'Benchmarking is about bridging the gap between where we are and where we want to be.'
All organizations, public and private, are faced with increasing competition and those that provide public services have the additional demands of increased scrutiny and accountability. To meet these increased demands, new techniques have to be devised that allow institutions to stay ahead of the competition and allow them to demonstrate that they are performing well and providing value for money. Educational institutions need to develop tools that can be built into their own structures that allow them to learn both from their own successes and failures but also from the best practices of others.
In industry, benchmarking involves analysis of the best products and services available in a particular marketplace, or comparing best practices across industry sectors. These products or services become the targets or 'benchmarks' that the organization strives to meet. In education, benchmarking focuses on what are considered to be best practices and organizational features of special merit.
A benchmark is a standard against which to measure present performance. It is usually undertaken by seeking the best of the competition and understanding the way they produce quality. In manufacturing, benchmarking is a powerful tool in new product development. It involves evaluating any new product against that of the industry leader. It can be taken a stage further so that not only the product, but also the systems used to produce the product are compared. The essence of benchmarking is about