Benchmarking: Helping TISIs ‘AIM’ higher

23 November 2015
ITC News

Based on the theory that what is not measured cannot easily be improved, ITC has for years been working with TISIs around the world to help them identify their strengths and weaknesses – and see how they match up against their peers.

This comprehensive benchmarking exercise assigns TISIs a score between zero and 100, based on 225 performance indicators covering everything from governance to the services offered. It has helped agencies, especially TPOs, to understand where they need to improve in order to meet global best practices.

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, executive director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, has worked with five TPOs in the Caribbean region on the benchmarking exercise. ‘Not only has it assisted in the identification of areas of strength, but also in pinpointing specific areas for improvement based on international best practices,’ she says.

‘AIM (Assess, Improve, Measure) for results’ goes beyond the benchmarking and helps TPOs to actually address identified weaknesses. Using the findings from the benchmarking exercise, ITC works with the TISI to develop a customized plan, called a performance improvement roadmap that addresses the weaknesses identified. The plan targets managerial and operational issues, as well as the formulation and delivery of each TISI’s portfolio of services. It is tailored to respond to the wide differences in the maturity of TISIs across the globe. This ‘improvement’ phase uses information and technical advisory solutions to deliver sustained improvements.

Finally, a ‘measurement’ phase quantifies the success the changes have had in enhancing the organization’s capabilities. A key priority for this stage is ensuring that the organization shifts towards effectively measuring what is important to help it continuously upgrade their services.

In short, AIM for Results helps TISIs understand their own managerial and operational performance, so they can achieve measurable improvements in their service delivery to clients, especially SMEs that are aspiring to or beginning to connect to IVCs.

By the end of 2014, twelve TISIs were implementing AIM for Results, in Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Mauritius, Morocco, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In addition, five Caribbean countries – Barbados, Belize, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago – had been benchmarked, in preparation for a Caribbean-focused AIM initiative.

Costa Rica’s agency, PROCOMER, has also been benchmarked and received some of the highest scores across all areas of operation. While PROCOMER’s scores make it a model for others around the globe, it is working to implement several ITC recommendations to become even more effective.

‘We work very hard every day to improve our performance and the quality of services we provide to our clients,’ says Jorge Sequeira, who was CEO of PROCOMER during part of the reform process.‘Exporting in a competitive, globalized economy is a challenging task, so they demand our best. The ITC benchmark report is a powerful tool that helps us determine whether we have advanced in the right direction towards becoming a high-performance organization.’

This article is a part of ITC's SME Competitiveness Outlook 2015