Those of you in the IT industry are familiar with the cutthroat competition between hardware and operating system companies for the title of the fastest processor, database or application. This is a beauty pageant for hardware and software. A top ranking company gains sales since results are made public. A poor ranking means challenges ahead...or at least a recount/rematch request.
The definition of Benchmarking at Wikipedia.org extends perfectly into all lines of business - "Benchmarking (also "best practice benchmarking" or "process benchmarking") is a process used in management and particularly strategic management, in which companies evaluate various aspects of their business processes in relation to best practice, usually within their own industry"
With respect to Business and technology Reinvention, benchmarking or a S.W.O.T. Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a big step towards gaining rapid competitive advantage. It's the way to identify problem areas. Armed with this knowledge organizations can embark on the path to fix the issues and gain competitive advantage.
Completion of a Benchmarking Program is offered by companies such as RND2ReInvent Inc. (shameless plug for my company), the American Productivity & Quality Institute, or the Product Development Institute to name a few. Benchmarking is something you should definitely consider for your organization.