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They may not want to waste time and effort on a relationship that does not help them succeed. They want to partner only with groups and individuals who can add value and help them in meaningful ways. Department and program leaders hope to be involved in strategic decision making, particularly in areas that will affect their functions, and the projects and processes in their functions. Showing the actual contribution and getting others to understand how the function adds value can help earn the coveted seat at the table. Most executives want to include those who are genuinely helping the business, and will seek input that is valuable and constructive.

The use of the ROI methodology may be the single most important action that can be taken to earn the seat at the table. It presents the different elements and steps in the ROI methodology, the standards, and the different concepts necessary to understand how ROI works, but without a great deal of detail. This chapter brings the methodology into focus.

Before one can accept the approach, the steps and the detail have to be shown. This detail will be presented in the rest of the book. This step positions the program or project for success by aligning its intended outcome with the needs of the business. This business alignment is essential if the investment in a project is to reap a return. The second most common cause of failure is misalignment between the project objectives and business needs.

Projects must begin with a clear focus on the desired outcome. This establishes the expectations throughout the analysis and project design, development, delivery, and implementation stages. Beginning with the end in mind requires pinning down all the details to ensure that the project is properly planned and executed according to schedule. But conducting this up-front analysis is not as simple as one might think—it requires a disciplined approach.

This standardized approach adds credibility and allows for consistent application so that the analysis can be replicated.

Show Me the Money: How to Determine ROI in People, Projects, and Programs () - ROI Institute

This initial phase of project development calls for focus and thoroughness, with little allowance for major shortcuts. Not every project should be subjected to the type of comprehensive analysis described in this chapter. Some needs are obvious and require little analysis other than that necessary to develop the project. The amount of analysis required often depends on the expected opportunity to be gained if the project is appropriate or the negative consequences anticipated if the project is inappropriate.

When analysis is proposed, individuals may react with concern or resistance. Such reactions can pose a problem for an organization because analysis is necessary to ensure that the project is appropriate. Unfortunately, analysis is often misunderstood— conjuring up images of complex problems, confusing models, and a deluge of data along with complicated statistical techniques to ensure that all bases are covered. In reality, analysis need not be so complicated. Simple techniques can uncover the cause of a problem or the need for a particular project.

Show Me The Money

Organizations often avoid analysis because 1. Sometimes the information gained from asking individuals what they need appears to point to a legitimate solution, but in fact the solution is inadequate or inappropriate. In reality, the solution may be as simple as learning to fully use existing tools. Implementing a solution in response to an individual request can prove shortsighted and costly.

The solution appears to be obvious. In the process of examining a problem or identifying a potential opportunity, some solutions will arise that seem obvious. For example, if employees take too long to complete a particular task, the immediate conclusion may be that a new technology is needed that will reduce task completion time. Everyone has an opinion about the cause of a problem. The person requesting a particular project may think that he or she has the best solution. Choosing the solution championed by the highest-ranking or most senior executive is often tempting.

Unfortunately, this person may not be close enough to the situation to offer a solution that will have a lasting effect on the problem. Analysis takes too much time. Yes, analysis takes time and consumes resources. However, the consequences of a lack of analysis can be more expensive. If the implemented solutions do not appropriately address the needs, time and money may be wasted and the problem left unsolved. The consequences of ill-advised solutions implemented without an analysis can be devastating.

When designed properly and conducted professionally, an analysis can be completed within the budgetary and time constraints of most organizations. The secret is to focus on the right tools for the situation. Analysis sounds confusing. However, analyses can be simple and straightforward and achieve excellent results. The challenge is to select the level of analysis that will yield the best solution with minimal effort and the simplest techniques.

The remainder of the chapter delves into the components of analysis that are necessary for a solid alignment between a project and the business. First, however, reviewing the model introduced in the previous chapter may be helpful. It is presented here as Figure This step begins with answers to a few crucial questions: Is this project worth doing? Is it feasible? What is the likelihood of a positive ROI? In any case, these are legitimate questions, and the analysis can be as simple or as comprehensive as required.

However, most projects drive cost savings. Cost savings can come through cost reduction or cost avoidance. Improved quality, reduced cycle time, lowered downtime, reduced complaints, reduced employee turnover, and minimized delays are all examples of cost savings. Cost avoidance projects are implemented to reduce risks, avoid problems, or prevent unwanted events. However, if the assumptions prove correct, an avoided cost e. Preventing a problem is more cost-effective than waiting for the problem to occur and then having to focus on solving it.

