The art and science of benchmarking

In the first in his series on Benchmarking, Tim Podesta opens with an introduction to the subject, based on a presentation for a UK Chapter PMI webinar which he will be repeating for the APM on June 12th and as an evening seminar in October 16th for the PMI UK South Chapter.

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What is benchmarking?

Looking back at history, a benchmark was surveyor’s mark cut in a wall, pillar, or building and used as a reference point in measuring altitudes and levels. In today’s context, I like to describe benchmarking as the considered use of data as a way achieving three things.  Firstly, driving continuous improvement; secondly to support target setting and thirdly to foster sharing and learning across an organisation and with outside peers;

Put simply – Benchmarking is achieving important goals by comparing performance with colleagues and peers, using data.  To illustrate this, I have a personal and three professional examples which I will cover in a series of 4 blogs including this one.

Firstly, my personal example comes from my drive for better health and fitness through running.

Tim Podesta and his daughterIn the picture shown here I am with my daughter having completed the London Winter 10km charity run this February. We ran together, beat our target go under one hour and raised over £1000 for Cancer Research.

A big part of achieving this goal was based on using the fantastic Park Run – who has heard of that – who has run?   Park Run is a weekly 5km group run, held at 100’s of locations mainly in the UK but increasingly also around the world.  It starts at 9.00 am every Saturday morning, has changed many people lives and for me provides the motivation to participate and improve my performance, supported by easily accessible data.  The data comes from the clever use of technology and is a simple matter of registering on the Park Run web site,  With registration comes a bar code and when you finish the Park Run the timers scan your code and give you a recorded time – will all the others – over 170,000 people in the UK each weekend.  For me a big incentive is also running with family and friends.   You get a record of your performance each time you run and a comparison to your previous performance; a personal best recorded for each different course you run; a comparison to others and very usefully, an age related % performance.  This all supports of an overall goal of keeping fit, and healthy, having opportunities to spend time with friends and family and as a bonus raising money for charity.

I am sure you will have your own examples of Benchmarking where data helps you in achieving personal goals.  Over the four weeks I will share three professional examples of benchmarking at work, particularly in the context of projects and project management.

Tim Podesta, June 7, 2019

Read Tim’s second post in this series: Benchmarking Project Practices

Read Tim’s third post on Benchmarking on Major Gas Pipeline Projects

About the author

I am passionate about the art and science of Benchmarking; particularly in the matter of Projects and Project Management.

I celebrated 35 years with BP and completed my time with the company as an engineer, commercial manager and programme director in 2016.  I am now an independent consultant working on a portfolio of assignments with a focus on professional development – of myself and others.  My natural areas of subject matter expertise are Benchmarking, Investment Analysis and Front-End Planning for Projects based on my extensive industry experience which I continue to develop.

Register for Tim’s APM webinar on June 12th

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