Business Intelligence. BI and analytical applications are another key area where companies can make a small investment to leverage existing data and assets and deliver great returns. Key to maximizing ROI from business intelligence is twofold: First, know what you want to know. Before deploying, you should know what you expect to find that will help you cut costs or increase revenues, or what impact the solution will have on the productivity of those in IT or financial responsible for reporting and analysis today. Second, pick the right tool for the job. There are a broad range of prices and capabilities in the BI market — don't buy a backhoe if you need a wheelbarrow.
Guidelines for Positive ROI
No matter what your technology investment plans are for next year, you can follow some simple rules to get you on the path to a positive ROI:
Use pre-deployment ROI as a road map. Evaluating costs and benefits before you buy technology ensures you know what value you're expecting and that you haven't paid too much. It also provides a checklist for keeping you on budget and on time.
Identify not just key returns, but how you will achieve them. Expecting a 10 percent more productive legal department means little unless you plan to fire 10 percent of the lawyers or get sued 10 percent more next year. You should know what the business goal is, how the technology supports it and what steps you will take to achieve it.
Don't buy until you're ready to deploy. Buying multiple components at the same time may provide some benefits in terms of discounting, but are unlikely to pay off unless you have the resources to deploy them all immediately. Buy individual components as your time and business demands indicate, and negotiate with suppliers for volume discounting if you come back for more.
Deploy rapidly. Don't let feature creep or other initiatives keep you from positive returns. Most projects shouldn't take more than six months to deploy.
There are still good IT investment opportunities that can help you leverage existing infrastructure and resources, cut costs and produce quantifiable returns for your company. Best-of-breed solutions instead of comprehensive single-supplier suites, small CRM tools that actually support business goals, and tools that make integration planning and design faster and more cost-effective are three top areas to consider. Using ROI and payback — and some common business sense — will ensure you make IT portfolio decisions that maximize return on investment.
Rebecca Wettemann is a co-founder and principal analyst at Nucleus Research, a Boston-area firm that works with end-users to study the ROI of investments in technology.