Tonnis van Dam

How to get reliable benchmarking data

Reliable benchmarking data is key in getting the desired results. Use some kind of validation of benchmarking data to improve the quality of data.

Validation of the collected data is one of the most essential steps towards reliable benchmarking results. Many experts rightly believe that it is just as important if not more as compared to collecting the data in the first place. Validating the data helps to improve its quality and the internal and external consistency between all inputs received from participants.

Just How Important is Validation?

Very, Very Important! I can’t stress this enough as numerous benchmarking projects had failed right before my very eyes because it lacked a robust validation system. You shouldn’t and can’t rely on the data that’s submitted from your member businesses. The data has to be validated to ensure that it is excellent and accurate. Though for some types of benchmarks generally qualitative questions, the validation for every question isn’t necessary. You can trust that the average number of participants will generate for the most part reliable information. Plus, it is possible to analyse all the questions more efficiently and anomalies sort of stand out making them easier to spot. Anomalies are usually a result of an overall enthusiastic business owner who answers more than what was asked. Thankfully, the required data is easy to extract from the answer.

The validated data can be collected automatically, and it can be validated automatically too. Though a manual check is always imperative. You will want to comb through the data to make sure that everything is as it should be. It is also possible to build an online questionnaire in a way that errors are automatically highlighted, and so the person filling it out so they can fix it before sending the survey through the system. However, it all depends on the system you use. We recommend using a dedicated or specialized benchmarking system or software which automatically does the heavy lifting as far as validation goes because it will save you a lot of time and consequently money too.

Check for Consistency

When you create a questionnaire, it has to be tested under different conditions; it is required to find possible errors in the questions themselves. Please keep in mind that if the question has errors then so will the answers to those questions.

When a questionnaire is created and has created checks for the data input like the max and min values, or conditions like prompting the person if an important field has been left empty or asking for a numeric value, etc. all of this helps to avoid mistakes. If these checks and balances aren’t put in place, it can end up making it impossible to validate the data received. Generally, the first few submitted questionnaires will need to be checked during the collection period to figure out what is going wrong. That’s why if an association has a large number of members, it is always best to send the questionnaires in batches. That way you get the chance to evaluate the answers and see if the questions are clearly answered. If not, then the questions can be improved to help improve data accuracy.

If something is found to be wrong with the survey questions, it has to be fixed before the second batch is sent. Using a Benchmark Tool makes it easier to adjust the questionnaire in real time before it is sent. At the end of the day, the cycle of fixing and resending the questionnaire helps to improve results greatly. Though you will have to fix the answers to the questions which have already been sent to you, in some cases, it will require that you get in touch with the members and ask them for relevant information.

Many smaller associations in our experience use a spreadsheet program sent to members who then fill out the questions. If that’s the case, you will want to send over a new spreadsheet to the members who have yet to participate and ask them to fill out the new spreadsheet. However, we have run into issues with this approach because some participants will still fill out the old spreadsheet, though the ratio of members doing that will be lower. To fix things each participating business that has submitted the old spreadsheet will need to be contacted and their data validated. Though if there isn’t a significant impact because it is from a small minority, their data can be skipped altogether.

Validate the Questionnaire

Many if not most performance benchmarking surveys from member businesses will be quantitative and so their data requires validation especially with questions that need more detail. Difficult questions can also disrupt the response. Also, the length of the questionnaire plays a major role. A much higher frequency of surveys, i.e. weekly, monthly or quarterly will result in fewer questions because you want consistency over time

When dealing with high-frequency benchmarks, the data will not have to be validated as frequently. So, you’re saving a lot of time, and it speeds up the benchmarking process. Plus, it also helps to save money since validating every question ends up being expensive. That’s why all questions can be validated each quarter.

Note: Benchmarks that are carried out more frequently are easier to validate because the questions have been honed to perfection. So, the questionnaires can just be automatically sent each period depending on the benchmarking frequency.


Gathering data and validating it is time-consuming but essential. The key is getting things right on the first go. That way you don’t have to deal with a lot of invalid information and spend time trying to fix everything.

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How we support you

We believe that benchmarking could be much simpler, cheaper and more efficient through professional automation. And we believe you can add much more value for your clients with intelligent automation.

  • More than 15 years of experience in benchmarking
  • Help on implementing the questionnaire
  • Support on analysing and reporting the results
  • Training you to conduct your own benchmarking surveys successfully