ISO 27001 Certification Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Vector Representation of ISO 27001 certificate
A Step-by-Step Guide to ISO 27001 Certification

Applying and completing ISO 27001 certification is a major milestone for every firm, especially since organizations must follow a definite approach and methodology to navigate the process and reach this goal. Without proper guidance and process, the preparation for obtaining it can go haywire. Availing guidance from experts who have successfully conducted this process ensures you're not repeating the same mistakes. It is also a good idea to deepen an understanding of the certification as it will help the organization's leadership align with the ISO 27001 requirements.

Here is a step-by-step guide to walk you through the details of ISO 27001 certification. The process can be broken down into various phases, bringing simplicity to the task at hand. The end goal of the process is to be prepared for the external auditors, who will be the final authority in providing the certification.

Phase I: Planning

The first step toward completing the certification is planning, which involves allocating costs for the exercise. Appointing a team that will oversee the process is another important task that falls under the planning stage. However, having the leadership understand the cost-benefit analysis of the certification and give the go-ahead for it is the primary focus of this phase.

Phase II: Defining the ISMS

Every organization is required to identify the information security aspects that define the broad structure of its ISMS. Defining this will ensure that all the efforts being made are within the scope of the project and nothing wasteful is included in the ISMS agenda. ISMS is at the core of the ISO 27001 certification and needs to be built carefully. The organization must align its information management per the norms.

Phase III: Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is the third phase after having streamlined the information management system. There are various subsets of risks that the organization's data is subjected to. It is important to identify them and document the measures that exist to mitigate these risks. But, that's not all, as you will also be required to evaluate the damage the risks could pose to the company. There are various risk actions that the ISO 27001 compliance discusses, which include modifying, avoiding, sharing, or accepting the identified risks. This risk assessment phase will help pave the path for these actions.

Phase IV: Implement Policies and Controls to Manage Risk

All organizations face information risks, but as a part of ISO 27001 certification, it is important to configure how your organization responds to them. There are 114 controls provided in Annex A of ISO 27001. There are also various guidelines provided on how organizations should manage risks.

Thereby, it can be concluded that this is the stage at which an expert or a consultant can help align the process toward the certification. Expert assistance can guide this process forward, as they will know the point of view of the external auditors. A key aspect of this phase is preparing the statement of applicability (SOA) and Risk Treatment Plan since both are mandatory.

Phase V: Employee Training

Once the decision to apply for an ISO 27001 certification is confirmed, organizations must train various employees in the company to overlook the process. Those responsible for implementing the policies and controls will be included in this group, along with employees whose day-to-day conduct will be positively impacted by the implementation. They must receive adequate training in creating the documentation that will be required for auditing. This phase also indicates that these employees share the policies with others.

Phase VI: Documentation

Documentation is one of the most critical aspects of the ISO 27001 certification process. From the beginning, it will be important to initiate the process of documenting the people, process, technology, risk, risk management controls, and more. The documentation must be done keeping in mind that the first stage of the audit will involve the scrutiny of documents. Several documents are mandatorily required for the audit and will need to be updated regularly.

Phase VII: Internal & External Audit

Before the external auditors are brought in, part of the process is to run an internal audit so that any uncovered issues can be identified and resolved. Auditors accredited to ISO 27001 will conduct the audits based on which certification is to be achieved. Auditing will take place in two parts. In the first part, auditors will focus on documentation. The various documents the organization collects will be examined per the standard's guidelines, and the auditors will communicate any key deviation. Once the auditors are satisfied that these meet the requirement, the second-party audit will be carried out. This will involve assessing the implementation. After the auditors are satisfied, the company will receive the certification.

Phase VIII: Ongoing Audit Management

The certification received is valid for three years. Therefore, the company must make plans to get the renewal done after this time duration is complete. The organization must continue to perform audits over your three-year certification period. These audits confirm that your ISO 27001 compliance program is still in place and effective.

These are known as Surveillance audits. They ensure that firms are adhering to their ISMS and Annex A controls. Surveillance auditors will also ensure that any nonconformities or exceptions identified during the certification audit are remedied.


An ISO 27001 certification goes a long way in communicating to your customers that you keep up with the highest industry standards in your work. Reaching this milestone requires specialized knowledge of the compliances. One of the ways to make it easier to handle the process is by following a step-by-step guide. This will help in managing the process seamlessly. The bonus that a company gains in implementing this process is that it also gets to strengthen its data security along the way.

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