Benchmarking has been in business for dozens of years. It is known well in the retail industry, where phantom shoppers visit the competition and try to get intelligence on their pricing for certain products. And for years now, this discipline has been available to organizations with web sites, using a newer discipline of Performance Benchmarking.
So what is Benchmarking?
Benchmarking is an ongoing, systematic process for measuring and comparing the work processes of one institution to those of another, by bringing an external focus to internal activities, functions, or operations.
Benchmarking provides key personnel, in charge of processes, with an external standard for measuring the quality and cost of internal activities, and help identify where opportunities for improvement may reside.
Now what is Performance Benchmarking?
Moving the classic discipline of benchmarking online, Performance Benchmarking uses various technologies to collect metrics for competing organizations in order to achieve competitive information. The first wave of Performance Benchmarking has leveraged synthetic monitoring tools from Gomez and Keynote. These companies provide the technology to systematically measure common metrics of different web sites in a way to compare them.
The most common metric used is Response Time, which measures how long it takes to download a web page. If you showed the above graph to your CEO and told him your biggest competitor was colored in Red, do you think you’d get the Content Delivery Network solution you have been begging for? Absolutely!
Benchmarking Provides Relevance
So let’s try to review some real reasons to use Performance Benchmarking at your Organization:
- Quantifiable metrics. Like getting prices information, Performance Benchmarking helps you understand where you rank against key competitors with actionable metrics.
- Achievable Actions. When you choose to act, the results of your action should be easy to prove using the same benchmark. This allows you to determine appropriate usability and performance targets.
- Solid Framework. No more squishy “I think we are getting better“or mushy metrics like Reduced Calls to the Call Center. You can understand competitive investments that will help your site and validate the techniques in context, in real-time.
Benchmarking is a Critical Success Factor
Digging deeper in the relevance for benchmarking, the metrics generated by the technology and process you leverage become critical for the following reasons:
- Provides Shared Metrics. Everyone in the organization can see the results. Note the best benchmarks leverage a Business Process benchmark to really improve. This allows for alignment across the organization without every department measuring success in their own data silos.
- Provides Context. By focusing on the benchmark results, prioritization, decision-making and goal-setting becomes much easier when the focus and context moves from “Upgrading the Web Tier” to “Our customers now can log in twice as fast“. Nothing helps your improvement project as total focus on the End User.
- Demonstrates Improvement Over Time. Once you start your benchmark, it is very easy to determine how your site is doing. Daily, weekly, monthly, and even annually. Since Gomez and Keynote provide easy-to-use web-based interfaces, everyone in the organization can get reports and emails showing how the site is doing. Good-bye to those huge dashboard projects that never get done.
How do you know that Performance Benchmarking will help?
Finally, you’ll know when Benchmarking will help if any of these scenarios ring soundly inside your organization:
- A Lack of clear prioritization describing which parts of the web application should be improved first,
- Uncertainty regarding how best to compare against direct and indirect online competitors,
- Little focus on the competition and what relative performance means to the business,
- Only have anecdotal evidence that there is a performance gap versus the competition.
So, go out and Benchmark today!