The TRADE Best Practice Benchmarking Methodology is a rigorous step by step approach that involves searching for and implementing leading-edge practices. The TRADE benchmarking methodology focuses on the exchange (or ‘trade’) of information and best practices to improve the performance of processes, goods and services.

In the most recent version of TRADE the Research stage has been renamed the Review stage. This change has been introduced to reduce any confusion with the requirements of this stage. In some cases, the “Research” stage was being interpreted as conducting desktop research for best practices when it was meant to refer to “Research the current state” and research related to understanding the organisation’s own processes and performance.


Change from Research to Review
The steps within the Review stage have stayed the same:

  • Understand area of focus to be benchmarked
  • Define performance measures
  • Identify current performance
  • Prioritise and finalise the practices to be benchmarked
  • Review project progress and Terms of Reference
  • Obtain approval to start the next stage of TRADE

The five stages of the TRADE Benchmarking methodology are now:

  1. Terms of Reference (plan the project)
  2. Review (review current state)
  3. Acquire (acquire best practices)
  4. Deploy (communicate & implement best practices)
  5. Evaluate (evaluate the benchmarking process & outcomes)

The TRADE Best Practice Benchmarking Methodology was developed by Dr Robin Mann for the New Zealand Benchmarking Club which existed between 2000 and 2004. Initially the methodology was called the New Zealand Benchmarking Club’s benchmarking methodology but was later changed to TRADE when Bronwen Bartley, one of Dr Mann’s doctoral students, suggested that “TRADE” would be a more memorable name and it could be used to symbolise the “trading of information and knowledge” between organisations.

In 2007 the methodology was significantly enhanced when the Centre for Organizational Excellence Research (COER) was commissioned to provide the benchmarking methodology for Singapore’s public sector. In 2009 further developments to the methodology were made with the introduction of a certification scheme to increase the professionalism of benchmarking. Individuals now trained in TRADE can advance from benchmarking “Trained” to “Proficiency” to “Mastery” level as shown in the figure below. The status of Trained is given based on an individual attending a two or three-day 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.


TRADE certification levels
From 2015 to 2018 further enhancements to the TRADE methodology were made as a result of its use in the “Dubai We Learn” initiative as part of the Dubai Government Excellence Programme (DGEP). In particular, the project management system which utilises Excel Spreadsheets has been refined and strengthened with more benchmarking resource worksheets added. In addition, the certification process includes an assessment of the projects using a 7 Star system with projects reaching 3 to 4 Stars receiving TRADE Benchmarking Proficiency certification and those reaching 6 to 7 Stars receiving TRADE Benchmarking Proficiency with a Commendation.

The latest TRADE methodology information including TRADE project management worksheet and training notes can be obtained from the The material is available in English and Arabic, if you are BPIR member, you can access the TRADE section from here. If you are not a member, join BPIR and get access to the TRADE Benchmarking methodology and much more.

For the upcoming TRADE Benchmarking workshops visit this post or email us at for more information about arranging an in-house workshop for your organisation. To receive the latest news sign-up to COER’s newsletter here.

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