“Benchmarking” is a term that is often used in discussions about best practices. There are a number of definitions of benchmarking. In the public sector, benchmarking may refer to metrics, or ratios of some measure. Examples include breaks/mile of pipe, #staff/1,000 customers, $/million gallons treated, and so on. Comparing benchmarks of this nature across agencies is generally non-productive due to differences in circumstances including geography, regional issues, and specific processes. A more productive approach is for a public agency to determine what practice performance benchmarks it will track, establish a current baseline performance level, and to compare its performance to itself over the course of time. This is “Practice Benchmarking” and is the basis for our evaluation of the Authority.This is our first clue that this group is a little lost on business analysis definitions and function. Benchmarking is the comparing of business activities and performance industry best practices, or the best practices of specific entities. The entire approach is defeated, and produces nothing usable if, as the report admits, it simply compares its practices to itself. This would never work in the free market. If you had the very worst performing company in an industry, and conducted a benchmark analysis where the company is only compared to itself, then you could create a glowing report, that in no way produces any tangible data regarding the organization's performance. Fulton puts it this way:
What they're saying is that they're using no objective measurements, or at least traditional objective measurements. They're simply comparing the Utility Authority to itself. So, I guess they went from terrible to less terrible.
Complete report here: http://www.cfpua.org/DocumentView.aspx?DID=1098.
In this document: http://www.cfpua.org/DocumentView.aspx?DID=1099 it becomes clear that the report writer(s) have no real understanding of basic business and marketing principles. This is astounding when you realize that our biggest quasi-government agency, the CFPUA, paid a whole lot of good money to hire them. For instance, they conduct a SWOT Analysis. They correctly define SWOT - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. However, their knowledge apparently meets its limits there.
First of all, each of their categories regularly contradicts other ones. As someone who has conducted real SWOT Analyses in the real world; where free market businesses must stay competitive, offer products consumers want, and maintain a unique presence in a cutthroat market; this is not an exercise to be taken lightly. It is a comprehensive review of not only the organization in question, but its competitors, and the market for which it operates in. Being that the CFPUA is a state-mandated monopoly, a true-to-form SWOT Analysis cannot be conducted in any real quantitative way. It's all smoke and mirrors - and bad ones at that.
Aside from the fact that each category provides no quantitative data to help pave a positive way forward, the "Threats" category is actually fundamentally wrongly defined. "Threats" within the context of a SWOT Analysis, is to examine the threats posed by outside forces of which one has no control over whatsoever. These could be competitive threats, competitor R&D threats, government regulatory threats, legal threats, and so on. The flimsy threats posed by this report simply reflect a rewording of the other categories, and are entirely within the control of the CFPUA.
An organization that provides a report like this in the free market would be out of business overnight. They would be mocked, ridiculed, and held up as a monument to failure. However, the rules are different in government. A company like this with no understanding of business analytics can actually pass itself off as an expert in business analytics, and carve out a lucrative existence.
The contradictions in this report are too many to count. For one, the CFPUA's communication with its customers is held up as excellent when it fits the template, and that it needs much improvement in other places. It even finds that to the CFPUA, customers are regarded as a "nuisance" (http://www.cfpua.org/DocumentView.aspx?DID=1099 pg.13). The solution to this reality is to make customers "advocates", which is laughable given the grossly incompetent and inefficient history of the CFPUA.
The report continues to go downhill from there, as it regularly claims that the CFPUA has excellent customer service, and customer satisfaction - which, as we know as customers of the CFPUA, is absolutely ridiculous.
We are never told exactly how the CFPUA earns its place as 5th best out of 80 similar organizations; but we do get a clear picture as to what happens when a government agency pays good money for a firm to analyze its performance - benchmarks are created that simply compare its performance to itself, and the report always gives a glowing forecast. This is yet another chapter in the very long annals of the absolute failures of the CFPUA.