Are You Setting up a New Initiative? Don’t Start from Scratch!
“One of Israel’s most important institutions is setting up an information center,” I hear from Alon, CEO of the company responsible for setting it up. His company will lead on the whole process – from methodology via execution and through to implementation.
The intention is to make pertinent information accessible to the institution’s research and hands-on personnel – both internal information from across the organization, and external information on what is happening around the world in their core areas of interest.
Alon and the institution’s management decided to conduct benchmarking as one of the first steps in setting up the center.
The objective: To understand and map how information centers operate in other countries – what works well, and what less so? And what would be the best ways to set up the information center in question?
We opted to focus on a variety of features, including work processes, the level of the budget allocated to information center activity, manpower characteristics, the technological infrastructure used, target audiences, and so on.
Then we got down to work…
First, we conducted wide-ranging internet research from which we mined a great deal of extremely useful information. But we didn’t stop there – we also made sure to meet with and talk to leading information center managers in diverse locations.
We learned a lot!
We learned about successes; we learned about failures; we learned about aspirations and about many of the objective and subjective limitations encountered when attempting to set up the ultimate information center.
Next, we made the following five deductions (which, by the way, are not relevant to information centers only):
When it comes to benchmarking, be aware that information is abundant out there in the field. You simply need to look in the right places…
People are willing to share what they know, irrespective of their breadth of experience. We found that regardless of whether they are experts or leading professionals in their particular field, most people are happy to share their experience with you and offer advice. I suggest you enjoy this generosity of spirit.
Meet, meet, meet. Don’t settle for surfing websites or make do with phone calls. The intelligence revealed in direct conversation is generally the most valuable information of all. In face-to-face conversations, people are more open, and happy to talk about and share a lot of material that you cannot find on the web or in documents in the public domain.
Despite what I said in the previous point, discussions in social media can uncover information that may prove of value. It is amazing what nuggets of information people will generously share with you in open and closed groups, and even when you contact them directly through the web.
Be meticulous in selecting the entities against which you conduct benchmarking. In fact, this should probably be your first step. Filtering was a very important part of our work process. In other words, we selected entities – information centers in this case – that were most relevant to our analysis. We started with a very long list, which we reduced to focus on entities similar to the institution for which we were working. We made sure to examine and analyze only centers from which we could produce information that would be suitable and pertinent to our client.
Alon has now started setting up the information center and he’s doing this on a solid foundation of knowledge, which means that he can move forward speedily. He has, after all, learned from the mistakes and the successes of others and is in the enviable position of knowing how to tweak information to this particular institution.
In terms of immediate benefit, we’ve helped him leapfrog several stages. He’s not starting from scratch. In the long run, he’s saving money, uncertainty, mistakes and valuable time.