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Two perspectives on ROI
February, 2006Articles in focus:
The business case justification for simulation software. (iRise Corporation white paper, September 2004). This link takes you to a registration page, but the paper itself is free.
"Evaluating the costs and benefits of end-user development" in Proceedings of the First Workshop on End-user Software Development (2005) After you download this PDF file, use the Adobe Acrobat FIND command to search for "costs." You'll find this paper on page 43 of the document.
See also: "Get ready for end user development" (Montague Institute Review, January, 2006)
About the authors. The author of the business case is an anonymous marketing person at iRise Corporation. The author of the workshop paper is Alistair Sutcliffe, a Professor of Systems Engineering and Director of the Centre for Human Computer Interface Design at Manchester University (UK).
Articles summarized. The iRise white paper is designed to help CIOs and CFOs justify the $250,000+ cost of the vendor's software package. The product allows business analysts to create working models of applications that look and behave as they would on the Web. The goal is to minimize the delays and cost overruns due to lack of user involvement in the software development process. The remainder of the white paper consists of six "scenarios" that illustrate projected savings and revenue enhancement: 1) the cost of rework, 2) managing outsourced development, 3) cutting time to market, 4) cutting prototyping costs, 5) enhancing competitive advantage, and 6) increasing user adoption rates.
The workshop paper is targeted to an audience of computer scientists who specialize in "human-computer interaction" (HCI). HCI is a recognized interdisciplinary field concerned with how people behave when they are using computer hardware or software. The first part of the paper describes a metrics approach that compares perceived software costs and benefits prior to acquisition with actual costs and benefits after implementation — complete with equations and graphs.
My comments. Both documents deal with some of the same issues — rework costs, user adoption rates, and the flexibility to innovate — but the first author sees them from the top down while the second author sees them from the bottom up.
To the author of the white paper, I would address the following questions:
I would ask the author of the workshop paper:
What we need is a meeting of the minds, since both the top-down and the bottom-up perspectives have merit. But what does this mean in practical terms?
I got some clues from one of our members in the financial services industry, whose company is formalizing a program to support end-user development. Three years ago, the firm established the role of "technical end user developer" within the IT function. Today this person is a manager supervising four employees.
At first, the IT manager resisted the move because the programmers looked down their noses at Microsoft Excel, Visual Basic, and Access — the most common end-user development tools. Today, they've substituted the challenge of working with cutting edge technologies with the instant gratification that comes from helping end users get quick business results. It's a good thing too, since many of their applications are mission critical and need to be migrated to IT for stability and reliability.
The technical staff advise and guide end users, write code, and help with IT migration. The company also offers a training program for business analysts in Visual Basic, SQL (Structured Query Language), and "connectors" such as APIs (Application Program Interfaces) and plugins.
To get the best of both worlds, organizations need to develop a support system that includes end user training, technical support, standards, and policies. The benefits are three-fold: leveraging the development work already done, reducing the cost of future developments, and safeguarding mission critical applications so they are always available when needed.February 2006Created on February 14, 2006 l Updated on August 14, 2012