As with the definitions which were presented earlier

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As with the definitions which were presented earlier, numerous models of benchmarking practice (containing between three and fourteen steps) are discussed in the literature. However, the differences between these models are cosmetic and the fundamental approach remains similar (Bogan & English, 1994). In all cases, the general model needs to be adapted to the specific circumstances of a particular organisation. This guide presents a model of the benchmarking process with four major phases (consistent with Curtin’s Quality Framework) and a series of stages and tasks (see Figure 1): The Approach phase, which incorporates the necessary planning steps, the Deployment phase, incorporating the Data Collection, Analysis and Action stages; the Review phase and the Improvement phase. The importanc of closing this loop so that improvements inform a higher level of ongoing continuous improvement cannot be stressed too highly. Although the model represents the stages as temporally consecutive, this is an idealisation, and some overlap between the stages can be expected. Figure 1. Model of Benchmarking Procedure
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Curtin University of Technology Document for Internal Use Only Page 9 of 24 1.0 The ‘Approach’ Phase The planning phase is critical for success: poor preparation and excessive anxiety to begin collecting data are some of the most common problems in benchmarking (Spendolini, 1992: 148). The decision to engage in benchmarking stems from a recognition of a need for improvement, and a determination that benchmarking is the appropriate strategy to pursue. 1.2 Selecting a benchmarking topic Benchmarking can be applied to each of the University's core activities: teaching and learning and research and development, and also to the services which support this core work: student services, academic services, financial services etc. Teaching and research are arguably the most difficult areas to benchmark; conversely, they present the greatest potential for improvement. General priorities for improvement need to be identified before selecting a topic for benchmarking. It is therefore crucial that you ‘know yourself’ before embarking on a specific benchmarking exercise. This requires an awareness of the characteristics and conditions which are essential to ensuring departmental success (‘critical success factors’), an understanding of the processes which underlie these characteristics, and knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses existing in your department. The main criterion for selecting and prioritising areas for improvement is that the topic chosen is essential to departmental success. The identification of critical success factors can aid in the recognition of such areas. Critical success factors are related to the overall purpose of a department. They are a limited yet comprehensive group of indicators which must show high performance if the department is to succeed in achieving its principal goals (Bendell, Boulter & Kelly, 1993). Examples from higher education include professional accreditation, student evaluations, and graduation and placement rates (Alstete, 1995).
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