Wednesday, March 27, 2013

10 Steps to Increase the ROI of IT Systems

It is very common to see IT systems being underutilized, leading many companies to question the Return on Investment (ROI) promised by industry and product experts. 


What should be examined are not the promises of suppliers, but the internal processes of implementation, maintenance and integration. The effort does not end at the purchase contract. Quite the contrary, installing an IT system is just the beginning of the most important and laborious phase to maximize its benefit.


Low ROI begins by omission or poor qualification of suppliers of IT services. It’s often followed by wasted investments that pass under the radar due to low levels of support and involvement of company management in the implementation process. Another barrier to higher ROI is strong resistance from employees, who, by nature, are opposed to change. 

Below are ten steps to stimulate thought and action so you and your team can extract more value from the investments in your existing enterprise systems.

 

1 - Improve Your Arguments

You know what must be done to improve the degree of utilization of the systems, but you’re unable to get approval from management?

A good part of the fault is in the delivery of the request. You cannot put 100% of blame on the decision maker. We need to realize that the requestor plays an important role. You need to know your audience. Structure your project and show the expected results clearly, both in terms of business benefits and financial results. 

2 - Map Your Processes

Chinese Whispers
You can't automate a process that is not explicit. Trying to automate something that is in someone's head is very close to the children’s game of “telephone” (aka Chinese Whispers) where many mistakes are made as a whispered message gets passed from person to person.

There's opening for discussion of improvements, but take care to not lose your focus, which is to extract better results from current systems.
 

3 - Improve Use of Existing Resources

With documented processes in hand, call the vendor of your system and discuss any existing routines not being supported by the system, but which easily could be.

On average, users of IT systems only utilize 10-20% of the capabilities the systems can provide. 

4 - Customize In Order to Automate

Customization is something that should be avoided as much as possible, but if you have talked to the vendor as suggested in the previous item and there are no out-of-the-box solutions, now is the time to customize. The caution here is that the customization needs to be done in a way that enables you to continue to be able to upgrade your systems without inviting additional difficulties and costs.

Always be on the lookout for automation opportunities. Don't create routines for users. If there are stable rules that enable the development of automated routines, automate the processes

5 - Integrate Your Systems Selectively

Do not integrate for the sake of integrating. Putting everything on the same system may actually be a detriment to the efficiency of processes. Look for the best opportunities for real-time integration between the most relevant and important processes and systems. 

6 - Mobilize Your Processes

Improving usage of current systems can often be feasible if some processes are mobilized, enabling access through mobile devices from any location, at any time. Requiring that employees return to the office to input data in the system can jeopardize their use. 

7 – Fully Qualify Your Users

You’ve done everything possible to optimize usage of your current systems; do not forget to fully qualify your users. This issue is critical and often not given the importance it deserves. 

8 - Bring the Concept of Business Intelligence to the Operational Level

Many BI implementations seek only to bring information to the strategic level of the company. But, as this has traditionally been based on outdated archived data, it has caused disbelief in the intelligence and the consequent underutilization of systems.

The best path to make people use BI data is to provide near real-time information that can benefit their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. Setting up a dashboard using relevant KPIs to monitor the performance of your team is a good example of using BI at the operational level. 

9 - Keep Your Systems Up-to-Date

Do not settle. Upgrade your systems! We know that upgrading systems requires a significant amount of validation effort beforehand and cleanup of unexpected side effects after, but every new version brings many improvements that should be harnessed. 

10 - Revisit Your Processes

With the previous steps done, it is time to revisit the process from step one, discuss and plan improvements.



I hope these tips encourage reflection and help you create a plan to get the optimum ROI from your existing IT systems.





Rodney Repullo
CEO of Magic Software Brazil, a provider of development and integration platforms for business.



This is a translation of an article originally published on February 15, 2013 on CIO.com Brazil in Brazilian Portuguese.