How to Source Data for Benchmarking? Once you know what to benchmark the next step is actually to start the benchmarking process...
The Ideal way to prepare various Benchmarking Reports
Many associations in their effort to offer top quality benchmarking services overlook another very important aspect, i.e., the reports. Consider the fact that there are two purposes for running benchmarks. The first is to provide members with insight into their performance which in turn helps them improve and compete. The other reason is being able to use all that data for advocacy. However, good advocacy requires that you know where the industry is headed and use that information about the industry.
Once all the data has been collected, validated and is available to use along with reference groups which have been defined, with their outcomes checked it is now time to offer reports. The participants will be eager to receive these reports and make sense of where they stand in the grand scheme of the industry.
If the association has decided to offer other benchmark related services like individual analysis, training, webinars, roundtable discussions, etc. then these have to be implemented and provided to the participants. After all these added associated services add value and help to create awareness.
Associations in most industries should make as much noise as they possibly can about the importance of benchmarks and its outcome. The outcome of each benchmarking program should outline and strengthen the advocacy required to push for better benchmarking which in turn improves the things for the next cycle.
Draft Individualized and Customized Benchmarking Reports
Consider the fact that every business is an individual, an entity of its own. As a business owner begins to work on their business, i.e., marketing, sales, advertising they lose sight of the industry as a whole. They are unable to see their existence or where they stand in the grand scheme of the industry. So, even though a venture might have grown the business owner can’t tell you by how much compared to the industry.
Individual reports provide business owners with context. The report can be set up as a draft, with blanks and fields which are then filled up with individualized information. These can include tables, pictures, graphs, and text. Once you have the template ready the reporting process is much easier. All you need to do is make sure that the information being inserted is of value to the business that report is being drafted to suit.
Testing the Reporting Templates
It goes without saying that testing the templates are a huge part of making sure that the reports deliver exactly what they need to. To test it print out a couple of beta reports to see if they look good. Make sure to include each individual member’s data as well as the relevant group data. Doing this will allow the member to compare their performance with that of the entire group and, in turn, gain some valuable insights into the industry and their own business too. Make sure to check if all the tables and graphs are properly filled. Remove fields and items which are left blank since having them there will only cause confusion.
Tip: It is easy to make mistakes in the report templates which result in bad reporting. So, you’ll want to ensure that the reports are easily readable and are very understandable. Maybe ask a couple of people to read the template to see if they can understand it.
You might also want to send a couple of participants the first few reports to get their feedback. Though always double check to ensure that the right reports are sent to the right businesses. Alternatively, you can use an advanced benchmarking survey tool which allows members to generate their own customized reports on the fly. If anything it is safer than offline reporting and happens to be convenient while adding value. Later you might want to change the reports based on the feedback received. The important thing to keep in mind is that the reporting templates can change and evolve with time and have no adverse effects.
Send Reports to All Participants
Once the reporting template has been tested, adjusted based on the feedback received and when you are sure it is of the best quality it can be then it is time to start generating reports for each participant.
Each individual report tailored to a participant will contain the data for the participant as well as group data for the reference group for comparison. Make sure to choose the right reference group for each participant.
When a specialized benchmarking survey tool is used, invitations can be sent to all participants who can then create as well as download customized reports. So, this, in turn, will save you a great deal of work, as well as add value to the report. Since all participants can easily select more than one reference group to compare their figures with, they will have expanding reporting options. That’s obviously seen as providing extra value.
The Formula for a Stunning Report
Now it goes without saying that some reports are downright more effective than others. Reports which aren’t effective may have all the information that a participant needs but makes it hard for them to understand it. Trust us when we tell you that we’ve seen many such reports but which without our experience making sense of them would be impossible. That’s why we label them ineffective.
Important Note: What may appear to be an excellent report by the creator may not be for those receiving it. It may have incorrect relations or perhaps no relations at all. If it is useless to the participants as they can’t analyse their performance, then it shouldn’t be created in the first place.
Effective reports are ones which participants can use to improve and understand their place in the industry. A highly effective report will mainly be comprised of the following features:
- It will have all the necessary data which is relevant to all participants. It will define the correct KPIs which the participants can use and is able to show their competitive advantage as well as various disadvantages.
- An effective report will also include a lot of trend data, mainly as a percentage value which grows over time. A graph can simplify things visually. It will also include group development as well as panel data.
- The report will also mainly focus on quartiles and medians. Also, standard and mean deviation. The reason for this is that understanding quartiles and medians are easier and a lot less subject to various biases of varying data points.
- Make sure to choose the right type of graph for each type of data. Unknown to many people not every kind of graph can be used for all kinds of data. For instance, a median diagram can be used to show performance of another business. The bar chart can be used to indicate direct data. A spider diagram can show relative performance but from multiple KPIs.
- You will also want to try and present data in different ways. Don’t rely on a fixed PDF file only or your online dashboard. The participants should be allowed to choose their own type of output. Allow them to play around with the data for the best results.
- Always pick from relevant reference groups to report on. The participant can then choose or use a filter to choose which other business they want to compare.
- Use graphs that are self-explanatory and don’t have repeating data. Don’t use a legend if it isn’t necessary. If the axis can be skipped, do that too.
Note: The ideal business report is simple. You shouldn’t need a business degree to make sense of it. If you do need a degree, then it is too complicated. Understanding all the benchmarking data should be made as simple as possible while retaining all the necessary information.
Finally! Selling Reports to non-participating Businesses
Many associations decide that one way they will make money from benchmarking is selling reports to businesses that didn’t participate. While these members may not have provided data for the benchmarking effort, they could still be interested in the results as it would give them some strong insights too. Associations can also convince these non-participants to become participants by submitting their data to make the comparison more accurate and of better value.
Ideally, associations should use a sophisticated benchmarking survey tool which enables businesses to participate by answering a series of questions. These questions, for the most part, are auto validated, and a preliminary report is presented followed by a more detailed report which is sold. However, to what extent this is done is up to the association which should decide on what value it holds in the industry. That said benchmarking reports have to be useful because if not the association runs the risk of losing participants instead of gaining them. So, keep that in mind when field testing the report templates.
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