I’m in a windowless room. Bright lights shine painfully from above as five strangers in khakis ask me question after question after question. I clear my throat and try again to address their demands. Wiping my sweaty palms, I reach slowly for the phone to send a message to my loved ones that I won’t be coming home tonight.
It sounds like the opening scene of a crime drama, but this scenario is all too familiar for an IT professional building a technology return on investment (ROI). Luckily, times are changing and ROIs are evolving for the good of everyone involved.
Today, technology is as necessary to business as air is to breathing. We live in a world of data centers, cloud computing, countless monitoring tools, terabytes of data and IT professionals frantic to keep the lights on for a business world that never sleeps. The need for investments in technology is undeniable, but justifying the cost to business stakeholders can seem impossible. Enter the ROI.
ROI ain’t what it used to be
In the past, an ROI was an extensive and detailed Q&A. A long list of questions required answers that are very difficult to quantify and deliver. These old school ROIs had to be painstakingly compiled before a purchase could move forward – even if the year of utilization was 2015. Many businesses brought in a consultant to conduct an endless interrogation, much like the scenario above, to uncover every possible penny to dump into an elaborate spreadsheet averaging 10 tabs, pivot tables, and a mysterious algorithm whose origins only Stephen Hawking could accurately determine.
Unfortunately, many organizations are still stuck with an archaic questionnaire citing industry costs from 2005. It’s laughable really. What if I tried to sell my house the same way? I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants the Zillow estimate on my home investment before the market adjusted in 2008. But it’s just not applicable for the housing market anymore. Therefore, just like the housing market, we need a process to produce a true return on investment. The technology ROI should focus on what is relevant and true today, versus our rose-colored view from 2000.
So what should you do?
Mature customers are now taking a hard look at true metrics that reflect not only the infrastructure but also the process in place for the very people who bleed company java (the coffee and the code). With the explosion of cloud computing, funding of IT projects has changed almost overnight. IT can no longer sit comfortably in the capital expenditure column of a company’s P&L, safe under the cover of EBITDA. Instead technology is caught under the microscope of an operational expense. This is not a bad thing. It does, however, require a new level of cooperation with your vendor. The technology you purchase is only half of the equation. Experience is the other.
Most executives depend on the competence and knowledge of their advisors. For IT, this means finding a vendor who has experience in the arena of your project. Vet your vendors carefully and put your trust in their ability. If you don’t have a relationship with your technology vendors – if you can’t trust their experience, their references, and their response to your unique business process and philosophy – run for the hills.
We all look to the experts, to those who adapt and ask compelling questions as we endeavor to bring the best decisions forward. For an IT professional, having a trusted vendor is an essential piece of that success. You invest in your employees, you invest in technologies, and you must invest in a true connection to your IT vendors. That trust enables you to navigate the complex landscape of people, process and technology. This is a glorious moment when an ROI simply becomes part of that great relationship.
There is a natural exchange filled with candor and debate. Interrogations give way to dialogue. Open exchanges, customer experiences and tribal knowledge overflow into the evaluation process, producing a viable, logical ROI as a natural by-product of your journey.
The benefit is twofold:
- You gain a vendor resource at your disposal throughout the project and beyond instead of a shadowy stranger who disappears once the purchase order is signed.
- As your business evolves and the landscape changes, your vendor ensures the technology you depend on stays relevant for the long term.
In the past, an ROI was all about the numbers. Fortunately, people have become a crucial part of the investment.
And it’s about time.
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