Ten ways to save time when measuring business impact and ROI

When it comes to measuring the business impact and return on investment (ROI) on a programme, it’s important to be as efficient as possible. Planning the evaluation upfront will save valuable time – and, as the old saying goes, time is money! Having a plan that saves time will keep you feeling positive about the ROI project instead of overwhelmed at the prospect.

Fortunately, there are tried-and-tested steps you can take to reduce that sense of anxiety. If you’re familiar with the work of Drs Jack and Patti Phillips in the field of ROI, some of their methodology may already be on your radar. In this post, I’ll outline 10 of these methods: they will help you plan ahead, manage costs, harness others’ skills and reduce complexity in evaluating the programme. Put simply, they will give you back control.

You can use these methods regardless of the nature of the programme you’ve developed. So, whether you’ve created a public relations campaign, a change management or policy change programme, a training initiative, an IT development project or a suite of events, you’ll find these ideas will lighten your load.

Keep a copy of our ROI eBook to hand because it has templates and examples of many of the tools we mention within it.

  1. Understand organisational needs

The key to making change is understanding the problem, and the key to showing change is measuring it. Take a look at page 2 of the ROI eBook. Here you’ll see the 10-step ROI methodology model and framework. It’s built on the basis that evaluation is an integral part of all projects, and that it should start when the project starts.

Applying this philosophy to your work comes down to defining business needs, project objectives and evaluation levels early on. Your chief tool as you start the project is a needs analysis, which will not only allow you to explore the organisation’s needs but also provide evidence-based data that can be used as a baseline throughout. It will also enable you to drill down further into organisational needs to discover, for example, what learning needs are associated with the proposed programme, which behaviours need to change, and why. Crucially, it will also give you a sense of the programme’s costs and the areas in which savings can be made.

  1. Build evaluation into the process

Making evaluation part of the project from the start will enable you to create links between business needs, programme objectives and evaluation processes. Use a data collection plan to record which data you’ll need to demonstrate the programme’s impact, and an ROI analysis plan to determine how your proposed changes will be tracked and converted to monetary value.

You’ll also find an evaluation plan essential. This will not only give you a heads-up about which evaluation tasks will be needed and when, but also who should be involved and how. Briefing them in advance will get them on board early and save you having to call in expensive external experts at the last minute.

  1. Collect data from the programme’s outset

This sounds an obvious step, but it’s one that often gets overlooked in the flurry of activity that accompanies a programme’s launch. Your data collection plan will be useful here, as will the people you’ve identified as taking responsibility for gathering information. Making use of others’ time and skills will reduce your burden and save time at this crucial gathering stage, and can also have the benefit upskilling colleagues in data collection skills. You may find a management involvement checklist helps to ensure that key stakeholders have contributed.

  1. Hold participants accountable

Your participants have already told you what they need, so hold them accountable once you’ve delivered that. Create action plans to help them apply their new skills or knowledge, and identify champions who can act as communicators and agents of change.

Participants can also be involved in tracking the change’s impact. This will keep them engaged in the programme and help you isolate the small changes that make the biggest impact.

  1. Look for shortcuts

There’s nothing wrong with a just-in-time approach! Look for tools that allow you and your team to make the most of your time, such as online tools for gap analysis and data collection. It may turn out that the organisation has already researched and invested in these tools, or that there are experts in the business with these skills.

  1. Use sampling to focus your analysis

There’s often no need to analysis the entire programme in depth to show its impact on the organisation. In fact, spending time doing this is unlikely to be an efficient way to use resources. Instead, agree with stakeholders how the programme will be assessed and at what level so that you can focus on this. Offer them a matrix of selection criteria to help them narrow down the options.

  1. Accept estimates

ROI and business impact measurements tend to feel very scientific because they’re so data driven. But, like many business activities, they don’t have to be perfect, especially if the pursuit of perfection adds to your effort and costs.

So, when it comes to isolating impact and converting data, it’s fine to use estimates. You may already have used executives’ estimates when exploring expected benefits and costs, and it’s also OK to use estimated data elsewhere. For example, you may be using information from participants, managers or customers (such as their perception of the level of improvement shown since the programme began) as part of your analysis of the programme’s impact. It’s completely acceptable to use estimates here provided you feel your sources are credible.

Build estimation tools into impact questionnaires to encourage participants to make reliable estimates and to foster a culture in which these are acceptable.

  1. Look for ways to streamline the process

A streamlined process is a simple way to cut costs without reducing impact, but this may not be a step you can take the first time you conduct an ROI evaluation. Instead, wait until the organisation’s leaders are confident in the concept of ROI and you’re able to step back and see points in the process that could be made more efficient.

  1. Upskill your colleagues

It’s in everyone’s interests to increase organisational efficiency, so get colleagues on board and involved with the process. Your programme’s champions are likely to be keen to build their evaluation skills, especially if they can hone CV-worthy skills on a successful programme. You can take advantage of learning and development initiatives such as personal development plans in the organisation to build capability in evaluation skills among other members of staff too. You may find potential champions for future projects among them!

  1. Make the most of technology

Technology is your friend when it comes to managing and analysing data. With so many online survey packages, assessment tools and template creation sites now competing for business, you’re likely to be able to find a free or low-cost option to suit your needs. Online communities such as LinkedIn are often the best source of information on the right tools for your industry.

In summary, evaluating and measuring results need not be difficult or overly time-consuming activities. If you follow the tips above, you will find it much easier than you imagined and like most things, you will get better (and faster) at evaluating programmes with practice. Don’t be afraid to take the leap and feel the satisfaction of knowing your programme has made a real contribution that is worth celebrating!

