DEFINITION 1: Comparing data, metadata or processes against a recognised standard.
CONTEXT: Benchmarking may refer, for instance, to the case where there are two sources of data for the same target variable with different frequencies, e.g. quarterly and annual estimates of value-added from different sources.
Benchmarking is generally done retrospectively, as annual benchmark data are available some time after quarterly data. Benchmarking does have a forward-looking element however, in that the relationship between benchmark and indicator data is extrapolated forward to improve quarterly estimates for the most recent periods for which benchmark data are not yet available
SOURCE: SDMX content –oriented guidelines. Annex 4: Metadata common vocabulary. Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) Initiative Sponsored by BIS, ECB, EUROSTAT, IMF, OECD, UN and the World Bank, 2009
DEFINITION 2: Benchmarking is a methodology that is used to search for best practices. Benchmarking can be applied to strategies, policies, operations, processes, products, and organizational structures. By finding and adopting best practices you can improve your organization’s overall performance.
NOTE: Best practices can be found either within your own organization or within other organizations. It usually means identifying organizations that are doing something in the best possible way and then trying to emulate how they do it. There are at least two types of external benchmarking: competitive benchmarking and generic benchmarking. Competitive benchmarking involves comparing how you do things with how your competitors do things while generic benchmarking involves comparing yourself with organizations in unrelated sectors.
SOURCE: ISO 9000, 9001, and 9004 Quality management definitions PRAXIOM.