The Benchmarking Journey: A Path to Guaranteed Performance Improvement

Posted by Natasha Engan on March 11, 2020

Consultant Reviewing a Project Dashboard

You know your business better than anybody. You know its people, its clients, its skills and achievements, and its hard-won victories and the things you’d do differently next time around. It is important to celebrate your wins, but you know it is just as important to the success of your company to look more closely at why you won, and how. Or why you might have lost a deal or how things may have turned sour on that one project.

Beginning an effective benchmarking discipline, or perfecting an existing one should also include comparison with your industry-leading peers, for perspective.  How can you replicate their successes and learn from their downfalls as well as your own? Remember, regardless of the findings within your own organization, and those of your competitors, all benchmarks have one thing in common:  they represent a marker in your continuous benchmarking journey that will likely end in performance improvement. So why wait? 

In a recent Deltek Project Nation blog, I contributed a number of tips to prepare your organization culturally and tactically for the establishment of a new benchmarking practice, or for upgrading your existing one. They included identifying areas of the business that could use improvement, getting buy-in from other members of the leadership team, comparing your firm with “the Best of the Best” using an industry standard report like the 2020 SPI Professional Services Maturity Benchmark, and being realistic about what resulting change may be required, or even possible.


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With those tips in your back pocket, I offer a few more to get you started with the actual benchmarking and resulting improvement plans:

  1. Slow and steady wins the race. In leading a 400-employee global services organization at Deltek I’ve learned the value of benchmarking with patience, over years, for incremental wins. Across the last several years of continually upgrading our benchmarking practice, the benefits of moving the needle forward, however slightly, have become very clear. Although we really want to reach a Level 4 maturity, we happily celebrate every tiny advancement toward that goal. With this winning approach, you’ll stay refreshingly realistic with other stakeholders and always be able to show winning improvement. It’s simply a matter of time.
  2. Client and employee satisfaction are gold. Though revenue growth, billable utilization and margins may seem the most obvious to measure, high client satisfaction (and the ability to measure it) as well as reference-ability are big drivers of repeatable project success. And though you may be tempted to measure only utilization, find a way to measure employee career trajectory and satisfaction in cooperation with an HR resource. After all, the only way to win the war on talent is to retain the treasured staff you have. And the way to win more business at a lower cost-to-acquire is through repeat business.
  3. Lean in to an inclusive set of data. Simply put, you’ve got to learn to love the data. Deltek drinks our own champagne when it comes to collecting and analyzing business and project data because the technology provides a global, project-based perspective on the more than 150 benchmarks we measure per year. Using financials alone to measure your business success is selling short your ability to improve in the areas of talent, operations, and client satisfaction, so collect in additional areas.
  4. Don’t be afraid to pluck the low hanging fruit. Whetheryou want to reach a new high in your deal pipeline, bid-to-win ratio, revenue growth, new clients, enthusiastic references, or dozens of other measures, your benchmarking efforts will also highlight the areas where improvements are crucial. Understand the value of change in those areas, but count the number of improvements you make each year on one hand, and don’t be afraid to pluck the low-hanging fruit. A win is a win is a win! 

You’ve established the need for improvement in your organization, lined up leadership support and readied the ship for some incremental changes to weather the storm. The next step is simply getting started or making upgrades to your benchmarking practice. I hope these actionable tips are helpful in sending you on your way. 

Watch the 2020 SPI Benchmark Reveal webinar to learn more about which handful of KPIs might best influence your firm’s growth.


About the Author

As Deltek's Senior Vice President of Global Consulting, Natasha Engan is responsible for leading the company’s services business, Deltek Global Consulting. A 20+ year veteran of the software and services business, Natasha has a strong background in managing cross-functional, customer-facing teams in a global workforce. Connect with Natasha Engan on LinkedIn.



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