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A Guide to How Consultants Conduct Benchmarking

A Guide to How Consultants Conduct Benchmarking

11 April 2024

A Guide to How Consultants Conduct Benchmarking: Know Where a Company Stands Among its Competitors

Through this article, we dive into the essence of benchmarking, unraveling its necessity for consultants and the hurdles encountered along the way. We will guide you through the simple methodology for conducting effective benchmarking, underscore the importance of accessing robust data, and showcase a compelling case study that demonstrates how data platforms can accelerate the benchmarking process.

Understanding a firm's current position is the first step towards achieving significant improvement. This entails not only an internal review of operations and finances for a self-assessment but also necessitates an external comparison to truly gauge its performance against the broader industry spectrum. In the competitive industry where market dynamics are constantly shifting, benchmarking becomes an indispensable tool. It enables firms to discern their standing—be it leading, average, or lagging—and to strategically embrace best practices that substantially elevate their operational and sales metrics.


What Is Benchmarking

Benchmarking is the systematic process of comparing a company's performance against industry leaders or direct competitors to uncover insights for superior performance. It involves analysing processes and practices that lead to exceptional outcomes in other organisations. The aim is not to imitate but to innovate and adapt these practices to a company's unique context. In a constantly shifting market landscape, benchmarking is crucial for firms to understand their position—leading, average, or lagging—and strategically adopt best practices to significantly enhance their operational and sales metrics.


Why Is Benchmarking Necessary?

The main reasons consultants do benchmarking for their clients are:

  • Identifying Performance Gaps: This helps in understanding where a company stands in comparison to its competitors or industry best practices.
  • Setting Goals and Strategies: Knowing what the best players in the field are doing to set realistic and ambitious goals.
  • Improving Efficiency: Benchmarking provides insight into more efficient ways of doing business, which can lead for example to cost savings and better performance.
  • Encouraging Innovation: Seeing how other companies excel can spark new ideas for products, services, or ways of working. Often, innovation comes from mixing existing ideas together to create a new way of doing things.


Five Simple Steps to Conduct Structured Benchmarking


  1. Define Clear Objectives: The first step is to articulate what you aim to achieve through benchmarking. Whether it's enhancing operational efficiency, understanding your cost position relative to competitors, or gaining strategic advantage, having clear, SMART objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) will guide your benchmarking focus.
  2. Select Your Benchmarks Wisely: Depending on your objectives, choose the appropriate type of benchmarking—performance, process, strategic, internal, competitive, functional, financial, generic, or product benchmarking. Each serves a distinct purpose and provides different insights.
  3. Collect and Analyse Data Rigorously: Data collection is a critical phase where accuracy and reliability are paramount. Utilising a combination of surveys, interviews, audits, and databases, including industry data, company data, and financial data, ensures a comprehensive understanding. Analysis should aim to uncover gaps, strengths, weaknesses, and trends that inform your strategy.
  4. Implement and Monitor Actions: With insights in hand, develop and execute action plans that address identified gaps. Prioritise areas for improvement and monitor the implementation closely to ensure objectives are met.
  5. Review and Repeat: Benchmarking is not a one-off task but a continuous process of learning and improvement. Regular reviews and updates to your benchmarking process are essential to adapt to changing market conditions and maintain competitiveness.


The Paint Points of Benchmarking

Accessing Comparable and Reliable Data: One of the primary challenges in benchmarking is the difficulty of accessing high-quality, reliable, and comparable data. Procuring and processing comparable data can be challenging due to differences in how companies record, measure, and report data. This issue is particularly pronounced when dealing with private company data, as these companies are often under no obligation to disclose detailed financial and operational information, making it difficult to obtain a complete picture of their performance.

Dealing with Rapidly Changing Industries: In industries that are rapidly evolving, the benchmarking data can quickly become outdated, making it challenging to draw accurate comparisons. This is particularly true for sectors driven by technological advancements, where today's best practices might be tomorrow's obsolete methods. Keeping benchmarking efforts relevant requires continuous monitoring of industry trends and regular updates to the benchmarking process.

