All the talk about the economy picking up in 2002 seems to be a little overenthusiastic. The recession hangover from 2001 seems like the mother-in-law who refuses to leave - it's always predictions that the real economic spurt will happen in the next quarter. Well, quarters for 2002 are fast running out, and IT folks are hardly holding blank checks for new projects. When will we return to an economic state of normalcy? That's anyone's guess. In the meantime, end users are still talking about ROI. They want a sure bet before they head to their bosses and explain the six-figure invoice that is about to show up.
While many vendors have recognized this end-user obsession with ROI (promoting it through voluminous marketing collateral), how many have actually delivered it in their products? If the products haven't changed substantially in the past year, then it's just new messaging.
ROI: Keep The Meter Running
In my recent conversations with Ask Jeeves, Inc. and Trillium Software, I found two vendors that are addressing the ROI issue head on in new product announcements. Jeeves EnterpriseOne, for instance, has an ROI calculator built into the Web-based, self-service application. The software measures its performance in terms of how many customer queries were handled through its self-service application and compares that to the cost of handling those contacts through traditional voice. You spent money on deflecting contacts to your Web channel, and now you get to see how much money that initiative saved you. At the end of the day, you have the numbers you need to justify your investment or justify a phone call to the Ask Jeeves sales rep.
Trillium Software takes a similar nuts-and-bolts approach to its recent release of Trillium Software System Version 6. Instead of hyping the still very useful function of cleansing databases consisting mainly of names and addresses, Trillium's latest offering is geared specifically at the business user, not the IT user. Of course, IT folks will have to sign off on the software. The IT staff isn't the only group to sell within a company, as was the case in the past. For example, the software lets a marketing manager calculate the cost of poor data quality before launching a campaign. The business user enters data regarding the amount of literature to be mailed, cost of producing the literature, expected sales per customer, and expected response rate. The software then compares those numbers against the mailing database. After accounting for poor data quality, the user sees the expected cost of mailing literature to undeliverable and duplicate addresses.
Because all of this is done before the campaign is launched, a company can calculate its savings as it moves through the year. Like Jeeves EnterpriseOne, this capability is a function of the software and not some ambiguous report.
One Vendor To Praise Or Blame
No one is suggesting that software products have built-in odometer-like meters that keep track of ROI on an ongoing basis. But, these two vendors offer a strategy for users to actually chart ROI as they use the products. If the numbers look great, then these types of companies should be rewarded with more business. If you don't like the numbers on your monitor, you know whom to blame.