Benchmarking is a well planned and systematic process

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Benchmarking is a well-planned and systematic process of discovery and learning. It has measurement as its fundamental basis, and compares against better and best organisations inside or outside the education sector. It has clear objectives and mechanisms to measure performance. Benchmarking is an ongoing, systematic process for measuring and comparing the work processes of one organisation with those of another, by bringing an external focus to internal activities, functions, or operations (from Kempner, 1993). Benchmarking is more than just gathering data. It involves adopting a new approach in which one continually questions how processes are performed, seeks out best practices and implements new models of operation (from Alstete, 1995: vii). Benchmarking is an ongoing, systematic process to search for and introduce best practice into an organisation in such a way that all parts of the organisation understand and achieve their full potential (from Burnet, 1996: 2). Types of Benchmarking Although the principles of benchmarking are straightforward, much of the theory surrounding benchmarking is ‘detail rich’ (Bogan & English, 1994: 73). This engenders an appearance of complexity which is enhanced by the numerous categories of benchmarking which appear in the literature. One such categorisation is based around the kind of organisation which serves as the benchmarking partner. This results in the identification of four types of benchmarking: internal benchmarking – in which comparisons are made against another school/area within one's organisation; competitive benchmarking – in which comparisons are made with direct competitors; industry benchmarking – in which the benchmarking partner is not a direct competitor, but does share the same industry as one's organisation; and generic benchmarking – which involves comparisons of processes and practices regardless of the industry or field of the partner. These four types of benchmarking appear frequently in the literature. The reader needs to be wary, however, because the use of these terms is not always consistent or free from ambiguity.
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Curtin University of Technology Document for Internal Use Only Page 6 of 24 A second broad method of categorisation considers the practices or processes which are benchmarked. This results in three types of benchmarking: process benchmarking – which focuses on discrete work processes and operating practices; performance benchmarking – which compares products and services; and strategic benchmarking – which examines how companies compete (Bogan & English, 1994). Benchmarking studies may be more or less general in the topics they address. Specific studies tend to be more useful in producing concrete recommendations for change, due to their more detailed analysis of particular processes. Conversely, more general studies may provide less detailed analyses of processes, but their wider ranging focus can be useful in providing overviews of school/area and institutional practices (McEntyre, 1996).
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