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01:12 PM

Business Technology: ROI Mania Is Upon Us

Business as usual? What does that mean anymore? In this rigid, scrutinize-every-expense-till-it-screams climate, it would hardly be surprising to hear that a software entrepreneur is beta-testing an application that measures the ROI of ROI analyses while playing Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives" in the background.

Companies must need such a tool, because ROI mania has seized the business world in a headlock, and a smackdown and quick pin are, by all accounts, imminent.

"This ROI analysis for the proposed CRM project should be interesting--I'm really excited about heading up the project."

"Wait a minute--did you get it approved?"

"No, the CRM project hasn't been approved. That's the point--our ROI analysis is going to help us make the decision on whether it should be."

"You're not listening: Forget about the CRM project; have you gotten approval for starting your ROI analysis?"

"You're scaring me. What the hell are you talking about?"

"OK, lemme slow down a little. You're on the company E-mail system, right?"

"Very funny."

"Then you must have received the memo late last week from the CFO about ROI projects, right?"

"It's in my in-box, but it's pretty massive, so I didn't read it. So what?"

"Well, Einstein, her royal CFOness says that in the interest of increasing shareholder equity and focusing our resources on only those projects that improve our bottom line, no new ROI analyses can be started without first getting her approval on whether the time and resources spent on doing that analysis will provide an appropriate return."

[Blank stare.]

"I'm not kidding. See, what she said was, ever since the cafeteria found as a result of its mandatory ROI analysis of how it prepares food that boiled all-goat hot dogs are more profitable to the company than grilled all-beef hot dogs, and as a further result switched to the all-goat boiled variety, our emergency-room medical claims have skyrocketed and sick leave has doubled."

"And I'm not so happy about the 'special composite protein deli sandwich' five days a week, either, even if it's only $4.95."

"Yeah, whatever. The point, pinhead, is unintended consequences."


"Un-in-tend-ed con-se-quen-ces."

"You mean like when that NFL kicker made a field goal and jumped up and down to celebrate but tore a ligament in his knee while he was doing it?"

"Yeah, well, something like that. See, let me speak your language: It's like that arcade game, Whack A Mole: When you hammer one problem down, it triggers another one to pop up, and by solving one you might really not have made any progress because you've just unleashed another."

"So we're not allowed to play Whack A Mole at lunchtime anymore?"

[Sigh.] "Earth to knucklehead: This is why the CFO says we can't do any ROI analyses unless we've completed and received her sign-off on the ROI of that ROI analysis."

"But what about the CRM project?"

"Listen, you gotta stop thinking small or you're not going to get anywhere around here. Focus, my dippy friend, focus: The CRM project is the tail, and the ROI analysis of the CRM project is the dog, but the ROI measure of the ROI analysis of the CRM project is the owner of the dog, and she holds the leash."

"Well, why didn't you say so in the first place? So instead of just doing the approved $7-million, 12-month ROI analysis of the $5-million, 8-month CRM project, I should first get approval for, say, just a cool $1 million to do an eight-week ROI justification of the CRM-ROI analysis? Now, that makes sense--it only pushes the CRM project out 14 months, which the vendor says is average for our industry."

"Rockefeller, I do believe you've got it."

Bob Evans
[email protected]

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