Strategic planning is an annual exercise at most successful organizations. This process is essential to discovering new areas of growth and establishing a road map for future development. Consumer demands are changing every day – often fed by rapidly evolving technologies. Keeping up with these changes is essential, but often difficult while immersed in day to day operations.
One way to keep current with the changing landscape and infuse new thinking into strategic planning is to start with an analysis of best practices. I recently completed a benchmarking and best practices analysis for a Fortune 100 company eager to improve their performance in customer service. We worked together for several months completing a robust assessment that resulted in new inspiration for the department with clear takeaways to apply to their own business.
Understanding best practices is important because it can help catapult performance to another level – if applied appropriately to an organization.
Key elements to conducting a successful best practices analysis include:
1. Verify the Leaders – Begin by identifying the leaders in the chosen space. Make a list of those companies admired both inside and outside of the relevant industry. Verify the leaders by searching for those companies who have won awards for best performance, or who are consistently ranked as best in class. Check with publications like Fortune, Forbes and Tech Crunch, or industry research groups like J.D. Power and Gartner.
2. Collect the Data – Begin researching the identified leaders in the field. Read articles, examine annual reports and record available information about how they pushed to the top of the heap. There will be important similarities between the leaders and key differences. Analyze the trends. If possible, work with an expert network like GLG to quickly access relevant professionals and set up conversations to gain more knowledge. Make a list of best practices, which companies embrace them and how these practices drive results.
3. Measure Your Performance – Establish metrics to measure your company performance and compare to the leaders. Data is sometimes hard to find, but there are resources to help such as: Similar Web to compare website traffic, NPS Benchmarks to compare Net Promoter Score, and data from annual reports of public companies to compare financial and other performance ratios.
4. Identify Gaps – Compare the approach and performance of the leaders to your company. Realistically identify the best practices that could be applied. Make a list of quick wins and longer-term aspirational goals.
5. Make it Yours – Each company culture is unique. Share the best practice research with your team and begin discussions about how to adjust and apply these practices. Armed with this research, the team will enter the strategic planning process sharper and more focused on what will drive innovation and results.
Taking time to reflect on past results and plan for the future is critical for all companies. Starting the planning process with an analysis of best practices will inspire the team with new ideas and a fresh perspective on growth.
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Sara Conte is a frequent contributor to online discussions about strategy, branding and entrepreneurship.