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Project Management methodology >

Benchmarking means visiting other organization to find out why their processes may be better. Look for organizations that are best in the class.

 Benchmarking offers the following benefits.

  1. You learn from other people's experiences.
  2. Allows you to tap into other peoples ideas when looking for better ways to implement things.

Benchmarking Success Stories

Brian Mullen has repeated applied benchmarking as a strategy particularly to acquire knowledge.

Benchmarking Systems Development Methodologies


Graphics Mapping System

MacMillan Bloedel wished to select a mapping system to map natural forest resources. They selected Boeing Computer Services to assist them. Brian Mullen recognized that our knowledge within the team was low. Challenges: how do we know we have selected the best vendor for the client's requirements. We were learning the benchmarking process and about mapping software at the same time. Our first visits were local. During the process we learned who the two top venders were. In the end the client wanted to choose a vendor whom had a capability they were looking for. But I recommend the second vendor, Integraph because the organization had more depth of experienced programmers from the US Space program. 

BC Forest Products and BC Ministry of Forests end up selecting Integraph software based on MacMillan Bloedels choice.




Microsoft Product Innovation

Microsoft introduced many innovative products that overwhelmed market leaders. Microsoft Windows overwhelmed IBM’s OS2. IBM invested billions in OS2. Microsoft programmed a portion of OS2 under contract. When IBM and Microsoft negotiated a separation, IBM retained ownership of OS2 and Microsoft kept Windows. At the time Windows suffered a 64k memory limitation with OS2 was a 32 bit operating system. IBM assumed Windows was crippled. What they did not know that a Microsoft had discovered a way to overcome the 64k limit. A Microsoft programmer prototyped a method to overcome the limitation. Microsoft released Windows 3 and OS2 sank into oblivion. How can we benchmark Microsoft to learn the secrets from their success? Do you think that we could phone up Bill Gates and ask to benchmark Microsoft?

Benchmarking Microsoft Software DEvelopment Process
Attend talks by executives. Outlined steps in process to produce products.
  1. Multiple prototypes.
  2. Idea collage.
  3. Unifying metaphor.
  4. Iterative improvement.
  5. Semantic coding.
  6. Usability testing.
Invite speakers for dinner. Attended a conference in Seattle where Microsoft Speaker was before lunch. Establish contact at question period and ask him for lunch. He provided an example of these innovation steps in action.
Attend conferences. Discussions at Microsoft Project booth with member of Microsoft Project development team. He solved a problem that had been bugging me for months so I was really happy. Later that night I realized what a fool I had been. How often do you get a chance to talk to a member of a Microsoft Project development team member? The next day I would approach him and ask him to dinner but the trade show attached to the conference had closed up. I had missed a chance to talk to a member of a Microsoft development team.
Visit Microsoft campus.

We refined our benchmarking process.
Benchmarking Process
Identify target process to improve
Select best-in-class companies
Preliminary Interview by telephone Prepare List of insterview questions
  • What are your first comments?
  • Have you completed implementation?
  • Describe what you have accomplished? What would you do differently next time?
  • What other alternatives did you look at?
Arrange the benchmarking visit. Most organizations very happy to assist you. They will learn as much as you do.
Prepare for visit Define the roles for everyone on the team.
Visit benchmark prospect on site
Compile benchmarking results from visit Immediately after the visit hold a debriefing session with your team while the results are still fresh in your mind.
Update Benchmarking methodology

Copyright June 16, 2005 Brian Mullen, I.S.P. information systems planning corp. Last updated: January 12, 2014

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