This step is closely related to the next one, determining the business need, since the potential payoff is often based on a consideration of the business. Identifying these monetary values in detail usually yields a more credible forecast of what can be expected from the chosen solution. However, this step may be omitted in situations where the problem business need must be resolved regardless of the cost, or if it becomes obvious that this is a high-payoff activity.

The target level of detail may also hinge on the need to secure project funding. If the potential funding source does not recognize the value of the project compared with the potential costs, more detail may be needed to provide a convincing case for funding. Knowledge of the actual payoff is not necessary if widespread agreement exists that the payoff from the project will be high, or if the problem in question must be resolved regardless of cost. For example, if the problem involves a safety concern, a regulatory compliance issue, or a competitive matter, a detailed analysis is not needed.

Return on Investment (ROI) - Calculation, Formula & Meaning (Hindi)

For other projects, the issues are sometimes unclear and may arise from political motives or bias. These potential opportunities are associated with payoffs that may not be so obvious. What are the advantages of becoming a green company? The potential payoff establishes the fundamental reason for pursuing new or enhanced projects.

But the payoff—whether obvious or not—is not the only reason for moving forward with a project. The cost of a problem is another factor. If the cost is excessive, it should be addressed. If not, then a decision must be made as to whether the problem is worth solving.

The Cost of a Problem Problems are expensive and their solution can result in high returns, especially when the solution is inexpensive. To determine the cost of the problem, its potential consequences must be examined and converted to monetary values. All of these factors must be converted to monetary values if the cost of the problem is to be determined.

Show Me the Money: How to Determine ROI in People, Projects, and Programs

Inventory shortages are often directly associated with the cost of the inventory as well as with the cost of carrying the inventory. Calculating the time for completing a project, task, or cycle involves measures that can be converted to money. Errors, mistakes, waste, delays, and bottlenecks can often be converted to money because of their consequences. In examining costs, considering all the costs and their implications is crucial. For example, the full cost of an accident includes not only the cost of lost workdays and medical expenses, but their effects on insurance premiums, the time required for investigations, damage to equipment, and the time spent by all involved employees addressing the accident.

The cost of a customer complaint includes not only the cost of the time spent resolving the complaint, but also the value of the item or service that has to be adjusted because of the complaint. The costliest consequence of a customer complaint is the price to the company of lost future business and goodwill from the complaining customer and from potential customers who learn of the complaint.

The same applies to opportunities. The Value of an Opportunity Just as the cost of a problem can be easily tabulated in most situations, the value of an opportunity can also be calculated. Examples of opportunities include implementing a new process, exploring new technology, increasing research and development efforts, and upgrading the workforce to create a more competitive environment.

Assigning a proper value to this opportunity requires considering what may happen if the project is not pursued or acknowledging the windfall that might be realized if the opportunity is seized. Forecasting the value of an opportunity entails many assumptions compared with calculating the value of a known outcome. The need to seek and assign value to opportunities leads to an important decision: to forecast or not to forecast ROI. If the stakes are high and support for the project is not in place, a detailed forecast may be the only way to gain the needed support and funding for the project or to inform the choice between multiple potential projects.

In developing the forecast, the rigor of the analysis is an issue. In other cases, a detailed forecast is needed that uses data collected from a variety of experts, previous studies from another project, or perhaps more sophisticated analysis. Chapter 12 provides techniques useful for developing forecasts. The Opportunity A business need is represented by a business measure.

Any process, item, or perception can be measured, and such measurement is critical to this level of analysis. The important point is that the measures are present in the system, ready to be captured for this level of analysis. Hard Data Measures To focus on the desired measures, distinguishing between hard data and soft data may be helpful. Hard data are primary measures of improvement presented in the form of rational, undisputed facts that are usually gathered within functional areas throughout an organization.

Hard data can usually be grouped in four categories, as shown in Table These categories—output, quality, costs, and time—are typical performance measures in any organization. Every organization, regardless of the type, must have basic measures of output, such as number of patients treated, students graduated, tons produced, or packages shipped. Quality is a very important hard data category. If quality is a major priority for the organization, processes are likely in place to measure and monitor quality. The rising prominence of quality improvement processes such as Total Quality Management, Continuous Quality Improvement, and Six Sigma has contributed to the tremendous recent successes in pinpointing the proper quality measures—and assigning monetary values to them.

