Compliance Software for Sustainable Entreprises

It is getting about time that I share some ongoing developments… I researched the possibilities on compliance software for sustainable enterprises and this is leading to the development of a prototype right now. With this weblog I want to summarize and share the steps I took so far. I am very exited about this and I hope to be able to explain and make you feel why.

Compliance Software

In many organisations compliance software is implemented to enable document control and distribution trough the intranet. I always found these programs hard to work with and not user friendly at all. Other organizations do not use software or an intranet structure and keep a printed manual.

To get certified as an organisation you need to tell what you are going to do, keep track of your efforts and proof that you did it that way. Documentation and forms can help with that. Generally, the Quality Manager, or Quality-, Health-, Safety-, and Environment- (QHSE) manager is assigned to organize this.

The most widely accepted standard is ISO 9001 for quality, followed by ISO 14001 for environmental management systems. In both standards the Deming Cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act) is very important. In September 2015 these standards were revised. The most important changes are the implementation of the High Level Structure (HLS) and risk based thinking.

High Level Structure

plugin model

At the end of July 2015 I presented a short explanation of the High Level Structure, you can watch the video on youtube with the presentation here. I think I will make another version later on to publish on a domain that to my big surprise was still available, three years after the International Standardization Organization (ISO) introduced the HLS.

To understand the changes in the (environmental) standard, I joined a meeting with INOTEC (Costa Rica National Institute for Technical Standards). People_Planet_ProfitMy report and interpretation you can read in this LinkedIn post.

My main conclusion, or expectation if you like, is that it will become more easy and less costly to implement a management system standard. Integration of Management Systems (MS) and all its benefits (I will not go into that for now) becomes available for small and medium enterprises. This is were I got motivated to do some more research.

Expert opinions

In the past weeks I’ve consulted many certification experts and QHSE-managers to learn what are the main challenges they face when implementing and working with MS. Some prefer to continue working with a static quality handbook, others recognize the benefits of working with a dynamic digital system.

The tendency to merge management systems into one Integrated Management System (IMS) is evident. Some larger organizations have developed their own document management system with in-house IT expertise, or with help from external consultancy. Also, commercial compliance software is available.

Scientific Research

mendeleyIn recent literature the rise of IMS is found as well. To be able to share these studies I created a public group on Mendely (document and reference manager) to share research on IMS. Please feel free to join and share your work or findings. It is great to learn from past experiences with the implementation of IMS, many of the problems from the past will be solved with the harmonization of the standards structure by the HLS.

Integrated Sustainable Management System

A management system that integrates standards representing the sustainability triangle (People, Planet, Profit) is an Integrated Sustainable Management System (ISMS). It could be the basis, or the core system, for any sustainable enterprise management system to help define all relevant aspects for the organizations processes. At this moment, there is no standard for ISMS, so the requirements for such a system should be derived from existing Management System Standards (MSS) and the demand from future users of the system.

Lean Software Development

Based on the contacts with QHSE-managers and backed by Scientific Research on IMS, I started to design an ISMS. The development will be according to the lean software development principles as promoted by The Foundation. An important aspect is involvement of experts in a focus group and work towards an early launch for a select group of test users, to ensure a high quality, user friendly product. Modern cloud technology now opens the possibilities to develop and continuously improve software on the go. Before, software had to be installed from a disk and became available with numbered versions. This much more rigid distribution resulted in bugs that stayed live for a long time until the next version came out.


Early marketing is important towards a successful product launch. That is why I already set-up an info site were you can subscribe to my email list. I choose “Backbone” as the brand name in stead of using the more descriptive but very long “High Level Structure” concept in the name.

The backbone is the bone structure in the human body protecting the nerves that carry all viable information to our brain. The spine is also the basis, or core, of our bone structure. This similarity with an organizations document and information structure is clear isn’t it?


Later on I will make available a list of features that will be implemented from the start, and a planning for future updates and possibilities. At all times I would like to hear suggestions on this, so shout it out or send me an email with your requirements. is a process based management system. The navigation is intuitive and engineered to meet the expectations of the specific end-user. Employees, process owners, QHSE-managers or CEO, they all have there own specific information needs.

awsThe information has to be accessible in a secure environment. That is why the lay-out and the system structure (the ‘backbone’) are separated from your documents. Documents are stored at Amazon Web Service (AWS) Simple Storage Service (S3). This is a certified Information Security Management System (ISO/IEC 27001:2013).

Backbone is available as Software as as Service. No large investments are needed, only a monthly fee for the usage will be determined. The latest version will always be available on all your devices, via browser access.

Prototype coming soon

Are you also exited about the possibilities of modern technology to make certification to multiple standards accessible? Send me an email or subscribe at to get an notification when the prototype is ready for review.

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