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Why is Clause 4 Important to a Management System?

Clause 4 uses the word context. Context means different things in different areas of life – it all depends on the context.

In this article, Auditor Training Online's director and triple certified real-world auditor, Jackie Stapleton sits down and explains the importance of Clause 4 to any Management Systems.

No more guessing or confusion! 

We always describe this section of the standard as the business understanding what the influences are on their business – both positive and negative. By understanding this they then have the knowledge of what the issues and influences are in either preventing them from moving forward and growing or what it is that they can do to move forward and grow.

That’s why clause 4 includes the steps for the business to firstly understand the external and internal issues (Or as we like to call them influences) relevant to the direction of the business and what it is they want to achieve.

Then secondly this allows the business to understand who the people or groups of people are that have a vested interest in the business and what they might expect from the business. Understanding these two areas will identify risks and opportunities – this is why often a SWOT analysis is used to determine these requirements.

Once the business knows its risks and opportunities, they can put actions in place to mitigate risk or take advantage of opportunities – this step doesn’t really come up until Clause 6 Planning though!

Within Clause 4 it is also important for the business to establish its scope of the management system – so what activities, products, and services fall under the management system. This assists all parties involved to understand where the system (which could include policies, procedures and forms etc) is relevant.

As auditors and implementers of a management system it is vital to understand the scope, so you know what the activities and products are that the system covers.

Then finally there is an overarching clause referring to the management system and its processes. This is an overarching statement that says ‘hey, for your system to work well, be conforming, and promote improvement, you will need to do all of this stuff.

Essentially this is part of clause 4 as the management system does form part of the context of the system. The management system as a whole IS the system. It is important to always emphasize with this clause that if you are meeting all other clause requirements in the Standard (whatever standard this may be) then you are conforming with this clause.