An integrated management system (IMS) is characterized by the combination of two or more management systems into one holistic system. The intention is to avoid multiple efforts - for example in internal and external audits. The synergies created by the IMS also sharpen the focus on opportunities and risks within the company.

Integrated Management System - What is it?

In principle, every company has a management system because every company manages itself. The question is whether it is an integrated management system that takes into account requirements from different areas, or whether it is really a system that is based on a standard (for example ISO 9001), or whether it is just traditional strands of action that are used by the company to organize itself.


  • Integrated management system: Creating synergies from diversity
  • What are the requirements?
  • When complexity increases
  • What is the goal of an integrated management system?
  • What is the basis of an integrated management system?
  • How can the High Level Structure help with an integrated management system?
  • What are the different ways towards integration?
  • Benefits of an integrated management system - Conclusion
  • Simply leveraging Quality.

Integrated management system: Creating synergies from diversity

For an integrated management system (IMS), the multitude of management systems that companies have to manage today are combined and integrated as far as possible so that there is as little friction as possible and synergies are used optimally.

This means that the methods and instruments for complying with requirements from different areas are combined in a uniform structure. This serves corporate governance (management and monitoring of organizations) and is supported by a risk-based approach.

What are the requirements?

Many management systems focus on specific requirements:

  • Quality, e.g. ISO 9001
  • Environmental protection, e.g. ISO 14001
  • Energy, e.g. ISO 50001
  • Occupational health and safety, e.g. ISO 45001, SCC
  • Information security, e.g. ISO 27001
  • Crisis or emergency management, e.g. ISO 22301
  • Risk management, e.g. ISO 31000
  • CSR / Corporate Social Responsibility, e.g. SA8000
  • Various other systems, e.g. health, medical devices, feed or explosion prevention

Thus, companies are faced with a multitude of subject areas that they can organize normatively. In addition, various industries have special regulations such as IATF 16949 (automotive industry) or EN/AS 9100 (aviation). These mostly deepen the requirements of ISO 9001 for quality management and concretize them in the context of application.

When complexity increases

A study by the "Harvard Business Manager" shows that the degree of complexity, i.e. the number of system-related requirements that a company must meet in business, has increased more than sixfold since 1955. This contrasts with the degree of organizational complexity within the company, the number of different processes, interfaces, instructions, documents and decisions, which has increased 35-fold. This shows that more and more is being added, but nothing is being eliminated.

The level of organizational complexity slows down employee productivity as well as revenue. Therefore, it is important for companies to think about how to integrate topics and build management areas in a modular way in order to expand topic areas without too much internal administrative effort and without increasing the complexity of processes even further. Ideally, this eliminates the need for documents and allows a uniform system to be used for different subject areas.

What is the goal of an integrated management system?

The goal of the IMS must be to resolve conflicts, coordinate goals and ensure clear, preferably qualifiable specifications.

However, different management systems have different requirements to fulfill. In this respect, conflicts of objectives can arise, which must be taken into account.

At this point, organizations must decide which objective has priority and, if necessary, allow another objective to take a back seat. For example, solutions that would make sense from the perspective of efficient process design would have to take a back seat to an optimized occupational health and safety organization. Here, companies must make decisions on a case-by-case basis, also with a view to the certification of management systems.

What is the basis of an integrated management system?

A uniform process management system is needed for a solid foundation.

The working tools and forms of documentation must be standardized. Helpful for the implementation is a common measures cockpit, into which the various measures resulting from the establishment and operation of an integrated management system flow and via which the tasks can be controlled and tracked. The specialist processes are then set up and integrated on this solid foundation.

How can the High Level Structure help with an Integrated Management System?

The High Level Structure (HLS) is a helpful tool for companies that want to build their systems on a modular basis. This is because this overarching basic structure ensures that the structures of the management systems correspond to each other in their normative requirements and can therefore be integrated more easily.

In the standard revisions of ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015 and the new ISO 45001:2018, the section structure (HLS) and some of the terminology were changed to improve alignment with other management system standards. Thus, all major ISO management system standards are subject to the common basic structure. Other standards will also adapt to the new High Level Structure in the future.

Above all, this means that company processes can be adapted to new or changed conditions in line with requirements. And this is done without overburdening the basic structures in the company with redundancies and inconsistencies. Processes can be easily extended if new standards need to be taken into account.

When setting up an IMS, it is important to put yourself in the employee's shoes. Accordingly, terms and processes from the employees' everyday work should be used.

What are the different ways towards integration??

Planning phasee: A good overview

In the planning phase, it is worthwhile to involve an external consulting firm in order to incorporate experience from integration projects at other companies. Then all documents and requirements are put on the table in order to be able to create a requirements and interaction analysis. Based on this, a diagnosis is made as to where, for example, integration is worthwhile as a first step.