Cost is another important hard data category. Achieving cost targets has an immediate effect on the bottom line. Some organizations focus narrowly on cost reduction. Time is a critical measure in any organization. Some organizations gauge their performance almost exclusively in relation to time. Values representing attitude, motivation, and satisfaction are examples of soft data. They are less objective as performance measurements and are usually behavior related, yet organizations place great emphasis on them.

Improvements in these measures represent important business needs, but many organizations omit them from the ROI equation because they are soft values. However, they can contribute to economic value to the same extent as hard data measures. Table shows common examples of soft data by category. The key is not to focus too much on the hard versus soft data distinction.

A better approach is to consider data as tangible or intangible. The key to this problem is to remember that, ultimately, all roads lead to hard data. Although creativity may be categorized as a form of soft data, a creative workplace can develop new products or new patents, which leads to greater revenue—clearly a hard data measure. This decision is based on considerations of credibility and the cost of the conversion.

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According to the standards of the ROI methodology, an intangible measure is defined as a measure that is intentionally not converted to money. If a soft data measure can be converted to a monetary amount credibly using minimal resources, it is considered tangible, reported as a monetary value, and incorporated in the ROI calculation. If a data item cannot be converted to money credibly with minimal resources, it is listed as an intangible measure. Therefore, in defining business needs, the key difference between measures is not whether they represent hard or soft data, but whether they are tangible or intangible.

In either case, they are important contributions toward the desired payoff and important business impact data. Impact Data Sources The sources of impact data, whether tangible or intangible, are diverse. The data come from routine reporting systems in the organization. In many situations, these items have led to the need for the project or program.

Impact data sources include quality reports, service records, suggestion systems, and employee engagement data. Some project planners and project team members assume that corporate data sources are scarce because the data are not readily available to them. However, data can usually be located by investing a small amount of time. Rarely do new data collection systems or processes need to be developed in order to identify data representing the business needs of an organization.

Sometimes, collateral measures move in harmony with the project. For example, efforts to improve safety may also improve productivity and increase job satisfaction. Weighing adverse impacts on certain measures may also help. For example, when cycle times are reduced, quality may suffer; or when sales increase, customer satisfaction may deteriorate. Will operational problems surface? Will budgets be affected?

Answers to these questions can help the organization settle on a precise set of measures and can provide a hint of the extent to which the measures may change as a result of the project. Determining Job Performance Needs The next step in the needs analysis is to understand what led to the business need. If the proposed project addresses a problem, this step focuses on the cause of the problem.

If the project makes use of an opportunity, this step focuses on what is inhibiting the organization from taking advantage of that opportunity. Analysis Techniques Uncovering the causes of the problem or the inhibitors to success requires a variety of analytical techniques. The technique that is used will depend on the organizational setting, the apparent depth of the problem, and the budget allocated to such analysis. Multiple techniques can be used since job performance may be lacking for a number of reasons. Detailed approaches of techniques can be found in many sources.

When needs vary and with many techniques to choose from, the opportunity exists for overanalysis and excessive costs. Consequently, a sensible approach is needed. Determining Learning Needs The solution to job performance needs uncovered in the previous step often requires a learning component—such as participants and team members learning how to perform a task differently, or learning how to use a process, system, or technology. In some cases learning is the principal solution, as in competency or capability development, major technology change, and system installations.

For other projects, learning is a minor aspect of the solution and may involve simply understanding the process, procedure, or policy. In short, a learning solution is not always needed, but all solutions have a learning component. Often, multiple tasks and jobs are involved in a project and should be addressed separately. Sometimes the least effective way to identify the skills and knowledge that are needed is to ask the participants involved in implementing the project.

They may not be clear on what is needed and may not know enough to provide adequate input. One of the most useful ways to determine learning needs is to ask the individuals who understand the process. Essentially, a job analysis is the collection and evaluation of work-related information.

Observation of current practices and procedures in an organization may be necessary as the project is implemented. This can often indicate the level of capability and help to identify the correct procedures. Observers may be previous employees, third-party participant observers, or mystery shoppers. Sometimes, the demonstration of knowledge surrounding a certain task, process, or procedure provides evidence of what capabilities exist and what is lacking. Such demonstration can be as simple as a skill practice or role play, or as complex as an extensive mechanical or electronic simulation.

