CSC Center Earns Key ISO 9001 Certification

CSC Center Earns Key ISO 9001 Certification

By Gail Repsher, Staff Writer

Computer Sciences Corp.'s training center in Hampton, Va., has attained an international distinction that may be unique to the online courseware factory.

CSC's Training Center of Excellence late last month was awarded International Standardization Organization certification, a measure often used by organizations to assess the quality of their suppliers.

"We are the first pure training organization that has ISO 900[1], at least in the United States, at least as far as we know," said Bill Stembler, operations director at the CSC training center.

The Geneva-based International Standardization Organization provides guidelines for consistent quality of products and services produced worldwide with its ISO standards 9000, 9001, 9002 and 9003, which were developed in 1987. For example, an ISO standard can help ensure the safety and reliability of machinery and medical devices or the quality of a training product, such as the interactive, Web-based courseware CSC produces for government and private industry clients, including the Defense Department and the Boeing Co.

ISO 9001, in which CSC's training center achieved certification, is used when compliance with specified requirements will be assured by the supplier during design, development, production, installation and servicing.

While hundreds of thousands of ISO 9000-series certificates have been issued worldwide, officials at CSC, an El Segundo, Calif.-based consulting and information technology services firm, said they believe the Training Center of Excellence is the only organization devoted solely to training that has achieved ISO 9001 certification.

Two hundred employees at the 11-year-old training center serve about 50 clients, including the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines, the Defense Information Assurance Agency, General Motors' Saturn Corp. and CSC's own business units. The center brings in $20 million of CSC's $9.4 billion in annual revenue.

Products developed at the training center include a computer-based training course for Defense Information Security Agency auditors examining the reliability of data, risk assessment and the threat of computer crime. The course ends with an animated scenario that challenges students to "follow the money" in tracking the activity of perpetrators using U.S.-appropriated funds.

Another course, developed for the Defense Department, uses interactive simulations of a computer operating system and utilities to teach system administrators how to prepare themselves and their networks for unauthorized network activity.

ISO certification helps suppliers demonstrate their ability to meet purchasers' requirements and gives purchasers greater confidence that products and services delivered will meet their needs. Some countries, most notably European Union members, have made ISO 9000 compliance mandatory for some regulated products, according to Chicago-based Underwriters Laboratories Inc., one of many firms that are authorized to determine ISO compliance in the United States.

"Accepted by more than 90 countries around the world as a quality assurance benchmark, CSC's ISO registration has demonstrated [the company's] commitment to continuous process improvement," said Gus Schaefer, a chief engineer at UL.

UL officials said ISO 9000 is increasingly becoming a factor in military and government contracts, with organizations such as NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration requiring suppliers to be ISO 9000 compliant.

Compliance with an ISO standard requires four levels of documentation of policies, procedures and results, and strict adherence to the methods used to achieve those results.

Training center officials began documenting their policies and procedures about five years ago in an effort to produce better products more cost effectively, CSC's Stembler said. Along the way, the company realized it had paved the way for ISO certification, but preparing the documentation for UL's audit took about two years, he added.

Auditors from UL's Research Triangle Park, N.C., operation authorized the ISO certification after the training center underwent a 19-month-long audit of policies and procedures at its 45,000-square-foot facility.

While "ISO doesn't assure the quality of a product, it does assure the processes that are used to produce the product are under a certain realm of quality," said Underwriters Laboratories' Roger May, lead auditor of the CSC training center.

Despite the time involved and what Stembler said was "a lot of money," CSC officials said they believe having ISO certification will help the company gain and retain clients.

"You've got to rely on follow-up business," Stembler said. "We are absolutely committed to producing high-quality training products for our customers. Every single one of [our] customers will tell you that we may not be perfect, but [we] are excellent."

The Air Force looks for ISO certification among its contractors, said Maj. Brian Chesher, software project manager for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Certification means "presumably a better product," Chesher said.

"It's just like going to your pathologist to get a biopsy read," he said. "You would want a board-certified pathologist. We would expect a better product from [CSC] than from somebody who is not certified. If we are seeking proposals from several companies, the ISO-certified company would have the upper hand."

CSC training center employees developed the software for the Investigative Information Management System at the Office of Special Investigations, which enables agents to capture and analyze more investigative data than ever before. The employees also created an online tutorial to teach the application.

"The interaction, the voice-overs, the navigation through it, it keeps your interest," Chesher said. "The agents are always going to be apprehensive about a new application, but [the training] has piqued their interest and helped them dive into this total new culture for collecting investigative data."

Morgan Slifer, a sales support associate at UL, said she has seen increased interest in ISO certification among companies that serve the federal government.

"ISO 9000 [series standards] is growing by leaps and bounds. Any company that services the government, they definitely see it as a marketing edge," Slifer said.

CSC may have an ISO head start on other companies that run training centers, Slifer said.

"I believe that CSC is the first of its kind," she said. "We have a lot of companies that have a training center on site, [but] CSC is the first company that we have seen getting [ISO] registered with the distance learning. We expect in the next couple of years to see some more companies like it."

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