D-LeaP Utility Benchmarking Program – A Fundamental Tool for Utility Self-Assessment

Benchmarking, collecting performance indicators and then comparing performance among utilities of similar size and conditions, is a major tool to improve water utility performance. SHUKALB and SHUKOS have been jointly offering the D-LeaP Utility Benchmarking Program for the water and wastewater companies in both Albania and Kosovo since 2014 in the framework of the Danube Learning Partnership (D-LeaP), with support from the International Association of Water Utilities in the Danube River Catchment Area (IAWD).  The Program assists utilities in identifying areas where performance improvement is needed, through engaging small utility teams rather than individual staff members.

To understand more about the benefits of participating in the Program, we asked the representatives of the water utility of Tirana, and the water utility of Shkodra, to share their feedback, as the two utilities that have been part of the program for several years now.

Evis Gjebrea, Deputy General Director, Tirana Water Supply and Sewerage Company, presenting at the Balkans Joint Conference and Exhibition 2016
Photo Credit: SHUKALB

“Tirana Water Supply and Sewerage Company (Tirana WSSC) has been part of the Benchmarking program supported by the International Association of Water Supply Companies in the Danube River Catchment Area (IAWD) since 4 years now.  Our company decided to be part of this program for the following reasons:

  • First it is a tool to improve the performance of society and increase transparency.
  • Secondly, it is an initiative at the local, national and regional level that allows us to compare and learn from other utilities.
  • Third, it is a tool that can be used to attract new funding to the water sector.

Tirana WSSC has a positive experience in the framework of the project funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) where the company selected by EBRD (Mott Macdonald) for carrying out the due diligence scanning process used the data we had collected as part of this benchmarking program.

It is worth emphasizing that through this platform Tirana WSSC collects data on performance indicators and then the information processed by the platform is provided in the individual report of the company generated by the system. In this report, the performance of Tirana WSSC is being compared in all performance indicators with the other companies that are of similar size and similar conditions at national, regional and wider level. 

Data collection is certainly not an easy process, but the best part of the program is that it provides guidelines to explain each indicator, and in this context technical working groups have been set up to clarify the indicators and the source of their information. 

The other water utilities must join because:

  • Gain personal support in analyzing and improving their performance.
  • Learn from other utilities in the sector.
  • Benefit from comparison with other water utilities.
  • They are updated on the most modern tools for analyzing the performance of utilities.

Tirana WSSC spends a significant part of its work on sharing its knowledge and practices. Many meetings and workshops have been organized by the Kosovo-Albania Hub to discuss performance indicators. In these meetings it was agreed on the technical language of the indicators which are translated into Albanian and the indicators are grouped according to their nature: commercial, technical, customer care, etc. These meetings are quite fruitful as they explain the ambiguities related to the indicators and also the methodology on how the data will be collected, specifying the source of the information.  I like the motto of the Danube HUB: “Don’t bury the data but work with it”.

The output of this program is the Benchmarking annual report, which has the advantage that is offered in both Albanian and English. Tirana WSSC shares the report internally and then into the Administrative Council, where they get  informed with the performance of indicators and improvements from year to year.  Tirana WSSC has in its close plans to share this report with the Water Regulatory Authority as it prepares the annual benchmarking report for all water utility companies at the national level.  In conclusion, the Benchmarking report serves as the basis for drafting the annual and medium-term budget plans of every water utility. It also serves as a basis for the utility to undertake any action plan to improve the performance in certain areas where intervention is needed.”

Valbona Paja, Responsible for Planning and Reporting, Shkodra Water Supply and Sewerage Company, presenting at the Balkans Joint Conference and Exhibition 2019
Photo Credit: SHUKALB

“The main benefits of participation of Shkodra WSSC in the Benchmarking Program can be divided into:

Internal benefits

  • Enables the identification of gaps in performance indicators and the identification of areas for improvement
  • Develops a set of standardized indicators, on an electronic platform.
  • Enables the creation of an internal culture oriented by continuous improvement.
  • Monitors company performance and manages change.
  • Adaptation of best practices depending on the capacities of the utility.

Thanks to a systematic research process within the company, it is enabled to obtain valuable and complete information from all sectors, as well as to achieve a better understanding of the company. The main benefit of the Utility Benchmarking Program consists in using this information to improve problematic areas and mobilize various units within the company towards meeting the company’s objectives. This level of recognition passes to all management levels, enabling the exchange of different ideas, to achieve the most feasible solutions. Being part of this program has set the necessity of modifying the data that the sectors have to report, by detailing it more and providing valuable information for the management team of the company.

External benefits

  • Enables Comparison with the performance of other companies
  • Helps in searching for better work practices
  • Increases community transparency and trust
  • Assists in providing financial funding

The Benchmarking program, in addition to enabling the evaluation of the company’s performance trend, enables its comparison with other companies in the region and beyond. In many cases, the experiences of other companies in the sector are an inspiration, which can help companies find internal strengths to improve their performance. By getting acquainted with cases of similar companies that have managed to overcome many difficulties and being part of a wider network of water utility companies, and to increase the level of knowledge of the company to possible solutions. The management of public companies is very important in terms of providing a higher degree of transparency for all stakeholders. Transparency helps to establish a clearer relationship with the community and to increase the trust of various financial institutions, in supporting the development of capital projects by the water utility.

All the water utilities that will be part of the Benchmarking program can benefit from:

  • Better knowledge of their own company, complete information is provided by all sectors.
  • Identify gaps in their performance.
  • Creating an internal culture that leads to improvement and continuous learning.
  • Becoming part of a larger group of water utility companies, where the exchange of experiences is the basis of this collaboration.

The process of Benchmarking during this 4 year period that we have been part of has been continuously improved, in terms of increasing the reliability of the data and the levels of control of their accuracy. The Benchmarking process goes through several steps, such as: data registering, control and validation at the utility and HUB level, to reach the final step, which is the final report of the water utility. This is a report that contains a complete information about the utility, and serves as a comparative basis for the company over the years, as well as the performance of the companies in the region and beyond at the European level. The final reports, which are divided as per water supply and sewerage sector, can be used by the company to present them to donors, or as non-financial reports, to get acquainted with the way the company performs”.

SHUKALB invites all interested water utilities to join the Utility Benchmarking Program.  The participating utilities will have the opportunity to gain practical support in analyzing and improving utility performance, learn from other utilities in the sector, be up to date on the most recent tools for analyzing utility performance, and benefit from regional and global comparison with other utilities and experts.

For more information on the Benchmarking Program please read the Leaflet.

For registrations or any question please contact SHUKALB at the email address training@shukalb.al or SHUKOS at shukos2001@gmail.com.