Introduction

Project management benchmarking is the process of continuously comparing the project management practices of your organization with the practices of leaders anywhere in the world; its goal is to to gain information to help you improve your own performance. The information obtained through benchmarking might be used to help you improve your processes and the way in which those processes are executed, or the information might be used to help your company become more competitive in the marketplace.

Benchmarking is a continuous effort of analysis and evaluation. Care must be taken in deciding what to benchmark. It is impossible and impractical to evaluate every aspect of project management. It is best to decide on those few critical success factors that must go right for your business to flourish. For project management benchmarking, the critical success factors are usually the key business processes and how they are integrated. If these key success factors do not exist, then the organization's efforts may be hindered.

Deciding what information to benchmark against is usually easier than obtaining that information. Locating some information will require a critical search. Some information may be hard to find. Some information you would find helpful might not be available for release because the organization that has it views it as proprietary. Identifying the target companies against which you should benchmark may not be as easy as you believe.

Benchmarking has become common since it was first popularized by Xerox during the 1980s. Benchmarking is an essential ingredient for those companies that have won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige Award. Most of these award winners readily share their project management experiences. Unfortunately, there are some truly excellent companies in project management that have not competed for these awards because they do not want their excellence displayed.

Benchmarking for project management can be accomplished through surveys, questionnaires, attending local chapter meetings of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and attending conferences and symposiums. Personal contacts often provide the most valued sources of information.

There is a so-called "Code of Conduct" for benchmarking:

• Keep the benchmarking process legal.

• Do not violate rules of confidentiality.

• Sharing information is a two-way street.

• Be willing to sign a nondisclosure form.

• Do not share any information received with a third party without written permission.

• Emphasize guidelines and checklists but avoid asking for forms that may be highly sensitive.

Benchmarking should not be performed unless your organization is willing to make changes. The changes must be part of a structured process that includes evaluation, applicability, and risk management. Benchmarking is part of the strategic planning process for project management that results in an action plan ready for implementation.

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