Developing a Benchmarking Survey for Academic Members of an International Academy: How to Create and Refine Tools and Collect Data for Measuring Performance.

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Authors: Mandolen Mull, Greggory Keiffer, Julia Fulmore, Paul B. Roberts and Kim Nimon
Date: Jan-March 2019
From: Planning for Higher Education(Vol. 47, Issue 2)
Publisher: Society for College and University Planning
Document Type: Article
Length: 5,905 words

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Consistency of performance metrics and outcomes is a frequent goal within successful organizations. Benchmarking surveys, a popular tool employed in the business sector, allow organizations to monitor operational metrics (Welch and Mann, 2001). Additionally, benchmarking surveys are useful for defining and improving performance outcomes, both internally within an organization and comparatively with external competitors. Spendolini (1992) defined benchmarking as a systematic evaluation of best practices for the intended use of improving organizational services and processes. Despite encouragement for educational settings to adopt operational practices from their business colleagues (Epper, 1999; Marshall, 2008), benchmarking surveys are inconsistently utilized in higher education (Billings, Connors, and Skiba, 2001). Furthermore, the process of disseminating organizational practices revealed by benchmark survey results throughout peer organizations remains a crucial challenge for many organizations that employ benchmarking (Andersen and Camp, 1995).


The origination of benchmark tools is credited to Xerox Corporation in the 1970s, although it is argued that the practice began much earlier throughout organizations in Japan (Cassell, Nadin, and Grey, 2001). Voss, Ahlstrom, and Blackmon (1997) identified benchmarking as a catalyst not only for measuring organizational performance but also for use as a tool for improving internal organizational processes. As such, scholars and practitioners have used benchmarking surveys in the fields of human resources (Holt, 1994; Kossek and Lee, 2005), accounting (Elnathan, Lin, and Young, 1996), knowledge management (Chauvel and Despres, 2002), and the online instruction of various academic courses (Billings, Connors, and Skiba, 2001; Seiller and Billings, 2004).

While it is understood that benchmarking surveys can assist a myriad of organizations with defining, measuring, and improving performance outcomes (Andersen and Camp, 1995; Voss, Ã…hlstrom, and Blackmon, 1997), determining what aspects need to be measured is often difficult. Adam and VandeWater (1995) derived a series of implementation standards that stress the importance of identifying the critical factors needed for organizational success. Those factors include areas that present the most challenges, and the processes that contribute the most to performance outcomes and those that have the potential to differentiate the organization from competitors. Another important component to evaluate is the ability to transfer operational practices throughout the organization (Andersen and Camp, 1995), as well as among peer organizations. The initial step of identifying aspects to be measured is crucial to ensuring that the succeeding processes of data collection and analyses are successful (Partovi, 1994).

A comparison of the environments between those of higher education institutions and the business sector provides important possibilities for improving benchmarking survey efforts at higher education institutions. First, benchmarking survey projects are often more formal programs undertaken by businesses, compared to the frequent informal and "by-committee" approach in higher education, such as is true for the example in this article. The formalized approach within the business setting has the benefit of support by the organization's management team, and survey goals can be officially communicated by management. Second, a formal project in the business environment is generally funded at rates required for the success of the project, as estimated...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Mull, Mandolen, et al. "Developing a Benchmarking Survey for Academic Members of an International Academy: How to Create and Refine Tools and Collect Data for Measuring Performance." Planning for Higher Education, vol. 47, no. 2, Jan.-Mar. 2019, pp. 39+. Accessed 5 Dec. 2021.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A654225991