The point is to use this as a way of determining if employees know how to perform a particular process. Testing as a learning needs assessment process is not used as frequently as other methods, but it can be very useful. Employees are tested to reveal what they know about a particular situation. This information helps to guide learning issues. In implementing projects in organizations where there is an existing manager or team leader, input from the management team may be used to assess the current situation and to indicate the knowledge and skills required by the new situation.

This input can be elicited through surveys, interviews, or focus groups. It can be a rich source of information about what the users of the project, if it is implemented, will need to know to make it successful. Where learning is a minor component, learning needs are simple. Determining learning needs can be time-consuming for major projects where new procedures, technologies, and processes must be developed. As in developing job performance needs, it is important not to spend excessive time analyzing learning needs but rather to collect as much data as possible with minimal resources.

Essentially, individuals prefer certain processes, schedules, or activities for the structure of the project. If the project makes use of an opportunity, this step outlines how the opportunity will be addressed, taking into consideration the preferences of those involved in the project. Preference needs are developed from the input of several stakeholders rather than from one individual.

The funds that can be allocated are also a constraining resource. The urgency of project implementation may introduce a constraint in the preferences. Those who support or own the project often impose preferences on the project in terms of timing, budget, and the use of technology. Because preferences correspond to a Level 1 need, the project structure and solution will relate directly to the reaction objectives and to the initial reaction to the project. In determining the preference needs, there can never be too much detail.

Projects often go astray and fail to reach their full potential because of misunderstandings and differences in expectations surrounding the project. Preference needs should be addressed before the project begins. Pertinent issues are often outlined in the project proposal or planning documentation. Case Study: Southeast Corridor Bank Payoff Needs At this point, following a case study through the different levels of needs may be helpful. The following discussion explores the analysis at Level 5, determining payoff needs.

Like many other fast-growing organizations, SCB faced merger and integration problems, including excessive employee turnover. To the senior vice president of human resources, the answers were clear. Unless the solution appeared to be very expensive, solving the problem would have a tremendous impact. This was the only analysis that was needed at this level. Business Needs The specific measure in question was voluntary turnover: the number of employees leaving voluntarily divided by the average number of employees, expressed as a percentage. These considerations are detailed in the context of determining the solution.

Job Performance Needs To identify the job performance needs, the cause of the problem had to be determined. Once the cause was known, a solution could be developed. The nominal group technique was selected as the analysis method because it allowed unbiased input to be collected efficiently and accurately across the organization. Focus groups were planned consisting of 12 employees from each region, for a total of six groups representing all the regions. In addition, two focus groups were planned for the clerical staff in the corporate headquarters.

This approach provided approximately a 10 percent sample, which was considered sufficient to pinpoint the problem. The focus group participants who represented areas in which turnover was highest described why their colleagues were leaving, not why they themselves would leave. This process had the advantages of low cost and high reliability, as well as a low degree of bias. Only two days of external facilitator time were needed to collect and summarize the data for review. Following are the 10 major reasons given for turnover in the bank branches: 1.

Lack of opportunity for advancement 2. Pay level not adequate 4. Not enough responsibility and empowerment 5. Lack of recognition and appreciation of work 6. Lack of teamwork 7. Lack of preparation for customer service problems 8. Unfair and nonsupportive supervisor 9. Too much stress at peak times However, the remainder of this case study will focus on the efforts to reduce turnover in the branch network.

The program was designed to expand the scope of the jobs, with increases in pay awarded for the acquisition of skills and a clear path provided for advancement and improvement. Jobs were redesigned from narrowly focused duties to an expanded role with a new title: every teller became a banking representative I, II, or III.

A branch employee would be designated a banking representative I if he or she could perform one or two simple tasks, such as processing deposits and cashing checks. As an employee at this level took on additional responsibilities and learned to perform different functions, he or she would be eligible for a promotion to banking representative II. A representative who could perform all the basic functions of the branch, including processing consumer loan applications, would be promoted to banking representative III.

Training opportunities were available to help employees develop the needed skills, and structured on-the-job training was provided by the branch managers, assistant managers, and supervisors. Self-study information was also available. The performance of multiple tasks was introduced to broaden responsibilities and enable employees to provide excellent customer service. Pay increases were used to recognize skill acquisition, demonstrated accomplishment, and increased responsibility. In theory, if all employees in a branch could perform all the necessary duties, fewer employees would be needed.

In addition, the bank anticipated improved customer service. The new approach would prevent customers from having to wait in long lines for specialized services. With each employee now performing all the tasks, shorter waiting lines could be expected. To support this new arrangement, the marketing department featured the concept in its publicity about products and services.

