07 Aug, 2023
Benchmarking News Image

As the backbone of transportation infrastructure, highways demand careful monitoring and strategic planning to meet the ever-changing needs of users. One powerful tool that supports continuous improvement in highways asset management is benchmarking – but what is it and how can XAIS help you embrace it?

Benchmarking, in the context of asset management, is a process of evaluating and comparing the performance, costs, operating models and practices of one local authority’s highways team against those of other similar organisations or industry standards.

By analysing the data and best practices of top-performing peers, authorities can gain invaluable insights into their own performance – identifying areas of improvement and potential efficiencies. Those that are members of benchmarking clubs also enjoy opportunities for networking with industry colleagues during and after data analysis.

The Power of Data-Driven Decision Making

In the past, highways asset managers have had to rely on manual data collection and subjective decision-making processes – which could often be inefficient and not always lead to the best outcomes.

Benchmarking has the potential to improve on this by opening up opportunities for a more comprehensive data-driven approach.

By being part of a benchmarking club, data on asset management activities, lifecycle planning, annual works programmes, financial strategy, organisational structures, recruitment processes, safety records, and a host of other performance metrics become easily accessible – providing a clear picture of how well an authority’s road network and processes compare with others.

With access to a comprehensive and standardised data from various sources, authorities enjoy a number of advantages:

1. No hidden surprises

Benchmarking involves looking at current trends in data and projecting future trends depending on what you aim to achieve. To know if you have been successful, benchmarking needs to be a continuous process. Monitoring performance is an inherent characteristic of it and ensures team members have a true appraisal on ongoing performance.

2. Continuous improvement

As well as monitoring performance, continuous improvement is an essential attribute of benchmarking. This is because the aim of benchmarking is to improve a certain element of a business. This improvement should not merely be something that improves once and is forgotten, but something that improves over time and is continuous.

3. Effective planning and goal setting

Once benchmarking has been carried out, goals and performance metrics are set in order to improve performance. These goals will be new, more competitive targets for an organisation but they must be achievable. If goals are unrealistic to achieve teams become demotivated and goals are destined to remain unfulfilled. Benchmarking helps teams identify where performance markers lie and prove that they are achievable.

4. Encourage ownership and pride

When organisations look at their processes and metrics they need to ask hard questions to get all the answers they need. This includes talking to everyone in the business and understanding their roles. By asking these questions and gaining a better understanding of everyone’s role, ownership for processes and performance is encouraged. This responsibility is a catalyst for pride in jobs and the work people do. This pride leads to better performance and higher-quality end results.

5. A clear path to success

Benchmarking identifies where your company is right now compared to where you want it to go. If you are looking at improving any process in your business, benchmarking is a way of looking at how you can excel and become more successful through outlining the specific steps needed to achieve your goal.

An extra incentive

While all responsible authorities should be constantly comparing themselves with peers to ensure they are delivering high quality and consistent services, there is some financial reward available as an added incentive.

Established with the vision of encouraging collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement, the Department for Transport (DfT) Incentive Fund incentivises local highway authorities to enhance their asset management practices.

A number of questions refer to performance management frameworks, continuous improvement, operational reviews and good practice approach.

In fact, within the self-assessment questionnaire, question 15 specifically asks:

Does your local authority actively undertake benchmarking to drive improvement in its highway maintenance service?

Those authorities that can demonstrate active membership of a benchmarking club can score well in a response to this question, while those that can demonstrate an overall trend of improvement by using performance reports from the club – and that they are collaborating with other club members get top marks.

This approach fosters a cooperative spirit and facilitates the exchange of knowledge among authorities, accelerating the rate of improvement across the industry.

Introducing the XAIS Benchmarking Club

As benchmarking has emerged as a crucial tool in highways asset management we want to make it as easy as possible for authorities to harness the power of collective data and knowledge.

Through the introduction of the XAIS Benchmarking Club we are aiming to bring authorities together and establish a co-ordinated approach to benchmarking. While still in early stages, we already have several authorities signed up to participate and are actively creating the framework for how we will operate.

There are options for us to share data we hold within our XA© Asset Management Platform with Benchmarking Club members which would focus on asset management indicators such as inventories, works programmes, condition data, condition projection, asset valuation and more.

While this would provide quick and easy results, our aim is to broaden the scope even further to develop more detailed benchmarking with the help of authorities across the country. With their help, we can monitor and report on a wide range of operational and strategic markers too.

And, as always, we are fully embracing the collaborative spirit so are actively canvassing opinions from authorities of how they would like a benchmarking club to operate, how they could best support it and what role we can play it making sure this has an immediate tangible impact.

That way we can build better roads for the future together – creating a lasting legacy of reliable and safe transportation for generations to come.


Interested in the XAIS Benchmarking Club?

If you’d like to find out more about how you can get involved with the XAIS Benchmarking Club, help shape its early formation and enjoy the benefits of data-driven decision making, please contact the team.