Benchmarking is a process of comparing your process, program, department or institution against the best in the field. Unlike "peer" comparisons that are focused on like types and seek to set a standard, benchmarks are more aspirational in nature. Who is the best at whatever it is? Let's find them and see how they know they're the best, how they do what they do well, and let's find what we can learn from them and apply it.
"Peer" comparisons tend to always be in the same field. Benchmarking may take you outside the sanctity of higher education. If you were in admissions, perhaps you would look at hotel "admissions" or admissions to a hospital to find a benchmark. If you're a nursing department, you may decide to look at a hospital with the best nursing education department or even the best nursing program. What is it they do that you can transfer to your system?
The steps will vary greatly depending upon the project, but here is a basic outline of what might need to occur:
1. Create the team. Make sure all stakeholders are represented.
2. Understand and describe what it is you're working with at UCO. For instance, if it's a process you want to benchmark, do a process map so that you thoroughly understand what happens here.
3. Identify comparable campuses or other places recognized for expertise in the area you are benchmarking. Institutional Research maintains a list of peer institutions that will serve if you have no other institutions in mind.
Remember, it does not always have to be higher education that you use as a comparison.
4. Gather data through research, which may include interviews with members of your benchmark institutions.
5. Analyze the data. What is it that they do that is different?
6. Recommend changes, based on your study, that you want to consider for adaptation.
7. Monitor the adaptations. Don't assume that they will work here- follow-up. This is the PDCA cycle in action.
R.M. Epper, (1999, November/December), "Applying Benchmarking To Higher Education", Change, pp. 24-31.
S.C. Rush, (1993) "Benchmarking-How Good Is Good?" In Joel W. Meyerson & William F. Massy (Eds.), Measuring Institutional Performance In Higher Education (pp. 83-97), Princeton, N.J.: Petersons'
The Stanford Forum for Higher Education Futures. B.S. Shafer and L.E. Coate, (1992, November), "Benchmarking in Higher Education: A Tool for Improving Quality and Reducing Cost", NACUBO Business Officer, pp. 28-35.
J.W. Alstete, (1995), "Benchmarking In Higher Education: Adapting Best Practices To Improve Quality", ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 5, Washington D.C.: The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development.