Everyone talks about benchmarking, but few know what to do. Learn the six steps in most any benchmarking initiative, from building support, to designing and improving a plan.
Step One: Select the process and build support
Step Two: Determine current performance
Step Three: Determine where performance should be
Step Four: Determine the performance gap
Step Five: Design an action plan
Step Six and Beyond: Continuously improve
The new economy represents a transformed business environment brought about by changes related to technology, people, culture and process; a marketplace created by significant shifts in business and cultural value dynamics which demand that we place a greater emphasis on non-physical assets, such as organizational structure, customer satisfaction and employee growth. The new economy values one thing above all else: knowledge - the currency of the new millennium. Knowledge comes in many forms. One such form is the knowledge that is distilled from comparing one organization's performance against another's in order to gather critical information about business processes, risks and controls, and develop metrics by which to improve performance. In a word, benchmarking. Benchmarking is well suited to the new economy, an economy which requires that successful companies create value in new ways, namely by recognizing that competitiveness now demands emphasis on both tangible and non-tangible assets. Benchmarking incorporates what we know is true about sustained, long-term business success in this new economy. Consider the American Productivity and Quality Center's definition of benchmarking: "Benchmarking is the practice of being humble enough to admit that someone else is better at something and wise enough to try and learn how to match and even surpass them at it." Put another way, effective benchmarking requires that you are wise enough to realize your organization has weaknesses, which translate into business risks, and determined enough to do something about those risks. True benchmarking is quantitative and qualitative, and it involves both competitor comparison and exploration outside your industry. It is a management process built around motivation, measurement and improvement. It is the perfect tool for new economy companies. However, benchmarking is not a silver bullet; it must be managed correctly and methodically to be successful. It is not simply a venue for collecting data, rather it is a tool for critical insight, which can motivate change and lead you to more efficient, effective and innovative business practices. Step One: Select the process and build support
The first step is to select the business process to benchmark and build support from both upper and middle management in order to gain the appropriate resources and to foster the spirit of participation required in an effective benchmarking initiative. Not targeting a specific process to examine or attaining management support will almost certainly mean that your benchmarking attempt will fall short of its goals. For example, a recent Arthur Andersen client wanted to benchmark many processes, from the purchasing function to post-sales customer relationship management. This client also wanted to accomplish this goal in less than 30 days and with no formal resources or budget. We suggested breaking the larger project into smaller, more manageable subprojects. Specifically, we encouraged the client to target the supply-chain function, which could be further divided into purchasing, inventory management, logistics and order fulfillment. Purchasing was the natural place to begin because, as a benchmarking project, this process was manageable. The client agreed and focused initial benchmarking efforts on the purchasing process. As a result, the positive suggestions that originated there were used to fuel...