Benchmarking: the utility and futility.

So I’m doing some work on an ICT strategy at the moment and I’ve been thinking about costs.  And value delivered.

We’ve got cost data coming out of ears in the social housing sector, but precious little about value.
For our own organisation, I’ve pulled all the detailed transaction data for the last three years.  Go on, ask me how we spend on mobiles calls and data. It’s in the monster spreadsheet (Top tip, check out the public sector framework agreement rates – and save yourself a whole mountain of time & procurement service fees.  They’re good).  
There’s also a mountain of benchmarking data knocking around.  Courtesy of our participation in the HouseMark benchmarking club (and a cursory review of some VFM statements indicates many of us do), I also know how our organisation compares to other similar-sized HAs.  There are graphs.  Many graphs.  Total cost, spend per unit, spend per staff FTE….
But it all feels a bit TBI.  True But Irrelevant.
If you’re trying to innovate, comparing your costs to the rest of the pack isn’t adding much useful insight.  
I’m *really* interested in our total cost to serve being good in comparison to our peers.  But much less so in the component parts of how that’s broken down.
What I’d really love to get to grips with, is what proportion of turnover (or total cost) do other industries spend on their tech.  Especially industries that are delivery a service to the public, with an element of unavoidable face-to-face contact and for customers with limited incomes and limited choices.  That would be interesting.
And I’d love some insight on how to truly measure “value” when it comes to technology spending.  I can come up with narrative, but I’d like a simple set of measures I could run over time.  
Are any other HA tech folk thinking about this too?
{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Mike Eckersley March 25, 2015, 2:06 pm

    Hi Jayne
    It’s a common problem – and I well remember similar conversations with my CEO, when I was a Head of ICT. It’s not about how much you spend – but about what you get for it – and then what you do with what you get for it!
    When I conduct an ICT review, I am far more focussed on whether there is a well-developed ICT strategy, which is aligned with the corporate goals and objectives – and in fact whether ICT is an enabler for the organisation. Following that it is important to understand whether ICT is properly equipped to deliver that strategy – in terms of its infrastructure, skills, organisational structure and governance. If it isn’t – then inevitably, spend will be required to correct that – so financial benchmarking can start to seem irrelevant!
    Ultimately an organisation must decide for itself, how important strategically,ICT is to delivering its goals and spend accordingly – rather than looking at how much everyone else spends…

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