ROI From Your IT Guy: A Programmer’s Perspective

Reading Time: 3 Minutes Beyond

Your IT guy is pretty much the most overlooked team member – an invariably also the most crucial. Not only does he (or she) pretty much hold together the entire infrastructure of your company, but they’re also the most underutilized advisor. Since they know about all the nuts and bolts of how things work, or should work, doesn’t it make sense for us to turn to them when considering how to best forge a path forward, especially when it comes to ROI.

There might be two issues with this, though. First, you may not have an IT guy. You may be that budding DIY entrepreneur (and there are many, especially with an engineering background) that can’t yet afford a full fledged IT dude. Take heed.

Second, your IT guy might not be the best conversationalist. I hate to stereotype but IT guys don’t always communicate their ideas very well. This probably has a lot to do with why they’re otherwise overlooked, quarantined in one corner of a far-flung office, needed but not relied upon unless in the wake of a digital disaster.

Luckily, I have access to one of the brightest most eloquent (and humble) IT minds. One Arthur Bearden, a rarity among his type for if nothing else than his ability to talk to us lay-folk with patience and in a language we can understand.

Here’s what veteran IT guru Arthur Bearden has to say about ROI:

Looking beyond direct ROI is vitally important. A resource that looks very expensive and brings in no direct revenue may in fact be worth many times its annual cost in higher efficiency for other resources, elimination of costly needs, and clarity in business intelligence or planning.

[Here are] two examples from a programmer’s perspective (for obvious reasons):

(1) A second, or third, monitor may be $300 to $500 for a better model. It’s easy to write off the monitor as an unnecessary expense. Consider, however, that a second monitor allows a developer to reference and copy data more quickly and more accurately. Better models help reduced eyestrain. Larger models can display more data. It can also allow the developer to have collaboration software (IM, email, Skype, Google Docs, etc) active and visible while they code, which can increase the efficiency of your whole team. All of this can increase the efficiency at which the developer codes. Given a salary of $50k to $150k per year, it doesn’t take much of an increase in productivity to recoup and see an amazing ROI…as long as you’re looking at the indirect benefits.

(2) Programmers as a staff position. Again, $50k to $150k per year. A hefty expense at most companies. Many managers see them as an “extra” once the base system or product is in place since the system can coast without the developers for a while. However, some fail to account for the benefits of indirect ROI from programmers. Developers can streamline the operations of other staff by increasing their ability to process units of work: i.e if a utility program can increase a worker’s output from 20 units/hr to 30 or 40 units/hr, then that’s 33% to 50% of that worker’s pay that can be attributed to the ROI for the programmer. Sometimes, that can approach 100% if the job can be completely automated. Multiply that by an entire department and it adds up quickly. Looking out even further, how much is it worth to keep the company’s business processes and technology up-to-date? How about innovating enough to stay ahead of competitors? Customizing to fit your business? And being able to communicate directly, on a whim, with immediate feedback? Some of it is difficult, at best, to measure and yet very important for a company’s long-term outlook.

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