Best Practices & Benchmarking

There is no such thing as general Best Practice, only Good Practices that might be worth using as an indicator of possible practices in your department. Similarly, Benchmarks are not absolute truths. Care is needed in using both. Blind adoption of so-called best practices and blind acceptance of benchmarks is just plain stupid.

Best Practices, as defined by The Hackett Group, are proven, repeatable, documented techniques that deliver measurable performance improvements. The idea is that with proper processes, checks, and testing, a desired outcome can be delivered with fewer problems and unforeseen complications. Best practices can also be defined as the most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best results) way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people.

Best Practice sounds sensible but does it really make sense for your department, your company and your current situation? Care is needed because Best Practice is also as the way to repeat someone else's mistakes. The fact that a process, a strategy is accepted as Best Practice doesn't make it automatically right for your department or your company, it could well cause problems. The lists and books on best practices don't remove the need to think through what is appropriate and sensible for your department or company.

Benchmarking is, according to Wikipedia, the process of comparing the cost, cycle time, productivity, or quality of a specific process or method to another. Essentially, benchmarking provides a snapshot of the performance of your business and helps you understand where you are in relation to a particular standard.

This also sounds very sensible, but care is needed in using published benchmarks on cash and treasury management strategy and operations. The fact that a benchmark analysis shows the cheapest processing costs for a transaction are half your company's costs or that the normal number of Full-Time Employees in the corporate treasury department in companies of your size are twice yours, could be good or bad. Benchmarks are only useful starting points for analysing your corporate treasury department's contribution and performance; they are not an absolute truth.

Benchmarks of performance are only an indication of how other corporate treasury departments or operations perform and are not necessarily what your department or strategy should be delivering.

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