Benchmarking can be an extremely effective way to manage institutional performance yet the vast majority of schools do not utilize benchmarks to assess the performance of their Student Financial Services.
Simply put, a benchmark is a way to discover the best performance being achieved. It gives you a sense of what is possible. It can validate what you are already doing. It can inspire as a case for change. Benchmarking alone can’t accomplish any of those things but can serve as an important catalyst.
Organizations that make extensive use of benchmarks subscribe to the following tenets:
- Benchmarking should focus on Best Practices. The data is just a starting point, a reflection of the process that produced them. Understanding the process is often more important than the result itself.
- Benchmarking should be collaborative. The best way to get color on the data is to engage a colleague in conversation. Industry groups such as NACUBO provide a number of resources to foster cross-institution collaboration.
- Benchmarking should focus on continuous improvement. If you decide to commit to benchmarking, to be most effective it can’t be a one-and-done project, but rather an integral part of a continuous improvement program.
- Benchmarking should be adaptive. We all recognize that no two institutions are identical. Your institution isn’t exactly like any institution that participates in a benchmark study. Use the results as a guide post, not an absolute.
- Benchmarking should be action-focused. If you don’t have the time, resources, bandwidth, or desire to change your current processes, don’t bother benchmarking. There are less time-consuming ways to get positive affirmation.
I recently had the opportunity to present the results of the NACUBO Student Financial Services Benchmark Study in Atlanta, GA. TMS has sponsored that study for the past 7 years and fully supports its mission. Click on the link below if you would like to visit the NACUBO site and download a copy of the 2014 Report.