Integrated Management System Workshop: The Internal Audit

When auditing integrated management systems (IMS), there are special challenges - but also solutions. A guidepost in the online seminar on 16.04.2021 will be ISO 19011.

It is imperative to involve all management stakeholders and build an integration team. Finally, an integration plan is drawn up, showing which management system is to be started with and what is to be done when and how and where.

Establishment phase: Setting the course - securing advantages

In the set-up phase of an integrated management system, it is of great importance to involve interested parties such as internal and external customers. During process design, it is essential to get employees on board, since they are the central resource that will later have to work with the specifications. The next step is the basic integration of document control, internal audits, policy, targets and key performance indicators, as well as higher-level action management. Then it is a matter of covering the various subject areas in the area of human resources, integrating the operational processes, and involving the supply chain and suppliers and breaking down requirements for them.

Improvement phase: Bundling information

In the improvement phase, the organization measures the results, the metrics of which it has previously defined, from the perspective of interested parties. Monitoring via internal and external audits is important. Management control, where management itself can give an assessment, is also essential. This can be done, for example, through small-scale management assessments spread over the year. In the course of the improvement phase, the organization decides whether and which further systems it will integrate and for which management systems it will also seek or continue certification.

Benefits of an integrated management system - Conclusion

An integrated management system (IMS) has a process landscape that covers all topics relevant to the company. The system should therefore be built up step by step. The company must decide which areas and standards should be integrated first and which further expansion stages should be included. Otherwise, the integration will overwhelm the organization and its employees.

Management support is crucial in this process. Everyone within the organization must be aware that the integrated management system is not a manual that sits in a closet. Rather, it is a daily work tool that - when used correctly - makes everyone's job easier.

And which gives everyone involved the security of knowing that the essential requirements of customers, authorities and other key parties are being adequately taken into account.

Do you have any questions?Contact us!Without obligation and free of charge.

Simply leveraging Quality.

Since its foundation in 1985 as the first German certifier of management systems, DQS has been committed to the sustainable success of its customers. With value-adding audits and customer-oriented concepts, we accompany organizations all the way to business excellence.

Especially the combined, simultaneous auditing of fully integrated management systems offers numerous opportunities, as the cross-thematic assessment allows synergies to be used and at the same time interactions, but also contradictions between the different topics can be identified. In order to increase the benefits for our customers with integrated management systems, we focus on their multiple qualifications when selecting and training our auditors: DQS auditors cover at least three sets of regulations on average. Take us at our word. We look forward to talking to you.

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Advantages, introduction and definition of an integrated management system

Planning phase, deployment phase and improvement phase - these are the three central steps in the introduction of an integrated management system. All those responsible for managing the system must be closely involved in each phase. This is the only way to ensure that goals are set and the system is further developed with foresight. The main benefits are greater efficiency and transparency in the organization.


Building an Integrated Management System with the High Level Structure (HLS)

High Level Structure

The High Level Structure - HLS for short - was published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2012. The intention was and is to give management system standards a common basic structure and similar core terms. This cross-standard structure is intended to simplify the integration of several management systems into a holistic system.

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What is a High Level Structure?


The five most important ISO standards in a visual representation

Occupational health and safety in the integrated management system

The subject of occupational safety and health (OHS) is in many places characterized by compliance requirements. The systematic management of occupational health and safety in compliance with requirements is therefore becoming indispensable for more and more organizations. ISO 9001 for quality management and ISO 45001 for occupational health and safety may therefore be a powerful duo in an integrated management system.


Transition period of ISO standards extended

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Occupational health & safety and compliance: closing the gaps

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Occupational safety management - systematically effective

Energy Management in the Integrated Management System

ISO 50001 for energy management open many doors in the direction of climate management,  especially in combination with the environmental standard ISO 14001. For example, an integrated management system based on both standards provides considerable preparatory work for the preparation and verification of a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory on the basis of existing data that has already been collected.


Transition period of ISO standards extended

Implementation of an integrated management system

Today, the planning and implementation of an Integrated Management System is primarily due to the need for holistic corporate management. An integrated management system enables the diverse requirements of topic-specific standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 27001, ISO 45001 and ISO 50001 to be met. This requires a holistic view and consistent process orientation.

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ZEISS and DQS - 20 years of top cooperation

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Further development of an integrated management system

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Neptun Werft: A fitting example of integrated management systems

Environmental management in an integrated management system

The ISO 14001 standard for environmental management underwent its last major revision in 2015 - and has been a member of the High Level Structure (HLS) since then. Today, IS0 14001 is the preferred choice for many growing organizations when it comes to adding another standard to ISO 9001 for quality management and merging it into an Integrated Management System (IMS).

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Experience with ISO 14001: Hermes Germany

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Environmental Management System - The Ultimate Guide