ISO 27001 Clause 4.1 Understanding the organisation and its context

ISO 27001 Clause 4.1 Understanding the organisation and its context

What is ISO 27001 Clause 4.1, how to write it and a downloadable ISO 27001 Clause 4.1 Template.

What is ISO 27001 Clause 4.1 Understanding the organisation and its context?

Starting at the beginning, the ISO 27001 Clause 4.1 is a requirement of the ISO 27001 standard. To that end, to achieve ISO 27001 certification or to implement ISO 27001 you are going to have to meet the needs of this ISO 27001 clause.

What is the actual requirement of ISO 27001 Clause 4.1

The ISO 27001 Clause 4.1 requirement is to understand your own context and document how it might impact your information security management system. Specifically how it might impact the outcomes of your information security management system. By and large this is a quick and easy win and it sets out exactly what it wants from you.

The standard wants you to determine what are the internal issues and external issues that you face. In reality, if you have these written down with the appropriate document mark up a certification auditor is unlikely to dig too deeply. We created a pre populated, downloadable ISO 27001 clause 4.1 template, but more on that later.

How to write Internal and External Issues

When recording the ISO 27001 Internal and External Issues the standard does not say that you should only record the negative. Do not go out of your way to find and report the negative. It may be that you have considered an internal or external issue and that, in fact, for you, it is not an issue. If you write down the issues and then write an explanation, either positive or negative, it will show that you considered it.

If the explanation is positive, it shows that you considered it and some smart ass auditor won’t raise it as a problem thinking they have got one over on you. You can say, yes, we considered it, we documented it and for us, it is not an issue.

If the explanation is negative, in that you do have an issue, then describe the issue and indicate whether or not you have raised a risk in the risk register to address it. It would be expected and good practice for each issue that is an issue, to be in the risk register and managed via risk management.

What are Internal Issues?

When considering internal issues, the following can be a great guide.

  • governance, organizational structure, roles and accountabilities.
  • policies, objectives, and the strategies that are in place to achieve them.
  • capabilities, understood in terms of resources and knowledge (e.g., capital, time, people, processes, systems and technologies).
  • the relationships with and perceptions and values of internal stakeholders.
  • the organization’s culture.
  • information systems, information flows and decision-making processes (both formal and informal).
  • standards, guidelines and models adopted by the organization; and
  • form and extent of contractual relationships.

ISO 27001 clause 4.1 internal issues examples

Internal IssueExample Internal Issue
PeopleInternally there are no resources trained or experienced in the delivery of ISO 27001.
TimeThe implementation and management of the information security management system and of the supporting controls requires a significant time investment from key departments and key individuals.
Organisational StructureThe structure of the organisation currently does not fully support the information security management implementation and on-going management. Changes will be required.
TechnologiesThe company uses off the self, standard applications under license.
Availability of reliable, qualified and competent work forceThere is strong competition in the market for resources for x technology.
Company ObjectivesThe company objectives are aligned with the information security objectives.

What are External Issues?

The following is a great guide for what to consider to external issues.

  • the social and cultural, political, legal, regulatory, financial, technological, economic, natural and competitive environment, whether international, national, regional or local.
  • key drivers and trends having impact on the objectives of the organization; and
  • relationships with perceptions and values of external stakeholders.

ISO 27001 clause 4.1 external issues examples

External IssueExample External Issue
Economic Climate[Consider the current economic climate and its impact on the business and the information security management system.] 
Technology Advances[Consider the impact of technology changes on the business and information security management system.]
Competition[Consider the place within the marketplace and the stage and maturity of the business. Consider comparing the information security management system and approach to that of the competition.]
Legislation changes[Consider the impacts of Data Privacy laws, impacts of topics such as Brexit.]
Relationships with external stakeholders[Consider the relationship with external stakeholders positive / negative describing the reporting and structure]

ISO 27001 Clause 4.1 Understanding the organisation and its context downloadable template

The ISO 27001 Context Of Organisation template fully satisfies the requirements of ISO 27001 Clause 4.1 and is pre written with common examples to fast track your implementation. It quickly and effectively satisfies the needs of the clause.

Part of the ISO 27001 Templates Toolkit but also available to download individually.

ISO 27001 Certification

ISO 27001 Templates Toolkit: Business Edition

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