Business & Value, Guidance & How To

“Vanity” benchmarking?

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in January 2010 ……

It is a vanity exercise to participate in group benchmarking exercises for intranets. I do not see how comparing your intranet to other intranets truly addresses the question:

What specific value does your intranet bring to your organization?

It may help you provide “evidence” to senior management that:

  • Your intranet is very good, better than most.
  • Your intranet is sub par and deserves more attention and investment.
  • You’ve done a good job this year and deserve a raise (just joking, but I do believe most intranet managers DO deserve more recognition and higher salaries)

All of the above are valid reasons for doing benchmarks. And I fully understand why it is important to gather proof for all 3 reasons.

Traditional benchmarking ignores fundamental questions.

  • How can your intranet help your enterprise achieve its specific goals?
  • How can it make it easier for people to work smarter?
  • How can it become a place where people are free to express themselves, and do better business at the same time?

The only way you can achieve this is to identify (1) specific business indicators aligned with business processes and (2) “people indicators” based on interactivity and collaboration.

Then, and only then, will you be able to truly understand how your intranet is performing.

Feedback to the post above…

In short, benchmarking is not a black-and-white exercise. It needs the right context to bring value.

Shortly after the post above was published in January 2010, there were lots of reactions online. Here is a mashup of what people had to say. There are lots of good reasons to benchmark, but they aren’t black and white.

Why benchmark?

Comparing your intranet to others is useful because intranets exist within organisations and are somewhat ‘oblivious’ to what happens outside the company. It is hard to look over the fence. That’s where the value of benchmarking comes in.

As an intranet manager, you need to show the actual value of your investment to prove that you are actually helping the organisation save money / work more efficiently / ‘live’ a strategic agenda / etc.

Benchmarking should…

  • Be part of a more detailed analysis, requirements and benefits realisation exercise – not an end in itself.
  • Emerge into actions, decisions and behaviours.
  • Provide us not only with the ‘snapshot’ but the roadmap for the continuing journey.

In short, acquiring a ‘benchmarking artefact’ is only the first stage of what’s interesting about the process.

Benchmarking lets you …

  • Quantify an impartial view of strength and weakness and catalyze an action plan.
  • Obtain valuable feedback and expert advice from both the benchmarking organisation and other other participants in the benchmark.
  • Measure the evolution of the intranet as a result of changes that have been implemented.
  • Share tips and techniques that can be helpful to other organisations.
  • Provide evidence for senior management.

Speaking of senior management …

Senior management want to know what the competitors are doing, how do they compare, how can they do better. It’s also a sad fact that many companies turn a deaf ear to employees yet listen with great attention to the same message from external representatives.

Organisations are not logical. Whether it’s driven by egos or politics (or both) a benchmarking report certainly becomes an asset in dealing with internal personalities.

4 tips for benchmarking and using the results

  • Look at the intranet strategy and compare “actual” with “required”, assuming the intranet strategy is appropriate in the first place.
  • Identify (1) specific business indicators aligned with business processes and (2) “people indicators” based on interactivity and collaboration.
  • Make sure you are not simply copying or cloning, just because it brings security and validation.
  • Know what is transferable to your intranet, and how to use the data to justify further investment in your intranet.