benchmarking data center

How to Create a Benchmarking Survey for Data Centers

Following these steps and best practices to create and deploy a benchmarking survey and report.

By David Boston  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: In Critical Facilities, Benchmarking Data Justifies ChoicesPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Take Our Benchmarking Survey: Data Center Facility Operating Costs

If you create your own benchmarking survey, the following steps and guidelines should be helpful.

First, determine the number of comparison organizations you wish to display in your benchmarking report. Leverage your suppliers and consultants for contact information for those with operations most similar to yours. Make sure the list includes at least 50 percent more organizations than your desired number of comparisons. Screen for comparability: Ask your source to verbally quantify how each contact’s operation is like yours.

While you’re waiting for lists of contacts, develop your comparison survey questionnaire. The amount of time needed to complete the survey will directly influence the number who agree to participate. Limit the survey to no more than ten questions. Choose a format that is easy to read. Ensure all questions have quantifiable answers.

Now is the time to create a spreadsheet for displaying response data received. Assign each column a number representing an organization’s response; do not list the organization’s name. Collectively describe the companies that participate in the survey by name in a summary letter that accompanies the report’s spreadsheet, with no reference to which column represents which company.

Once you have the contacts, develop a two-paragraph invitation email (see below for an example) defining what you are requesting of the contacts and what is in it for them. The key benefit is that all respondents will receive a copy of completed report, by a specific date. Assure the contacts that their information will remain confidential; the results will be anonymous. Mention that minimal time will be required to complete the survey. Finally, offer a tour of your own operation, including sharing of your processes, for anyone interested.

The first paragraph of the message should describe incentives. Be sure to include a timeline for submitting responses (no less than two weeks, no more than six weeks). Encourage them to call you to further clarify what you are asking for.

As you email the invitations, reference your mutual supplier/consultant in the subject line. Be sure to enclose a copy of the survey questionnaire. Call and leave a voicemail shortly after sending the e-mail (to personalize the request). Then make a follow up phone call to each contact roughly midway between the survey issue date and your requested completion date.

Mark each response received with a number that corresponds to the column of the report spreadsheet where you will display that organization’s submitted data. Enter response data into the spreadsheet you previously prepared, as it is received. Once you have the number of comparisons entered you expect to receive, tally the group average for each survey question’s responses. Then generate a one-page summary letter describing your key findings and detailing unusual conditions/considerations described by any participant.

Finally, make a PDF of the completed spreadsheet and summary letter and issue these with personalized e-mails to each participant, by the promised date.

A benchmarking report will add significant weight to justifications for resources and process changes, especially if the results show you are operating with less than others. Alternatively, the data can justify retaining critical practices. Additionally, best practices discovered through discussions with survey participants will easily repay your investment in the survey process.

David Boston serves as director of facility operations solutions for TiePoint-bkm Engineering, providing assessments, staff plans, benchmarking studies, and development of procedures and training programs for critical facility clients. He has conducted over 60 benchmarking surveys. 

This is an example of benchmarking survey report spreadsheet:



Here is a sample of an email inviting contacts to participate in your benchmarking survey.

Dear XXX,

YYY of ABC Consultants shared that you manage a critical operation similar to ours. I would appreciate your participation in a brief survey to permit us to benchmark operating costs for data center facilities. Completing the enclosed form should require less than 15 minutes. In return for your time, I will provide you a copy of the survey report by September 1, 2018. I will also be glad to have you tour our operation at your convenience. 

If you choose to participate, please complete all questions and return this survey to dboston@tiepoint-bkm.com by August 12, 2018. All survey responses will remain confidential (no site or company name will accompany the data in the report). A list of companies participating will be shared in a summary letter accompanying the data spreadsheet. Please call me with any questions as you are working on your response. And please reply to this message to indicate if you will participate.


Your name


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  posted on 5/29/2018   Article Use Policy

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