Benchmark analyses: beneficial perspectives and takeaways

Improve your self-view with benchmarks
When reviewing the findings of recent benchmark analyses among our clients, we have repeatedly noticed that the competitive aspect takes a back seat: benchmark analyses are not primarily about looking at others and comparing oneself, but about putting one's own structures, processes and actions into a new perspective – helping us to have a better self-assessment.
How would you usually set up a qualitative benchmark analysis:
  1. Select a sufficient number of peers with some level of comparability to your own company in terms of industry, products/services, size, structure, target markets.
  2. Select and define base criteria such as business, technology, process, etc. and aspects relevant for the comparison.
  3. Collect and analyze all accessible information, in compliance with moral codes and rules of professional conduct.
  4. Assess your positioning and draw conclusions for further development.

We have recently completed a number of benchmark studies, including comparisons for technology and application approaches, sustainability, innovation and corporate communication. In doing so, we have found that our view what this type of analyses is actually about has changed over time.

First observation: your peers are often not directly comparable and may not need to be. Depending on the business field and market, a strict similarity could narrow down the field of candidates too much or leave none at all. A certain level of abstraction is therefore required in any case. Moreover, strict comparability proves to be counterproductive. Broadening the scope and systematically varying the characteristics of candidates leads to a bigger picture: it shows how these characteristics affect the benchmark aspect and thus leads to a better understanding of its mechanisms.

For example, looking at the communication strategy of a more B2C-oriented company might bring interesting insights for a B2B company, even if it only provides suggestions on what to try. Of course, any deviation from one’s own structures and processes limits comparability, but the gain in knowledge easily outweighs this.

Second observation: solutions for the benchmark aspect are in most cases not transferable to your own company. There simply is no one-size-fits-all solution to most problems in a complex environment. Unless you are building up a company from scratch, it makes no sense to copy someone else’s structure and apply it to your own evolved setup. The solutions that other companies find are their own for a reason; they are a result of their own structures and circumstances.

For example, whether a centralized or decentralized approach to innovation is more appropriate depends heavily on your products, i.e. how advanced and diverse is your portfolio, how mature are the technology and the market. Taking a closer look at why a particular solution was created and how it has evolved over time can be much more rewarding than looking at the solution itself, opening up new perspectives on your own requirements.

Third observation: the best learning comes from exemplary failures and successes of benchmark candidates. Analyzing and learning from the experiences of others bears the potential to shorten the learning curve for one’s own activities. They provide impulses for approaches, point out possibilities within a given setting, and indicate which obstacles and accelerators to watch for. This turns benchmarking from a competitive exercise into a constructive impulse generator that rather looks for lessons from good and bad practices and is broadening the perspective on possible solutions in one’s own environment.

Interested in further information?
Please do not hesitate to contact:
Dr. Helmut Weldle, phone +49 6201 9915 52,

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