Take it step by step

mathematics involved in calculating Return on Investment are simple enough. The
biggest challenges lie in the process itself. Gwen Berthiez offers some best
practice tips to help you plan a successful ROI project

with the end in mind

the planning process, be very certain of what the training project’s end objectives
are. Ask yourself – and, more importantly, ask the project sponsor – the
following questions:

Exactly what do you want to accomplish?

What would success look like at the conclusion of this project?

What are the expected deliverables?

What would have been accomplished for you to say, “The project has been a
success, now let’s talk about the next one?”

whether or not you can actually deliver

you handle the request? Do you have the expertise or do you know where to find
it? Are the parameters reasonable yet challenging? Numbers can very quickly get
out of hand. However it is important to carefully consider whether or not the
scope is realistic to achieve. In determining the feasibility of meeting a
request take your time and think through each step carefully. Do not give
managers unrealistic expectations about how quickly you can provide useful ROI
data to them. Be careful and thorough – you will need to get it right in order
to secure funding for subsequent projects.

out small

this is your first ROI project, as you begin selecting a viable project, try to
think small If you don’t, unanticipated challenges will almost immediately
present themselves. Limit your scope to an arena that is 100 per cent within
your control or that of the project sponsor. Select a manageable project that
is almost guaranteed to be successful and provide good, solid results on which
you can build subsequent projects. Consider keeping the project as low-key as
possible. Early unwanted publicity may force you to share inconclusive and
immature data, resulting in project derailment or even cancellation. Though
critics are an important part of the road to success, make certain that you
chose the time and place to engage with them.

certain that all pertinent data and numbers are accessible

ROI project is rarely a unilateral activity. As the project scope is fully
determined, it will become evident that a number of people and functions will
have to be involved to a lesser or greater degree. What data will you be
allowed to access? Is any of it confidential and to which functions? Is the
head of the function that houses the data a supporter of yours and of the ROI
project? How can you sell the idea to the holder of the data and how can that
individual use it to further functional or company objectives?

will also need to find out whether or not you have ready access to the data
with which you will need to compare your ROI results – such as departmental
numbers and highly proprietary company statistics. Not all pertinent data is to
be found in the company annual report. Check this aspect out thoroughly before
launching into the ROI project. You might be surprised to find how difficult it
is to obtain some of the meaningful numbers, ratios and percentages you need.

a budget and get it approved

is all part of successfully “managing” the ROI project. You need to be regarded
as a numbers guru in order to build credibility with the “customer” (internal
or external; management, sponsor, or critic). A solid budget must be
established up front, since ROI projects can be expensive and take time.

being smart about money and numbers is a key part of many people’s jobs, make
these skills part of your tool kit too if you want to be successful. In many
cases you have just one opportunity to establish credibility, so mistakes are
not an option where finance is concerned.

determining resource costs, think through resource needs carefully at each
step. As you plan, be brutally realistic about the scope and actual time
required. Is this a full-time job for you? Do you have other resources at your
disposal to deploy on the actual “doing” of the work and the gathering of the
data or are you a one-person show? Is this an additional job on top of the other
three full-time jobs on which you are deployed?

you have the resources required for data entry and number crunching – someone
who has an excellent command of Excel or Lotus 123 to manipulate the data accurately?
Who will analyse and make sense of the findings? Who has the requisite MS
Project or FastTrack expertise to create a timeline? What about other employee
time and costs to oversee data distribution and collection? Make no mistake,
conducting an ROI study requires time and concentration. Progress will not
occur with a stolen few minutes, especially if you are still in the learning

politics and buy-in process

who touches the process needs to understand and buy into the reasons for and
importance of the ROI study. Explain what it will mean to them and their job.
How will they benefit from the results of the study?

forget that you do not live and work in a vacuum. Your company is a highly
integrated and sensitive system of interconnected people and processes on which
you rely for you data – sponsors, local champions, administrative people,
critics, etc. Be careful to obtain approval from all power-brokers concerned,
especially if you are asking for sensitive numerical data from them or from
their employees.

the appropriate vehicle to enable ease and accuracy of data collection

all possible options and then select the approach that best meets project
needs. Will you use questionnaires, surveys, tests, interviews, focus groups,
observation, performance records, etc? Keep credibility foremost in mind when
choosing a data collection vehicle. Consider not only which approach, but also
what participant audience is most likely to supply the information needed to
build a credible ROI case. Careful and thoughtful preparation saves
backtracking, confusion, and wasted time and effort.

Berthiez is account manager with the Leadership and Support Team in Raytheon
Training’s Troy, Michigan, USA office. ggberthiez@hti.com

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