Inspect What You Expect: The Evolution of Benchmarking
By Jack Porter, GPorter Group LLC
(republished from January 2017 edition of Truckload Authority)
After spending 30 years in Dealer Twenty Groups, and now facilitating TCA’s Best Practice Groups (the only formal benchmarking program in the Truckload segment), I believe it is time for an evolution, if not a revolution, in the use of technology and business intelligence.
I entered my first heavy-duty truck dealer Twenty Group in 1985 and to this day, I believe the ability to measure your financial performance versus a set group of similar businesses is the most impactful part of Benchmarking. Specifically, due to the unique process where Businesses can compare and contrast their business with fellow businesses, and share best practices in a known and comparable environment. I believe these groups are a very successful business tool that need to evolve.
One of the key benefits of the dealer Twenty Group program and TCA’s benchmarking program is a high-level discussion with business owners about like challenges in their businesses. These discussions include intimate sharing of best practices, technology solutions, incentive programs, cost reduction processes, and business intelligence, which generally give the leaders opportunities to enhance their business through trusted advisors to their business.
Carriers have realized that this process aides them in their business decisions, and enhances their network of trusted confidants that they can bounce other ideas of off for support.
Over time, the Benchmarking Groups have also evolved into inviting Carrier Managers to these meetings as well when discussion topics support their attendance. This has proven to be a great opportunity to train the manager group, and to give a voice to challenges and solutions within their area of responsibility. Managers also can then develop their own network of trusted sources as carrier principals have done.
The ability to identify industry or individual challenges within a business can now be attacked when you return to the business. The managers can set goals and action items to start implementing to help address that unique challenge in their business. Those goals are then documented and tracked month-to-month, with a recap discussion when that topic comes up again in the Benchmarking Group meeting rotation. The Carrier then depends on the execution and monthly follow up within the everyday business of their own management communication rhythm.
Unfortunately the highly focused results from Benchmarking Group sessions and the resulting execution plans that come from them also can inevitably fall prey to the chaotic business environment returning to day-to-day business operation. Business continues, and that merry-go-round has a tendency to quickly catapult those new fresh ideas off of the business platform after a certain period of time. There are many internal practices and processes that can help assure insertion of these plans into your current business culture, but usually, the chaos prevails. Good ideas need to be great ideas with immediate impact to withstand the headwinds of chaos.
Through technology we can compare and contrast in many different forms today. Three years ago, I was part of a group that was tasked with modernizing TCA’s Best Practice Groups. The clear mandate of this process was to build tools to support: 1) The communication of peer group performance within the BPG program, and within the operations of member companies, 2) Aide the decision making process to leverage the valuable, and growing dataset from the program, and finally 3) Provide an intake program for future BPG members to acclimate themselves to the data standards and metrics developed by BPG members over the past 14 years. I am pleased to announce that we have completed this mandate. The key cornerstone to the modernization of the BPG program is inGauge, the only dedicated online performance benchmarking cloud platform in the trucking industry. Now that the mandate has been achieved, our team has already clearly demonstrated a commitment to ensuring inGauge is the premier platform for benchmarking in ANY industry.
Going forward, our members have provided valuable feedback to direct our future development, namely: 1) Provide a clear link between the quantitative and qualitative (data and action). This will be achieved via the inGauge Actions Project Management platform (which will be launched at TCA Convention in Nashville). Further, users will have the ability to contribute to our qualitative data via ongoing micro surveys. These two new features will be an innovative way to capture and leverage data unavailable via any other platform in the marketplace. 2) Reduce or eliminate data inputs/retrieval. Utilizing a fully functional API, BPG and online participants can already push their benchmarking data to inGauge. In the future, with help from companies like McLeod Software, we envision a frictionless program whereby data is pushed to inGauge automatically each month, week, day and minute. Taking this one step further, retrieving data from other external data sources for members to leverage. Such as FMCSA, DATA.gov etc. Finally, 3) The ability for members to retrieve the relevant benchmarking and internal data in the way they want to consume it.
On January 15, 2017, inGauge will launch a custom online composite. This composite will allow users to build their own version of the existing composite (within Antitrust safeguards). This new feature, has been built entirely based on feedback from early inGauge adopters (who also happen to be the industry high performing leaders). Taking this one step further, inGauge will release Leading Indicators 2.0 in the Spring of 2017, which will provide subscribers with custom Business Intelligence dashboards to measure their daily and weekly KPIs, that are unique and critical to their success.
The evolution of Benchmarking from High Level Strategic Planning and Best Practice sharing, to an Execution Model of Success is the Future of the Well Run, Profitable Business. I look forward to the future, and look forward to being able to give our Carriers a new and improved Benchmarking Group process that will build on its current success!
If you interested in learning more about Benchmarking, please feel free to contact me ([email protected]) or my teammate Chris Henry, inGauge Program Manager ([email protected]).