Do large corporations and product companies follow any standard quality models/processes at all?

For example, I have seen that many large organizations have proprietary processes in IT and software development. Back in the days (even before Motorola's Iridium project,) I remember many IT companies scampering for SEI-CMM certification.

Do any of the Fortune 500 company try to adopt these quality processes? In my limited experience I have not seen them undergoing audits for adherence to processes. Most of the audits are either financial, or issues pertaining to legalities.

Am I just being ignorant, or is this true? If true, how stringently do the companies adhere to the processes?

  • @CMR: Did you expect to be notified? By whom? How would any of us find out about internal quality programs in the IT departments of multi-billion dollar companies?
    – S.Lott
    Mar 8, 2011 at 18:21
  • @S.Lott, I have personally worked with Fortune 20 companies as a full time employee - in manufacturing, retail and telecom domains. I have never seen an ounce of quality control in place. I was wondering if anyone has played such roles and are more aware. For eg., I hear Ford follows 6Sigma in some departments, and was hoping to learn more.
    – CMR
    Mar 8, 2011 at 18:57
  • @CMR: So your survey of the Fortune 500 includes some selection of the Fortune 20? How many distinct IT departments did those companies have among their various divisions? And how many of those IT departments within the overall organization did you work with?
    – S.Lott
    Mar 8, 2011 at 19:06
  • 1
    @CMR: Are you saying that the CMM results are the same as the ISO and Six Sigma adoption? It seems like you're taking a very small sample and generalizing to to "most" fortune 500 and a larger number of quality programs. My point remains this: your question sounds subjective and argumentative because it appears to make a very broad claim for which you don't seem to have a lot of data. I'm suggesting that you (a) reduce the broad, sweeping generalization and (b) include your references in the question.
    – S.Lott
    Mar 8, 2011 at 21:12
  • 2
    I work for a fortune 500 top 20 company (80,000+ employees) and I think we follow some ISO standard. Six Sigma is new to us and we take training for it but it is not strictly enforced (yet). I think the domain matters a lot too (I work in the oil and gas services industry.)
    – Nobody
    Mar 9, 2011 at 12:20

2 Answers 2


In the telecom domain, almost all of the tier 1 vendors have ISO 9001 (for quality) certification and TL9000 (telecom industry specific guidelines). If you want to compete in the European market, some sort of certification is a must. US and Japan do not care much for processes. This is specific for the carrier class (service provider) telecom equipment market.

Personally I feel quality processes are just eye wash. Most people dress up documents just before the audits. Auditors find enough discrepancies to keep them in business while still awarding the certification. It is impossible to audit an year's worth of work done by 100 people by 1 person in a week (assuming 100:1 ratio for engineers:auditors).

During the rest of the year, people are more focussed on the product than on the process. Process are necessary for any company to scale and have minimum standards across the company. But ISO processes do not mandate quality processes. It is up to each individual company what process they are going to follow. ISO just audits if the company sticks to it or not.

I do not have personal experience with CMMI processes. But it is kind of a big deal here in India. A lot of companies are CMMI-level 5 certified. This is mostly to win more clients to outsource to them. I do not think CMMI level 5 is any indicator to quality of work produced by a company.

  • 1
    I agree, I see that the big 3 of Detroit tend to do things out of their whim, altering these to their needs (e.g. QS 9000 or now ISO/TS 16949): mainly to keep vendors under control. Most of the other major US companies have corporate-level standards. +1 for information on auditing routines
    – CMR
    Mar 8, 2011 at 18:55
  • 3
    ditto - we had to be ISO9001 because the whole company was. A bit of paper saying to copy the finished build to a certain folder on the ftp site was enough. The bit of paper even got it's own ring binder! Mar 8, 2011 at 21:29
  • +1 for international scope
    – user28988
    Aug 9, 2011 at 16:16

It depends on the domain they're working on. For some mission critical domains, they've to maintain certain standards to meet release their products. For e.g Honeywell provides Six Sigma Plus Solutions to the customer (Sigma + Lean methodologies are called as Six Sigma+)

Toyota is one of the major companies standing up in the industry by maintaining high quality with innovative process models and methodologies in the industry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Toyota_Way Lot of companies across the industries have adopted their methodologies to improve their process models

Also companies working in Automotive Domain seriously giving consideration for Automotive SPICE http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO/IEC_15504

A process is not really about certification and audits. It comes as a culture and companies innovate on the process models or some people tailor the standard process models and methodologies to their production.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.