In Critical Facilities, Benchmarking Data Justifies Choices
Why benchmarking is critical in making data-driven decisions, and how to lay the groundwork for conducting your own benchmarking survey.
Benchmarking can play a significant role in developing, enhancing, and retaining a critical organization’s strategies, processes, and resources. Though an operation may be deemed critical, its managers often receive pressure from senior executives who wish to reduce costs. Critical operations facility managers will have an easier time justifying needed resources and changes in processes when they can point to what peer organizations are doing rather than when they are working in a vacuum. Data drives strategic decisions.
Comparison studies yield best practice ideas. They confirm if your processes are optimal and your operation is efficient and productive. Benchmarking can help identify the best sources for hiring and determine if your technologies are current. Facility managers frequently gain approval for increased staff levels and extended shift coverage when they demonstrate peers in their industry have greater coverage.
Those wishing to conduct a benchmarking study have several options available. If you participate in local, national, or international industry groups, you may find those who facilitate your group are willing to conduct a survey of members — if you are willing to help them define and create the survey questionnaire. This option will readily offer access to a large group of industry peers for comparison data. It will generally take more time to receive the comparison data you desire than if you initiate a survey on your own. You may not have full control over the data points included, particularly if the industry group solicits input on what should be surveyed from the other members. If you have a few months, this option can produce a larger set of comparison data than the alternative.
Facility managers with less time or with no membership in a large industry group can easily obtain quality data comparisons by conducting their own survey. Existing service suppliers are usually more than willing to identify and provide contact information for other customers with similar operations. Equipment suppliers and consultants will have extensive lists of contacts considered your peers. Most of these contacts will be interested in talking with you when they learn you plan to provide them a copy of your benchmarking results at no cost.
Strategic decision support
Benchmarking can be effective for a wide variety of strategic decisions. If you want help in justifying needed change within your operation, the following examples of topics observed in data center operations benchmarking may generate ideas for surveys.
Facility design choices:
• Stand-alone vs. shared use facility
• Single vs. multiple story building
• Construction methods
• Geographical location
• Engineers selected
• Command center daily tasks and reporting
• Computer hardware master plan
• Ownership of power and network cabling and connections
• Facilities system transfer procedures
• Preventive maintenance frequencies
• Facility construction processes, schedule
• Commissioning, training
• Reporting structure
• Annual objectives
• Operating costs
• Capital costs
• Salary ranges for each group, by position
• Utility cost comparisons
Product selection — types of:
• Server racks
• Servers, operating software
• Mainframes, tape devices
• UPS, batteries, generators, PDUs, RPPs
• Chillers, cooling towers, pumps, CRAHs, CRACs
• BAS/BMS, EPMS systems
• Fire detection and suppression systems