Learning Needs At Level 2, learning needs fell into two categories. Second, it was necessary for employees to learn how the new program worked. The project had to be rolled out as soon as possible so that its effects could be translated into lower employee turnover. All the training programs must be in place and available to employees.

This process must move swiftly, or it would result in disappointment to employees who were eager to be trained and promoted. At the same time, the staffing and workload concerns had to be balanced so that the appropriate amount of time was devoted to training and skill building.

Project leaders wanted employees to view the program as challenging, motivational, rewarding, and fair and as a solid investment in their futures. These needs were easily translated into the solution design. Developing Objectives for Projects and Programs Projects and programs are driven by objectives. A project may be aimed at implementing a solution that addresses a particular dilemma, problem, or opportunity. Regardless of the project or program, multiple levels of objectives are necessary.

They correspond to the levels of evaluation and the levels of needs presented in Figure Reaction Objectives For a project to be successful, the stakeholders immediately involved in the process must react favorably—or at least not negatively—to the project. This feedback must be obtained routinely during the project in order to make adjustments, keep the project on track, and redesign certain aspects as necessary.

Developing reaction objectives should be straightforward and relatively easy. They also form the basis for evaluating the chain of impact, and they emphasize planned action, when this is feasible and needed. Typical issues addressed in the development of reaction objectives are relevance, usefulness, importance, appropriateness, rewards, and motivation.

Learning Objectives Every project or program involves at least one learning objective, and most involve more. With projects entailing major change, the learning component is quite important. In situations narrower in scope, such as the implementation of a new policy, the learning component is minor but still necessary. To ensure that the various stakeholders have learned what they need to know to make the project successful, learning objectives are developed. Objectives are critical to the measurement of learning because they communicate the expected outcomes from the learning component and define the competency or level of performance necessary to make project implementation successful.

They provide a focus to allow participants to clearly identify what it is they must learn and do—sometimes with precision. Application objectives are similar to learning objectives but relate to actual performance. Typical application objectives are as follows: When the project or program is implemented. Application objectives are critical because they describe the expected outcomes in the intermediate area—between the learning of new tasks and procedures and the delivery of the impact of this learning.

Application and implementation objectives describe how things should be or the desired state of the workplace once the project solution has been implemented. They provide a basis for evaluating on-the-job changes and performance. Impact Objectives Impact objectives indicate key business measures that should improve as the application and implementation objectives are achieved. They describe the business unit performance that should result from the project.

Above all, impact objectives emphasize achievement of the bottom-line results that key client groups expect and demand. Objectives at this level define the expected payoff from investing in the project. An ROI objective is typically expressed as an acceptable ROI percentage, which is expressed as annual monetary benefits minus cost, divided by the actual cost, and multiplied by one hundred.

A 0 percent ROI indicates a breakeven project. For some projects, such as the purchase of a new company, a new building, or major equipment, the ROI objective is large relative to the ROI of other expenditures. However, the calculation is the same for both. For example, if the expected ROI from the purchase of a new company is 20 percent, the ROI from a new advertising project might be around 25 percent.

The important point is that the ROI objective should be established up front and in discussions with the project sponsor. Excluding the ROI objective leaves stakeholders questioning the economic success of a project. If a project reaps a 25 percent ROI, is that successful? Not if the objective was a 50 percent ROI. Without this analysis, the project runs the risk of failing to deliver the value that it should, or of not being in alignment with one or more business objectives.

The outputs of the analysis are objectives, which provide a focus for project designers, developers, and implementers, as well as participants and users who must make the project successful. Issues surrounding data collection are discussed in the next four chapters. During implementation, feedback is gathered from participants involved in the project. Their reactions and value perceptions with regard to the project provide indications of its potential for success.

This chapter focuses on the measurement of reaction and perceived value. Participant feedback supplies powerful information to use in making adjustments and measuring success. This chapter outlines the most common approaches to collecting data and explores ways to use the information for maximum value. Why Measure Reaction and Perceived Value? Collecting reaction and perceived value data serves several purposes. Customer Satisfaction Reaction and perceived value are customer satisfaction measures for the project.

Without sustained, favorable reactions, the project may not succeed. A project can also be mismatched to the solution from the beginning, so getting feedback early in the process is necessary to allow for immediate adjustments. This can help prevent misunderstandings, miscommunications, and, more important, misappropriations.

