Bruce Penson, managing director at business IT support provider Pro Drive IT, explains the importance of IT benchmarking and how to get started.
As the demand for advanced digital services and applications increases, organisations have a new priority: ensuring their IT capabilities allow them to keep pace with the competition.
With customers and employees alike coming to expect a heightened level of service delivery, businesses must assess whether their systems are performing in line with the industry standard if they don’t want to get left behind.
But how do you know if your technical stack matches up to expectations?
That’s where IT benchmarking comes in.
Benchmarking compares the practices, processes and outcomes of your business’ IT investments with others in your sector to assess whether you’re performing above, on or below average. This process gives you superior visibility of your business’ IT — and unlocks insights that can help drive business growth …
What are the benefits of IT benchmarking?
Benchmarking is a great way to measure your business metrics, revealing what you’re doing well (and what you could do better) and providing valuable insight into where performance gaps might need filling.
In business technology benchmarking, the process usually begins with an in-depth analysis of your organisation’s IT infrastructure. Each area and capability receives a score to indicate its current state.
Alone, these metrics don’t have much value; the value comes in comparing your results over time — both with previous measurements and those recorded by other enterprises in your sector.
For example, by analysing the results of an audit, you might realise other companies in your field are spending more on customer-facing services. This disparity could suggest you’re not investing enough in improving customer experiences — a crucial factor in the competitive online business world.
The same goes for cyber security; a benchmarking audit could demonstrate that you’re not prioritising your IT security budget enough, presenting vulnerabilities that could damage your business and slow down your digital transformation.
In the early stages of your benchmarking journey, your audits will likely reveal several of these weaknesses. But don’t be alarmed — it’s all for the greater good …
Once you know the level you should be functioning at, you’ll have the opportunity to upgrade your IT infrastructure, shift your spending or otherwise find ways to problem-solve and align IT with your business goals.
Following this process can reduce costs, boost efficiency and improve customer satisfaction. But remember — IT benchmarking isn’t a one-and-done exercise. To truly benefit, your company must consistently measure its activities (and the right ones) to ensure it’s moving in the right direction.
So, what areas should you prioritise when benchmarking — and why?
What goes into a successful benchmarking strategy?
No two companies are the same, so every IT benchmarking framework is different.
However, once you’ve identified what capabilities and services are most important to your company and customers, there are a few crucial maturity areas you’d be wise to track to get you closer to achieving your goals.
As the cost-of-living crisis rolls on, making the most of your IT investments is crucial. Fail to allocate enough resources for improvement, and you’ll be left in the digital dirt. Pour too much budget into the wrong tech, and your money will go to waste.
Benchmarking your IT spending against others in your industry and measuring it against business performance over time can help you optimise your budget strategy and minimise unnecessary costs in the long run.
With more operations shifting online and to the cloud, ensuring your IT systems are up to scratch and able to handle increasing traffic and access requests is crucial.
Any clunky hardware or system inefficiencies could interrupt your operations, leaving employees and customers unable to access your services — which can seriously impact your bottom line.
By internally and externally benchmarking uptime and the continuity of your IT services, you can quickly pinpoint where disruption might’ve occurred and ensure you’re performing in line with industry standards.
Cyber security is the term on everybody’s lips — for a good reason. The government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022 revealed that 39% of UK businesses had identified a cyber attack in the past year, and the threat landscape only worsens as cyber attacks become more sophisticated.
Auditing your IT security systems can help you track specific areas for improvement, measure how effectively tools prevent breaches and, most importantly, justify more budget where needed to reinforce your cyber defences.
Compliance is king in business IT, so it’s vital to ensure your systems match the regulatory expectations set out by frameworks like ISO 27002.
The ISO 27002 standard is a collection of information security guidelines intended to help organisations implement, maintain and improve their information security management.
This benchmark has many benefits — from providing a framework for resolving security issues and building consumer confidence to reducing insurance premiums and minimising security risk. By becoming certified with the relevant standards, businesses gain a vital selling point to help them stand out.
So, now you know where you stand with your IT — and what systems could use a little TLC. But how do you go about making the necessary improvements?
The next step is strategy, using the insights you’ve gained from your benchmarking to inform your decision-making. This stage is where you’ll start to see real improvements — but it takes a lot of time and expertise to get right.
So, if you’re not regularly discussing implementing technical standards alongside your business plans, getting a third party involved might be a good idea.
Outsourcing your business IT strategy to a specialist can take the pressure off — and allow you to focus on growing your operations. An external service provider can take the time to understand your business plans, where you’re already succeeding and what’s holding you back, before transforming your IT into a tool that adds real value to your business.
Many businesses have already enlisted an outside expert to reap the rewards of a carefully considered IT strategy and stay ahead of their competition. So, it’s worth considering: could your business benefit from this kind of support?