The Role of ISO 9001 Certification in developing competitive advantage for Kenyan Organizations
Kimani, John G P
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In recent years, the concept of competitive advantage has taken center stage in discussions of business strategy. To be competitive on both a national and a global basis, organizations must adopt a forward-thinking approach in developing their management strategies. Many organizations are implementing ISO 9001 based quality management systems in search of competitive advantages. However, various scholars have argued that many of the current quality management systems are reactive in that they have been developed in response to government or local regulations. Others argue that the proliferation of ISO 9001 certified firms is driven by copycat firms out to match competition. Given the above consideration, the question begging for answers is whether this certification is a competitive way to work. And while in this reactive mode, are companies really listening to their customers? Are they able to seek out innovative means of getting the job done? This research project reviewed the role ISO 9001 certification plays in securing competitive advantage to a firm over its rivals. It sought to find out what, if any, competitive advantages arise out of this certification as well as the challenges of maintaining these very competitive advantages. A total of 55 Kenyan firms that had achieved ISO 9001 certification by the end of July 2007 formed the population of study – see appendix D. The data collection instrument used was a questionnaire structured around the research objectives. The data collected was analyzed using descriptive statistics, factor analysis and correlation analysis. Results showed that an overwhelming majority of the respondent organizations regard ISO 9001 certification as a definite source of competitive advantage. The most important benefit identified was greater quality awareness which leads to improved product and improved customer perception. Conversely, the greatest challenge identified was that certified organizations had on a moderate scale experienced high surveillance audit costs and the fact that ISO 9001 will not work without management support. A majority of respondent firms cited the fact of unfair competition from unregistered firms and high surveillance costs as significant challenges but this study did not however clearly establish the exact details concerning these two challenges. It would be interesting to find out what this unfair competition really is and the extent of surveillance costs in question. In this regard, the researcher recommends that a further research can be undertaken to establish details of these challenges as well as what tactics the certified firms are using to counter them.