Best practice and keeping pace

Best practice is the process of judging the performance, operations and policies of a business by comparing them to those of other successful firms.

As such, best practice can be an effective, relevant strategy that has a real and measurable bearing on the competitiveness and profitability of a business.

Best practice can apply to almost every area of a business, be it a matter of training or adopting the latest technologies, and to every type and size of business.

In other words, best practice assumes that the most efficient way for a business to learn about itself is to learn from the experiences and successes of other businesses. It is an assessment by a business of its systems, its policies, its organisation, its services when set against those of businesses in the same market.

By analysing how other companies make themselves successful or efficient or profitable, a business is able to adopt those practices for itself. By measuring its own performances against those of its competitors, a business can identify where and how it can strengthen itself.

The more use that a business makes of best practice, the better placed it is to avoid becoming outdated in its attitudes or outmoded in its methods.

Properly implemented, a best practice policy can help a business sharpen its competitive edge, boost sales, develop new products, win new customers, improve efficiency, reduce overheads, raise the standard of skills among its workforce, make more profitable use of technology, lift quality levels and become more innovative.

Areas where best practice can make a difference

Best practice can help in formulating realistic but farsighted strategic and financial plans. It can help a business develop more responsive styles of management.

It can contribute to recruiting and retaining good employees, as well as to developing new skills among the workforce. It can help implement flexible working patterns and improve communication between managers and workers.

Best practice can be applied to such business operations as quality control, delivery and supply systems, customer management and the handling of data and information.

Best practice policies also make it easier to adopt new technologies and marketing methods, to react to changing market trends, and to research and develop new products.

Using best practice

For many smaller businesses, the time and effort needed to carry out a best practice analysis can be very demanding. That said, it is often smaller businesses that can benefit most from understanding how their rivals - who might be at the other end of the country - are working.