When it comes to measuring the business impact and return on investment (ROI) on a programme, it’s important to be as efficient as possible. Planning the evaluation upfront will save valuable time – and, as the old saying goes, time is money! Having a plan that saves time will keep you feeling positive about the ROI project instead of overwhelmed at the prospect.

Fortunately, there are tried-and-tested steps you can take to reduce that sense of anxiety. If you’re familiar with the work of Drs Jack and Patti Phillips in the field of ROI, some of their methodology may already be on your radar. In this post, I’ll outline 10 of these methods: they will help you plan ahead, manage costs, harness others’ skills and reduce complexity in evaluating the programme. Put simply, they will give you back control.

You can use these methods regardless of the nature of the programme you’ve developed. So, whether you’ve created a public relations campaign, a change management or policy change programme, a training initiative, an IT development project or a suite of events, you’ll find these ideas will lighten your load.

Keep a copy of our ROI eBook to hand because it has templates and examples of many of the tools we mention within it.

  1. Understand organisational needs

The key to making change is understanding the problem, and the key to showing change is measuring it. Take a look at page 2 of the ROI eBook. Here you’ll see the 10-step ROI methodology model and framework. It’s built on the basis that evaluation is an integral part of all projects, and that it should start when the project starts.

Applying this philosophy to your work comes down to defining business needs, project objectives and evaluation levels early on. Your chief tool as you start the project is a needs analysis, which will not only allow you to explore the organisation’s needs but also provide evidence-based data that can be used as a baseline throughout. It will also enable you to drill down further into organisational needs to discover, for example, what learning needs are associated with the proposed programme, which behaviours need to change, and why. Crucially, it will also give you a sense of the programme’s costs and the areas in which savings can be made.

  1. Build evaluation into the process

Making evaluation part of the project from the start will enable you to create links between business needs, programme objectives and evaluation processes. Use a data collection plan to record which data you’ll need to demonstrate the programme’s impact, and an ROI analysis plan to determine how your proposed changes will be tracked and converted to monetary value.

You’ll also find an evaluation plan essential. This will not only give you a heads-up about which evaluation tasks will be needed and when, but also who should be involved and how. Briefing them in advance will get them on board early and save you having to call in expensive external experts at the last minute.

  1. Collect data from the programme’s outset

This sounds an obvious step, but it’s one that often gets overlooked in the flurry of activity that accompanies a programme’s launch. Your data collection plan will be useful here, as will the people you’ve identified as taking responsibility for gathering information. Making use of others’ time and skills will reduce your burden and save time at this crucial gathering stage, and can also have the benefit upskilling colleagues in data collection skills. You may find a management involvement checklist helps to ensure that key stakeholders have contributed.

  1. Hold participants accountable

Your participants have already told you what they need, so hold them accountable once you’ve delivered that. Create action plans to help them apply their new skills or knowledge, and identify champions who can act as communicators and agents of change.

Participants can also be involved in tracking the change’s impact. This will keep them engaged in the programme and help you isolate the small changes that make the biggest impact.

  1. Look for shortcuts

There’s nothing wrong with a just-in-time approach! Look for tools that allow you and your team to make the most of your time, such as online tools for gap analysis and data collection. It may turn out that the organisation has already researched and invested in these tools, or that there are experts in the business with these skills.

  1. Use sampling to focus your analysis

There’s often no need to analysis the entire programme in depth to show its impact on the organisation. In fact, spending time doing this is unlikely to be an efficient way to use resources. Instead, agree with stakeholders how the programme will be assessed and at what level so that you can focus on this. Offer them a matrix of selection criteria to help them narrow down the options.

  1. Accept estimates

ROI and business impact measurements tend to feel very scientific because they’re so data driven. But, like many business activities, they don’t have to be perfect, especially if the pursuit of perfection adds to your effort and costs.

So, when it comes to isolating impact and converting data, it’s fine to use estimates. You may already have used executives’ estimates when exploring expected benefits and costs, and it’s also OK to use estimated data elsewhere. For example, you may be using information from participants, managers or customers (such as their perception of the level of improvement shown since the programme began) as part of your analysis of the programme’s impact. It’s completely acceptable to use estimates here provided you feel your sources are credible.

Build estimation tools into impact questionnaires to encourage participants to make reliable estimates and to foster a culture in which these are acceptable.

  1. Look for ways to streamline the process

A streamlined process is a simple way to cut costs without reducing impact, but this may not be a step you can take the first time you conduct an ROI evaluation. Instead, wait until the organisation’s leaders are confident in the concept of ROI and you’re able to step back and see points in the process that could be made more efficient.

  1. Upskill your colleagues

It’s in everyone’s interests to increase organisational efficiency, so get colleagues on board and involved with the process. Your programme’s champions are likely to be keen to build their evaluation skills, especially if they can hone CV-worthy skills on a successful programme. You can take advantage of learning and development initiatives such as personal development plans in the organisation to build capability in evaluation skills among other members of staff too. You may find potential champions for future projects among them!

  1. Make the most of technology

Technology is your friend when it comes to managing and analysing data. With so many online survey packages, assessment tools and template creation sites now competing for business, you’re likely to be able to find a free or low-cost option to suit your needs. Online communities such as LinkedIn are often the best source of information on the right tools for your industry.

In summary, evaluating and measuring results need not be difficult or overly time-consuming activities. If you follow the tips above, you will find it much easier than you imagined and like most things, you will get better (and faster) at evaluating programmes with practice. Don’t be afraid to take the leap and feel the satisfaction of knowing your programme has made a real contribution that is worth celebrating!

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