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1 February 2009
A hand holding a yellow question mark

Benchmarking is a process in which one organization compares its work methods, time, quality, process. This business process is a powerful tool as it enables us to overcome thought schemes etched in us which we follow since we always have or simply due to them being the norm. The principles at the base of this process are highly compatible with KM principles: monitoring and examining of activities performed on other organizations enables us to avoid reinventing the wheel, to learn from others' experience and share knowledge. This learning can be performed during any stage of the project's stages; however, learning at the beginning of a new project has substantial advantages.

Firstly, it shows our intra-organizational customers that we don't take our actions lightly and are willing to invest resources in studying the field. Secondly, it enables us to involve the customers actively; the customer sees and experiences what other organizations ae doing and can therefore more easily connect to the process. Finally, the visit itself can create added value for our customers on both a personal and professional level as they can network with those closest to their circle and review their professional performance (even if it isn't directly related to Knowledge Management).

I was recently witness to such a visit. The initiating party and the monitored party were both positioned in an organizational role that was so unique they could not any counterparts in other organizations. The visit exposed them to each other and both parties were elated (so they could hardly concentrate on the goal for which we had gathered, and another meeting was scheduled) and was concluded with the two deciding they create a set of professional meetings that may benefit the organizations currently employing them.

To maximize such a visit, we must define for ourselves what are our fields of interest. Would we want to focus on a process performed in the organization, addressing the target audience, exclusively professional content, etc. As time is a limited resource we must perform a preparatory process involving matching expectations with the visited parties. Furthermore, we must carefully select a party with similar properties to ours, mainly focusing on content worlds. For example, if we wish to set up a website dealing with purchase and contact, we are best off searching for other organizations that have a purchase and logistics website, a tender website, etc.

If possible, we should search for an organization with a target audience similar to ours in terms of organizational culture and blend. When we perform this visit we must keep in mind that not every organization is readily open to its gates and even more so eager to authentically share not only its successes but its failures as well. We therefore must respond appropriately even if it seems we don't have anything to learn from the organization and provide our hosts with positive feedback and perhaps a thank you note or a gift for their time.

After arriving at the organization which we chose to visit, it is best to ask some of the following questions which focus on different aspects of the process that must be considered:


What is the central content displayed on the website/

What is the logic behind the way the content is organized?

What are the most popular items?

What are the items most rarely accessed?

What business need does this solution address?


What are the main work processes in the unit?

Why and how are the work processes reflected in the website?

How are initiation, analysis, structuring, launching and implementation processes performed?


What were the website's greatest successes?

What were the processes main stumbling blocks?

What are your target audience's central properties?

Were any activities supportive of harnessing user audiences performed?


What platform is used for these activities?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this platform?

Is there a connection to operative systems, and if so which?

We should ask about the website's entrance rate, as this may help us set a more realistic standard regarding the results this solution should lead to.

Finally, it is vital we filter the experience: what suits us? What doesn't? Of course, we must implement the parts relevant to our organization. One trap we should avoid is the attempt to validate our presumptions regarding the monitored organization, as the point of Benchmarking is to get us examine existing thought schemes critically.

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