The APQC Blog

There is a Shift Happening Within Benchmarking

I have been doing a lot of presentations recently focused on benchmarking, and I see a real shift in the mindset of those using benchmarking to improve the performance of their organization.

It’s no longer about benchmarking basics
The presentation requests I used to get would fall primarily into two categories. The first is “benchmarking, what is it?” This category covers the types of benchmarking, how benchmarking results are used, pros and cons, risks and opportunities, and such. The second is “benchmarking, how to do it.” This covers how to scope a project, assemble your team, develop a survey instrument, analyze data, and report findings. This is a somewhat natural evolution. People wanted to know what benchmarking was and how others are benefiting from it; then, assuming they saw value in it, they wanted to learn how to do it.

Benchmarking is about making better decisions
Now requests are more mature. They focus more on how benchmarking can help organizations apply resources and support key decisions. Business users, in general, are more familiar with process-thinking and using data to make decisions.

A good example of a recent request came from a group of e-procurement professionals focused. Their key question was whether spending more on technology results in lower costs and/or higher productivity within the procurement processes.

Using our benchmarking data, we were able to test two hypotheses for them. First we proved spending more on technology does not result in a decrease in overall costs or an increase in productivity within procurement. We were able to prove doing the real process work to ensure your technology outlay results in real automation does provide both lower costs and higher productivity.

Benchmarking data needs to support action
There is nothing wrong with knowing how many staff of a certain role you have per some other variable, but the action you can take from knowing that is limited. Being able to set a clear direction on how to focus your technology resources (versus continuing to debate the issue) to get real, measurable outcomes offers a lot more value. At least it did for that group of e-procurement folks.