After all - while you might think of your skills at work as being similar to Wolverine's, you'll realize that he didn't get that way without continuous and ongoing training in the Danger Room to ensure that he was able to meet and surpass any situation!
Now you might wonder about why I've gone into this tangent about comic book hero's and their struggles, but I assure it will all make sense. In my own personal life I'm currently working on my ITIL Intermediate set of certifications so that I can eventually have an ITIL Expert designation.
The one that I'm currently on which I'd like to share with you is called CSI (Continual Service Improvement) and while some people might consider that acronym to refer to Crime Scene Investigations and the host of shows that have followed that theme, in reality, it's not about looking at a problem after it's happened (the crime) but rather proactive planning and organizing to ensure that the problem never happens in the first place!
As an IT Professional, ITIL generally makes a lot of sense to me and in most cases, I've implemented or worked on quite a few areas that are covered in the ITIL guides.
In fact without boasting, many times I find that the ITIL books seem to be quoting something I've said!
One part of ITIL that I've not really explored or covered in my career, however, is that of benchmarking.
Simply put -
Benchmarking is a comparison of a specific element or process in your organization with that of other external companies/parties that have similar processes and products.
Comparing your support responsiveness for example (Average Speed of Answer) if you're a manufacturing company versus a bank doesn't really work. You need to (as much as possible) compare apples-to-apples.
How to Benchmark - some ideas!
- Focus on your key business drivers. These are the processes that underpin the success of your firm and will vary from sector to sector and business to business. If you provide a service, customer care is likely to be a key business driver; if you are a high-volume manufacturer, production-line speed will be a key business driver.
- Decide who to benchmark against. Your local Business Link or trade association should be able to suggest benchmarking partners. Pick firms of a similar size and with similar objectives to help work out industry yardsticks, but also compare with firms outside your sector who excel in areas you want to measure - importing their approach could help you leapfrog competitors.
- Assess the efficiency of your processes. Look at the mechanics of your business - the production techniques, quality controls, stock management and so on. How effective are they? How well are you using your technology? Are other businesses benefiting from new ways of doing things?
- Analyze your allocation of resources. Are you putting resources into the same areas as your benchmarking partners? Do they have more employees or fewer? In which parts of the business? Have they invested more in IT and other equipment? Are they spending more on marketing?
- Calculate sales per employee. This will provide a straightforward measure of productivity and efficiency. If your sales are comparatively low, investigate the reasons; you might find the problem is not with your sales staff but your product, or that you are pitching to the wrong market.
- Measure your customer service standards. Customer service is a key battleground for businesses with similar products or services. Working out the proportion of sales accounted for by returning customers will give you a picture of your service levels, as will the number of complaints you receive and the time it takes to fulfill an order.
Now is benchmarking always a hallmark of success? Stay tuned for a subsequent post discussing why you shouldn't benchmark!