As ever, when I start to think about benchmarks, I like to remind myself of the definition. The Oxford English Dictionary states that a benchmark is:
- A standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed.
- A surveyor's mark cut in a wall, pillar, or building and used as a reference point in measuring altitudes.
Synonyms include “norm, touchstone, criterion, specification, model, exemplar.”
Now, this leads us to ask what benchmarks show us? They give us a picture, an image of the current performance of an organization. The temptation is to see the result as a simple statement of fact uncluttered by its surroundings.
I came across this notice on a trip in the States and, on the face of it, it’s a perfectly reasonable request, but when you step back and take in the whole structure you start to think again.
Here’s the bridge – and that drop is 1,000 feet! The notice is clearly a joke, but taken at face value it’s a strong prohibition. That’s why our benchmarking service is designed to help clients see the whole picture.
Our aim is to help clients to understand not only where they are, but how they are progressing toward their goals. Single snapshots give us an indication of where we are in relation to the industry – today. An effective picture takes time and a number of data-points to fill in the missing corners.
Benchmarks should influence discussions on productivity and cost per output; they should not simply drive the conversation. The big picture is multi-facetted; productivity is affected by so many things: size, timescale, quality, process maturity, resource skills and availability, to name but a few, and any benchmark service should take that into account when engaging with clients.
We have recently set up an agreement with Quantimetrics, an established independent benchmarking company, because we believe that the depth and breadth of data held by Quantimetrics enables us to bring even more to the benchmarking party. With our partners on board we bring a global, non-U.S. database to add to our U.S. data, plus many years of experience in data analysis.
Going back to our fishing notice, once we have the full picture, we can see that trying to fish from there is pointless. In short, the 1,000 foot view doesn’t work – let’s get down to the river and try again.
By making use of extra data and by monitoring progress over time we enable clients to progress on a journey towards better value for software development. We enable them to catch the big fish and throw back the small fry. We look forward to helping you on this journey.
What other benefits do you think bechmarking holds?