I recently wrote about the basic principles and objectives of Benchmarking.  In particular, proposing that a simple definition of benchmarking is to compare your current results from a procedure, task or process, against a standard.

While there are many complex benchmarking strategies you can employ (Six Sigma, TQM, ASQ, etc.) for most organizations, those are overkill and can often require a “benchmarking specialist.”  Remember, the ultimate goal of benchmarking is simply to get better.  You don’t always need a defined standard to accomplish that. The first major step you can take is being honest and realistic about your current state.

10 Steps to Simple Benchmarking:

  1. Pick a business result and associated process, one that impacts a significant part of your department.
  2. Make an honest assessment of the results you are getting now – shoot for areas/items you can quantify.
  3. Decide that this is one you want to make better.  (If a standard does indeed exist, compare yourself against that.)
  4. Deliver the objective to your team – obtain their commitment.
  5. Carefully analyze and detail all of the steps (and people) involved.
  6. Study those steps carefully and decide which ones you need, which ones you don’t, and which you have to improve.
  7. Look for places to eliminate wasteful actions and redundancy, or areas to automate and speed up.
  8. Document the new process.
  9. Implement it.
  10. Measure the results.

We recently secured a new client for our operations and workflow management software system that undertook a system trial to evaluate our product and service.  Part of the decision criteria involved presentation of how the system would improve the closing time for billable work orders. – The longer it took from service request submission to delivery of an invoice had a detrimental effect on cash flow. While there was not an industry standard that the company could refer to, they inherently knew that they had to improve it and set an internal target of a 15% improvement.   We worked with the client during the trial to identify all the steps in their current process and average processing time.  The net result is that the client was able to cut an 18 step process down to 8 (a 56% reduction) and improve time to billing on average by 6 days for a standard billable request (a 30% improvement.)  There were several other ancillary benefits as well.

While automation certainly played a part in the improvement, it was interesting to note that simply removing some redundant and unnecessary steps in their process had an impact on the overall success. Easy things to fix, but ones that they would never found without making a fairly simple effort and commitment to making an improvement.  There is no need to over-complicate it. Simply make the same commitment and follow the steps outlined above to find your own dramatic results.