TRADE Best Practice Benchmarking

Pursuing best practices enables organisations to continually question the status quo and innovate – thus resulting in more effective practices and appealing products and services.

Whilst the desire for better/best practices is widespread the approach to identify, understand and implement best practices is often unclear or applied inconsistently. The TRADE Best Practice Benchmarking methodology and its associated certification system provides a proven approach to pursue and implement best practices leading to long-term cultural change and leading edge processes, practices and performance.


Read about benchmarking and TRADE below:

 What is TRADE?

TRADE is a best practice benchmarking methodology.

The TRADE benchmarking methodology focuses on the exchange (or ‘trade’) of information and best practices to improve the performance of processes, goods and services.

This methodology was initially developed for the New Zealand Benchmarking Club, which existed between 2000 and 2004. Since then, the methodology has been used on many benchmarking projects all over the world. However, it was not until 2007 that the project management system and training materials supporting the methodology were substantially enhanced (bringing together the experience of running many benchmarking projects).

TRADE consists of five stages:
  • Terms of Reference (plan the project)
  • Review (review current state)
  • Acquire (acquire best practices)
  • Deploy (communicate & implement best practices)
  • Evaluate (evaluate the benchmarking process & outcomes)


Within each of these stages are a number of steps to be followed as part of a benchmarking project. For instance, the Terms of Reference stage consists of the following steps:

  1. Determine area of focus for benchmarking project
  2. Develop project brief
  3. Form project team
  4. Train project team
  5. Understand benchmarking code of conduct
  6. Prepare Terms of Reference
  7. Plan benchmarking tasks
  8. Develop documentation system
  9. Review Terms of Reference process
  10. Obtain approval to start the next stage of TRADE

Organisations using TRADE follow all the stages and steps of TRADE to successfully complete a benchmarking project and identify best practices in the area in which the project focuses.

Benchmarking projects should be targeted at a process area or activity that will deliver the best value to an organisation. Often senior managers will have used techniques such as a business excellence self-assessment to determine which projects and their outcomes are likely to deliver the greatest benefits.

The project aim can be broad or specific. The project aim may relate to improving the performance of:

  • A process
  • An activity/task
  • A business improvement tool
  • Equipment
  • A strategy
  • Behaviour


  • Customer complaint management, e.g. to improve our customer complaint management process to a world-class standard.
  • Balanced Scorecard, e.g. to identify and implement best practices in the application of the Balanced Scorecard.
  • Supplier relationship process, e.g. to become an industry leader for our supplier relationship process.
  • Team culture, e.g. to develop a winning team culture.
  • Recruitment time, e.g. to reduce the time taken to recruit new staff.

Why choose TRADE for your best practice benchmarking projects?
  • It offers a proven approach. TRADE is supported by Global Benchmarking Network members and eminent organisations in the field of business excellence in over 15 countries with regular workshops offered. It is used by private and public sector organisations of all sizes (for example, it is the approved methodology for Singapore’s Public Service) with 1,000’s of people trained and hundreds of organisations using TRADE as their benchmarking methodology (including DEWA, Dubai Police, Fonterra, Municipality of Abu Dhabi, National Archives, OCBC Bank, Singapore Building and Construction Authority, TransAD). Read about the feedback from one of our workshops in Fiji.
  • It is flexible and can be used for exploratory (1-12 week) or in-depth (13-36 week) projects.
  • It is easy to explain and communicate as it only has 5 stages and a memorable name!
  • It provides a step by step approach. Within the 5 stages there are simple steps to be followed.
  • It provides a rigorous approach to planning which ensures that the project will only proceed after a cost /benefit analysis has been undertaken.
  • There is a strong likelihood of success, as projects are supported through a TRADE project management spreadsheet, a TRADE training manual consisting of a comprehensive set of benchmarking resources and template forms, and a Benchmarking certification scheme.
  • It saves time and money. TRADE materials and templates have been developed and refined over the past fifteen years from working with hundreds of organisations. TRADE licence holders will have full access to these (and future updates) and so will not need to develop their own materials at considerable expense.
  • It delivers results. After each stage of TRADE the project is reviewed to ensure it is on-track. If not, the project can be stopped or the direction of the project changed. Therefore all projects should deliver the expected results and major benefits (potentially saving or generating millions of dollars for large projects).

Benchmarking Certification

In 2009 COER developed the first and only certification scheme for benchmarking in response to the increasing importance of benchmarking and the need to address shortcomings in its understanding and application. Research conducted by COER and IPK Fraunhofer revealed that organisations were obtaining widely different results from benchmarking.

The reasons for this disparity in success, was reported as:

  • 25% of respondents that used benchmarking had not been trained in benchmarking and another 30% of respondents indicated that “only a few of the employees had received training or that training was rarely given”.
  • 30% of respondents that used benchmarking do not follow a particular benchmarking methodology when conducting benchmarking projects.
  • 25% of respondents do not follow (or rarely follow) a benchmarking code of conduct when undertaking a benchmarking project.
  • 30% of respondents “do not, rarely, or sometimes” develop a project brief for their benchmarking project specifying the aim, scope, sponsor, and members of the benchmarking team – thus indicating poor project planning.
  • 35% of respondents do not (or rarely) undertake a cost and benefits analysis of the project once it is completed.

The introduction of certification provides a pathway to raise the understanding and professionalism of benchmarking. Individuals now trained in TRADE can advance from benchmarking “Trained” to “Proficiency” to “Mastery”. The status of Trained is given based on an individual attending a two or three day site training course on TRADE by an approved training instructor. The status of Proficiency is granted based on the submission of a completed benchmarking project which needs to meet a base-line standard. The status of Mastery is granted based on the submission of two completed benchmarking projects which both need to be graded at a “Commendable” level. Individuals that reach Mastery have the skills and experience necessary to facilitate or lead benchmarking projects in such a way that they are likely to lead to significant operational and financial gains.

Applying for Benchmarking Proficiency or Mastery Certification
For information on how to apply, download the following documents:

How do I start?

To assist organisations in undertaking benchmarking a number of services are offered:

  • Benchmarking Awareness Training – “TRADE Lite” Seminar – 0.5 day
  • Professional Benchmarking Training – “TRADE” Workshop and Certification – 3 days
  • TRADE Benchmarking License for an Organisation
  • International Best Practice Visits
  • Benchmarking Project Assistance
  • Benchmark Data for Business Excellence Award Applications
  • Benchmarking and Performance Excellence Self-assessment (BPES)
  • Regional/national programmes in business excellence and benchmarking
  • Benchmarking and Best Practice Database/Website –
  • Plan 4 Success

For information on these services, refer to our consultancy services or upcoming workshops.