Espacios. Espacios. Vol. 30 (2) 2009. Pág. 16
Mauricio Uriona Maldonado, Norberto Dias y Gregorio Varvakis*
Recibido: 10-10-08 - Aprobado: 01-02-09
Nowadays, innovation initiatives are very important for companies to become more competitive. Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and especially, technology-based ones tend to have better control of their R&D activities through Innovation Management efforts. In this sense, the first step in order to start Innovation Management initiatives is to diagnose the current company’s situation and to compare it with other companies in the same market. Therefore, increasing market competition has led for increased innovation programmes and initiatives (McAdam & Keogh, 2004) for an effective economic and social development.
On the other hand, the concept of knowledge has received much attention in recent years and has been sustained that it plays a critical role in the innovation process (Adams et al., 2006). For Nonaka & Takeuchi (1995) organizational knowledge has to be socialized to the whole organization, incorporating it in products, services and systems. For them, organizational knowledge creation is the key for continuous innovation. Therefore, making a strong relationship between Knowledge Management and Innovation Management.
In developing countries especially, the need for a solid and reliable base on knowledge management and innovation management is vital for the development initiatives and practices to succeed, for it helps to strengthen the mechanisms, among others, of entrepreneurship, e-government, and communities of practice in public and private sectors’ projects, since these disciplines are in pose of particular novelty in comparison with Northern-based organizations and developed countries.
This paper aims to show a Brazilian Innovation Management benchmarking initiative from the point-of-view of one of the first group of SME’s that participated in the process, through the use of a Benchmarking model developed in Brazil by Instituto Euvaldo Lodi (IEL/SC) for Production Management, the Benchstar Methodology, that was adapted in order to measure innovation in SMEs.
The IEL/SC was selected by the Brazilian government Projects-Funding Institution (FINEP) for the testing and developing of a new benchmarking methodology for Innovation Management measurement (the Benchstar) in Brazilian technology-based companies.
The Benchstar methodology measures four different aspects and benchmarks them with the European leaders contained in IEL/SC database: Innovation organization, Competitive Intelligence, Product Development and Monitoring. The results are presented in two different types of graphs, the Practice vs. Performance Graph, and the Innovation Radar Graph.
This paper presents in the next Sections, a brief explanation about Innovation Management and Benchmarking; followed by the presentation of the Benchstar Methodology and its modifications for Innovation Management measurement; then the SME case study is presented, detailing the company’s experiences during the Benchstar process; the analysis of the results obtained by the company are discussed followed by the conclusions and finally the bibliographical references.
Innovation initiatives are very important for companies to become more competitive. Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and especially, technology-based ones tend to have better control of their R&D activities through Innovation Management efforts.
On the other hand, the concept of knowledge has received much attention in recent years and has been sustained that it plays a critical role in the innovation process (Adams et al., 2006). In technology-based SME’s, this relationship is quite more important since these kind of companies are also knowledge-intensive.
This requires that both Knowledge Management and Innovation Management initiatives be developed in an integrated way (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995), thus, the three areas within knowledge management of importance for innovation management identified in the literature are: idea generation, knowledge repositories and information flows (Adams et al., 2006).
In this sense, effective innovation incorporation involves intervention programmes with supporting indicators, which eventually results in increased competitiveness (McAdam & Keogh, 2004). However, quantifying, evaluating and benchmarking innovation competence and practice is a significant and complex issue for many contemporary organizations (Adams et al., 2006). Therefore, benchmarking and measurement techniques need to be adapted coherently in order to fulfill its objectives, taking into consideration the kind and size of the company and market, its organizational culture and other relevant aspects.
Since the time where performance measurement cared only for financial results until the most recent performance measurement systems, there is the need to know the company’s position in the market and in relation with its competitors. In the last years, these interest has grown rapidly, motivated by factors such as continuous improvement, growing competition, growing efforts in sustainable development, national and international quality prizes, information and communication technologies, and others (Neely, 1997).
Thus, the organizations sustainability and development is strongly related with factors like quality, technology, knowledge and innovation. Either way, benchmarking is commonly used to measure the practices and performance of organizations in order to make accurate comparisons with the leaders of the market, and to define actions that need to be taken for improvements to take place.
The Xerox Corporation is credited to be the first company in making benchmarking projects (Yasin, 2002), introducing a method that adapts in a creative way the best practices of the market leaders, to the custom needs of a company, in order to improve organizational performance (Mazo, 2003; Gariba, 2005; Seibel, 2004; Voos et al., 1997).
Most of the definitions reinforce the idea where benchmarking is a continuous and systematic research procedure, that by the comparison of different functions, departments, and activities, reference standards are made (Yasin, 2002; Gariba, 2005). For this paper, benchmarking is understood as a methodology that measures practices and performance indexes of a company, and compares them with the indexes of the market leaders inside a database.
In this sense, benchmarking initiatives are important for development practitioners as well as for academics interested in the subject, since its results give important insights about prescriptive actions, like improving quality, knowledge or innovation management systems; and about descriptive issues, like the type of organizational learning process required to acquire knowledge from the market leaders’ practices.
The origins of the Benchstar methodology were the “Made-in-Europe” program for benchmarking best practices in European companies in the mid 90’s. Since 1997 the Instituto Euvaldo Lodi (IEL/SC) in Santa Catarina-Brazil worked in the acquisition and adaptation of this knowledge, finally producing the “Made in Brazil” methodology (Siebel, 2004).
The “Made in Brazil” methodology consists in a rapid and effective diagnose for medium and big-sized enterprises, covering all the key areas in the company, allowing the comparison of its results with the indexes stored in an international database, containing more than a thousand companies from 32 different countries (Gariba, 2005).
The Benchstar methodology then, was adapted from the MIB, for suiting the SME’s characteristics and needs, seeking to disseminate modern management techniques, and to communicate what the market leaders, contained in the database, are doing to secure their leadership position (Mazo, 2003).
It is composed of a well defined set of phases, which are:
* Programa de Pós-Graduação em Engenharia e Gestão do Conhecimento Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil. * firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org