Resource and Time Constraints: Benchmarking is a resource-intensive process that requires significant time and effort to conduct thoroughly. Gathering and analysing data, especially when dealing with multiple sources or requiring detailed financial analysis, can be time-consuming and costly. Small consulting firms handling multiple large projects, in particular, may find it challenging to allocate the necessary resources for comprehensive benchmarking efforts.

Choosing Appropriate Benchmarks: Selecting the right benchmarks is critical for effective benchmarking, but it can also be challenging. The selection depends on having a clear understanding of the industry and the specific areas of performance that need improvement. There's a risk of selecting benchmarks that are not fully aligned with the company's strategic goals or operational realities, which can lead to misguided efforts and resources being spent on trying to improve metrics that are not critical to success.

Adapting Best Practices to Fit a Specific Organization: Even when effective practices are identified, adapting them to fit the unique context of another organisation can be challenging. Organisational culture, existing processes, and resource constraints can all act as barriers to the successful implementation of these practices. Moreover, there is a risk of losing the essence of what made a practice successful in one organisation when trying to replicate it in another, due to differences in organisational culture, leadership, or market conditions.

Overcoming Organisational Resistance: Resistance to change is a common challenge within organizations, and benchmarking initiatives can often be met with skepticism or resistance from employees. This can stem from a fear of the unknown, concerns about job security, or simply a preference for maintaining the status quo. Overcoming this resistance requires careful change management, clear communication of the benefits of benchmarking, and involving employees in the benchmarking process to ensure buy-in.


How to Navigate Data and Research Challenges in Benchmarking

Leveraging Reliable Databases:The foundation of effective benchmarking is high-quality data. Access to reliable databases can significantly enhance benchmarking efforts, offering insights into industry trends, company performance, revenue sizes, profit growth, and more. For instance, databases providing best coverage for ASEAN regions can be invaluable for firms looking to understand their standing or explore opportunities in these markets.

Utilizing Benchmarking Analysis Results:The ultimate goal of benchmarking is to use the insights gained to drive improvements. This involves setting realistic goals based on the analysis, adapting best practices to fit the organizational context, and ensuring strategies are aligned with the company's overall direction. Efficiently utilizing benchmarking results can lead to enhanced operational efficiency, strategic advantage, and a faster rate of organizational learning.

Beyond Benchmarking: Supplementary Information Sources:While benchmarking provides critical insights, it's part of a broader ecosystem of data and analysis. Industry reports, trends analyses, and business profiles can offer additional layers of context, helping to further refine and support benchmarking findings. Additionally, tools that save cost for initial research or offer primary screening of company data can further streamline the benchmarking process.


Case Study: Speeding Up the Benchmarking and Research Process with SPEEDA

A consulting firm serving multinational clients faced challenges in efficiently gathering background information for various projects, including business development proposals and conference presentations. The firm relied on purchasing business profiles from multiple sources, leading to time-consuming research processes and high expenses. Additionally, existing financial database tools lacked comprehensive coverage of Southeast Asian markets and industries, hindering the firm's ability to provide in-depth insights for clients.

The firm subscribed to SPEEDA, a comprehensive database offering extensive company data, including financials for private companies. Utilising SPEEDA's company search and listing functions, the team streamlined the process of compiling financial data for benchmarking and analysis, significantly reducing research time and costs. Moreover, SPEEDA's focus on Southeast Asian markets provided the firm with accurate and detailed information tailored to their specific research needs, allowing for efficient screening and analysis of companies within the region. The availability of niche industry reports further enhanced the firm's market research capabilities, enabling them to access valuable insights for client projects.


  • Increased efficiency: SPEEDA enabled the firm to expedite the research process, saving time and resources previously spent on manual data collection and analysis.
  • Cost savings: By consolidating financial data from SPEEDA's database, the firm reduced expenses associated with purchasing business profiles from multiple sources.
  • Enhanced market insights: SPEEDA's comprehensive coverage of Southeast Asian markets and industries empowered the firm to provide clients with deeper analysis and strategic recommendations tailored to specific regions and sectors.
  • Improved client service: Access to SPEEDA's in-house reports and high-quality customer support allowed the firm to deliver timely and well-informed proposals and presentations, strengthening client relationships and satisfaction.


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