Posted tagged ‘public sector benchmarking’

Public Sector Benchmarking

January 13, 2010

Private businesses frequently compare or benchmark their performance to other companies. In the competitive environment of seeking new customers, new products and new efficiencies, it is good to know how one compares.

While government services are not provided in a competitive environment, they are provided in an environment where funding is scarce and customer needs must be met. Benchmarking government services with other similarly sized towns, cities and counties is a great way to measure and improve performance.

Nine cities recently teamed up with researchers from the University of North Carolina to determine whether benchmarking with other cities would be a beneficial tool. The area that was selected to focus on was the development review process that a private developer must work through to get approval for a project. The focus was on finding a development review process that is fast, thorough and fair. Although community characteristics and desires vary, there are common elements in development review that can be found across all local governments.

While no one likes the amount of time it takes to study and analyze anything, it is an important and necessary step. After two years of work and taking a look at 160 cities and counties, three benchmarking partners were identified. The three top performing municipalities had five common characteristics:

1) A commitment to delivering services at a level and cost that match the scale of development in their community.

2) Customer-focused services

3) Transparency

4) Reliance on high-functioning technology

5) Extraordinary relationship with Information Technology support personnel

At the end of the project 78 specific ideas for improving the development review process were identified. After a few months 38 of the 78 ideas had been implemented by at least one of the nine participating cities. Two years is a long time to research and learn about what other cities are doing. Certainly a shorter time frame could be utilized to do a less exhaustive comparison. Obtaining 78 ideas for change can have a significant impact on improving a cities economic development efforts. Lord knows two years of the status quo can be a terrible price to pay for doing nothing new and innovative.

Your job as an elected official or a community leader is to hold people accountable. As the old saying goes “what gets measured gets done”, determine what is important in your community and measure your success in making a difference.

What do you think about using benchmarking as a tool to measure and improve government performance?