Benchmarking and the Value of Communication Among Managers
The primary and often overlooked benefit of participating in benchmark studies is in the sense of community it creates among benchmarking partners. Most organizations in our industry are open to all-encompassing memberships of information and training developers, editors, technical illustrators, managers and so on. Opportunities for groups of managers to convene to discuss issues that concern them all, compare their different approaches, and, together, arrive at a core of possible solutions, are all too rare.
Many large corporations see the value of this exchange, and they often bring their training, documentation, and customer service managers together for periodic meetings and seminars. However, while such meetings are very effective means to ensure that similar styles, approaches, and processes are being used across different groups within a corporation, they fail to inform managers about how competitors and others within the industry are confronting the same issues. Moreover, for the managers at single-site documentation groups-or simply at smaller companies-there are no opportunities to meet formally with peers.
By participating in benchmarking activities and attending summary conferences, managers create these new opportunities for sharing information; they extend their immediate circle of professional peers. Inasmuch as they have agreed to participate in the same benchmarking study, managers at the partner companies share similar concerns and are eager to learn more about the benchmark topic-most important, they are eager to learn from each other.
Julie Bradbury, Director of Operations for Information Transfer Operations at Cadence Design Systems, explains the value she found in benchmarking and partner communication:
I knew that by being a participant I could learn more about my own operation and gain insights from the efforts of others…The benchmark team members were accomplished professionals interested in the same issues and open to further discussions and sharing.
Jennifer Johnson, Publications Manager at Gerber Scientific Products, highlights some of the more specific benefits she gained from sharing information with her peers at a benchmarking conference:
The study and the partners’ conference satisfied all these needs and delivered unexpected value. One of the study partners presented a strategic plan for delivering user-centered documentation; we learned about new tools that are evolving to meet the needs our of