to the business environment in which a company operates. This includes both internal and external factors that can impact the organization's ability to achieve its objectives.

Internal factors refer to characteristics of the company itself and include the following:

Corporate culture, values and structure
The core values, culture, and organizational structure impact how operational processes are managed and quality is ensured.

Resources and capabilities
Understanding available resources, such as human resources, infrastructure, technology, and finances, is necessary for setting realistic quality objectives.

Leadership of the company
The commitment of top management, their leadership style, and governance practices directly affect the implementation and success of the quality management system.

External factors are issues that affect the company from the outside. They include the following:

Customers, suppliers and other stakeholders
Identifying and understanding the needs and expectations of customers is vital for meeting their current and future requirements. It's also important to consider suppliers and other stakeholders such as neighbors or action groups as they can have a significant impact on the company.

Market dynamics and competition
Analyzing market trends, the competitive landscape, and industry standards helps in positioning the organization and recognizing changes early on.

Legal and regulatory environment
Compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards is essential for the organization's sustainability and reputation. Monitoring relevant aspects allows the company to prepare for changes early.

Environment and climate change
As our environment and climate are undergoing increasingly visible changes, it's important to identify their impact on the organization.

By conducting a thorough analysis of the context of the organization and recognizing and comprehending these factors, organizations can gain a better understanding of their operations, identify risks and opportunities, and develop an effective quality management system. This process is critical in meeting the requirements of the standard and getting ISO 9001 certified.

How to Identify the Context of the Organization

1. Analyzing the Internal Environment

Start by conducting an internal analysis to determine your organization's strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats that are relevant to your company and its ISO 9001 quality management system. This can be accomplished by analyzing the processes, operations, human resources, assets, and other internal factors that can impact the system. Consider factors such as culture, leadership, and resources in this analysis.

2. Evaluating the External Environment

In addition to the internal environment, evaluate the external environment. This includes analyzing the political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental (e.g. climate change) factors that may affect the organization's performance. Also take into account the possible impact of stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, competitors, and regulatory bodies.

3. Understanding the Needs and Expectations of Stakeholders

Assess the needs and expectations of not only the customers but also a wide range of stakeholders, including employees, suppliers, regulatory bodies, and other interested parties. Identify parties that are impacted by the activities of your company and/or can affect the organization. These needs and expectations serve as inputs in tailoring your organization's quality management system and allow the company to be more adaptable to changes. Note that the issue of climate change may be one of the needs and expectations.


ISO 9001:2015 requires documenting the scope of the organization. Choose a suitable format for documentation, keeping in mind the need for periodic updates as a result of management reviews. Your documented context of the organization should aid in making decisions and during risk management. Retain the information and keep it current.

Additional Requirements of Clause 4

Defining the Scope of the Quality Management System

ISO 9001:2015 provides the flexibility for organizations to define the scope of their quality management system. While it is possible to exclude certain functions, products, or services, most organizations choose to include their entire scope to ensure every process and activity of the organization aligns with the quality management system.

Implementing the Process Approach

Adopting the process approach involves identifying, managing, and improving the key processes within your quality management system as part of a system rather than in isolation. This approach streamlines operations, enhances efficiency, and ensures consistent quality throughout processes.

Documentation Required by ISO 9001

A well-documented quality management system ensures effective operation and control of processes. ISO 9001:2015 specifies that certain procedures and work instructions must be documented. In addition, you need to control your documentation to ensure the correct revisions are accessible to relevant personnel.

Required Records

Establishing and retaining records is essential for your quality management system. ISO 9001 contains numerous requirements for the establishment and retention of records, providing tangible evidence of system operation and compliance with requirements during audits.


Identifying the context of the organization serves as the first step in designing an effective ISO 9001 quality management system. By recognizing strengths and weaknesses, understanding stakeholder needs, defining the scope, implementing the process approach, and maintaining proper documentation and records, organizations can establish a strong quality management system that drives continuous improvement and enhances customer satisfaction.

For information on the remaining six clauses in ISO 9001:2015 and their interconnections, please see our article on ISO 9001:2015 Requirements or consider our comprehensive ISO 9001:2015 Foundation Training online course.

Simon Keller

Simon Keller

Training Manager, Instructor and Lead Author

Simon is the lead author of our ISO 9001 courses, templates and instructions, and is a passionate contributor to our articles and learning resources.

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