Benchmarking performance across organisations

A problem we were facing recently was that our teams perceived their own progress as not being fast enough and were developing a sense that they were not performing well.

Sometimes it is useful to know how productive we are as an organisation and how our teams compare to teams in other companies. Are we world-class? Or do we still have a way to go until we’re as good as the companies we admire?  How are we doing compared to our competitors? And who can we learn from?

There is no easy and accurate way to benchmark organisations against each other, but with a bit of imagination and some assumptions we can come pretty close.

This is where iTunes comes in: all Apps have similar technology stacks and release information is publicly available.

iTunes Release Comparison

Below is a comparison of app releases by 10 companies from New Zealand and across the world, including Spotify, Vimeo, Trade Me, Amazon, Ebay, Xero, Kiwibank, Uber and AirNZ. We mapped every iTunes release for each of the apps between May 2014 and June 2015.

 

iTunes_release_benchmark(Click the image to enlarge or download the pdf)

We know this isn’t the full picture, nor is it an exact science, but it gives a visible and relevant comparison that served our purpose.

What could possibly go wrong?

We didn’t know how we were going to compare and were a bit nervous about what we’d find. We spent some time making sure we’d go into this benchmarking exercise with our eyes wide open and ready to deal with any hard facts we might discover.

How did we use this?

We printed out the release chart and stuck it on the wall with a clear prompt for people to stop and think about what it meant. We left sharpies and sticky notes alongside and waited to see what they said.

Overwhelmingly their responses were pleased and surprised that they were actually only slightly behind Spotify and Vimeo but way ahead of many of the other organisations in terms of release content and frequency.

Result

We’ve dispelled the myth that we’re not doing well, and brought back a sense of pride and achievement to the teams. This is a much better basis from which to improve!

 

what_does_this_make_you_think

 

Let me know what you think in the comments … :-)

If you’d like to make your own comparison, here are the Powerpoint and Keynote files.

 

Sandy Mamoli
3 Comments
  • Thanks for the post! I like the idea of teams being able to–if they want–check in on such things in order to calibrate their own sense. While it is of course important to always use continuous improvement from one’s own position as a compass, I think it can help to check your bearings against external things. A key place I find this personally helpful is in minimizing anxiety: if I am beating myself up about something in isolation, but can then get a bearings check and find that I am in pretty good shape compared to some external bar, I might lighten up and switch my improvement focus to something else.

    I especially like the open way you posted the iTunes info as a prompt for discussion. I want to find a similar method that doesn’t rely on iTunes, since our products aren’t in there. If I ever get around to it, I’ll post on my blog and credit you with a link back! Thanks for the cool idea!

    July 31, 2015 at 3:25 am
  • “What does that make you think?” can be a brought in as a series of mini-events (async, offline, voluntary) for individuals and teams to ponder, say once a week. A few of these in an iteration/sprint and we may have a more engaging and purposeful discussions in the retrospective.

    July 31, 2015 at 5:45 pm

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