Gathering and using reaction data promptly can enable an improperly designed project to be altered before more serious problems arise. Predictive Capability A relatively recent application of reaction data is predicting the success of a project using analytical techniques. The reaction data thus become a forecast forecasting is described in detail in Chapter Studies have been conducted to verify this correlation. In this analysis, the reaction measures are taken as the project is introduced, and the success of the implementation is later judged using the same scale e.

The project is necessary. The project is important to my success. The project contains information that I intend to implement. I intend to implement the project. I would recommend that others pursue similar projects. Measures such as these consistently lead to strong positive correlations and consequently represent more powerful feedback than typical measures of satisfaction with the project.

Some organizations collect these or similar reaction measures for every project or program initiated. Unfortunately, however, in some organizations, feedback alone has been used to measure project success.

Show Me the Money: How to Determine ROI in People, Projects, and Programs

As subsequent policy changes were made, executives became interested in the extent to which employees actually understood the policy learning , the extent to which employees followed the policy in their work application , and the effectiveness of the policy in reducing ethical violations and infractions impact. Sources of Data Possible sources of reaction and perceived value data concerning the success of a project can be grouped into distinct categories. They also may be asked to explain the potential impact of that application. Participants are a rich source of data for almost every aspect of a project.

They are by far the most credible source of reaction and perceived value data. Participant Managers Another key source of data are the individuals who directly supervise or lead the participants. They have a vested interest in the project and are often in a position to observe the participants as they attempt to apply the knowledge and skills acquired in the project.

Although managerial input is usually most valuable as a source of reaction and perceived value data, it is also useful for other levels of evaluation. Other Employees When entire teams are involved in the implementation of the project, all employees can provide useful information about the perceived changes prompted by the project.

Input from this group is pertinent only to issues directly related to their work. Although data from this group can be helpful and instructive, it is sometimes not elicited because of the potential for introducing inaccuracies to the feedback process. Data collection should be restricted to those team members capable of providing meaningful insight into the value of the project.

Internal or External Customers The individuals who serve as internal customers of the project are another source of reaction, perceived value, and other types of data. In some situations, internal or external customers provide input on perceived changes linked to the project.

This source of data is more appropriate for projects directly affecting the customers. Project Leaders and Team Members The project leader and project team may also provide input on the success of the project. This input may be based on on-the-job observations during the course of the project and after its completion.

Data from this source have limited utility because project leaders often have a vested interest in the outcome of the evaluation, and thus may lack objectivity. E-mail address: jack roiinstitute. E-mail address: patti roiinstitute. Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. Learn more. If you have previously obtained access with your personal account, Please log in. If you previously purchased this article, Log in to Readcube. Log out of Readcube. Click on an option below to access. Log out of ReadCube.

This feature clearly shows that the ROI methodology is not only appropriate for the performance improvement field, but is designed with a variety of performance improvement solutions in mind. The next article in this series will describe issues and challenges that those using this methodology face, along with a brief case study. Volume 46 , Issue 9. The full text of this article hosted at iucr.

If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. When is ROI Useful? When you are looking at past investment choices, ROI analysis can help you evaluate those decisions and make more accurate projections of costs and benefits next time.

Your executive director and IT director or advisor should be looking at how resources are allocated toward hardware, software, and services; as well as across programs, fundraising, marketing, and administration. Are expenditures made in proportion to the way technology benefits each of those functional areas? Is your technology budget simply keeping the lights on, or is it fueling your mission?

In order to do this, you need to assign numbers to the costs and benefits. Many of your numbers will be guesses and approximations. Just make note of your assumptions as you go along, and consider running some alternate scenarios. Also, choose a timeline. For items with an ongoing cost, such as a software subscription or equipment maintenance, I typically use a year timeline.

Costs Some examples of costs are money, staff time, disruption and frustration, and opportunity cost. Opportunity cost means the missed chance to do something else that might have saved or made money. In addition to the investment before you, think about the cost of other alternatives, including the option to do nothing. Some costs are tricky to measure.

I worked with one nonprofit employee who suspected she was spending an unreasonable amount of time on a tedious report creation task. She was comparing data management products that purported to streamline this work.

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So, she timed herself with a stopwatch on the current process, then timed herself doing the same task in each of the products under consideration, and multiplied it out by how many times per year she needed to create the report. By doing this, she formed a reasonable projection of how much time the old system was costing her.