Part 4: Communicating Results Effectively

Legal Aid of Western Ohio justifies technology investments like they would justify a new staff position. It is based on the benefits the investment can offer, whether it be staff efficiency or better service to clients. Ed Marks says, “There is no magic formula or spreadsheet. What works for our organization may not be appropriate for other organizations.” Some steps:

1) A technology committee that consists of our IT manager and staff members who aren’t technical. A mix is important
2) Never start the conversation talking about the tools, focus on what the program needs to accomplish
3.) Brainstorm the benefits, identify the values, try to quantify if possible. Include intangibles because they’re important.
4) Identify different options, always asking whether it will help us reach our outcomes.
5) Do research
6) Do the math: Don’t just ask will the investment pay for itself. Look at the cost of not doing the investment. If possible see if there is a “proof of concept” pilot you can do with a smaller investment before rolling out a larger project.
7) Tell the story

ROI Story Telling Techniques

  • A well prepared business case incorporates both the numbers and non-financial factors into a concise and informative presentation
  • The purpose is to sell the value of the proposed project.
  • The business case presents the key issues and facts while spotlighting the investment’s contribution the organization’s mission.
  • Good business cases are calculated based on numbers, but they are approved based on stories.
  • ROI numbers, no matter how compelling, won’t speak for themselves. It’s up to you to explain what they mean to enterprise visions and goals.
  • Clever storytelling is one of the quickest and most effective ways to gain executive director understanding, buy-in and funding. It also helps attract support and cooperation from reluctant users during project implementation and operation.
  • Creating effective stories is not hard, provided you clearly understand who these decision influencers are, know well what they most care about and understand where to place stories for the most impact.

What happens if ROI is negative?

What if the upfront cost is huge and the benefits are all intangible and can’t be quantified? This strikes terror in the hearts of not only technology staff, but also program staff and executive directors. It may be wasted resources that could be used in some other area with better results, like hiring more staff. If you following have followed all the steps, your analysis provides an opportunity for learning and change.

Some tips:

  • Use your research to identify a “proof of concept” project that is less of risk and use that to get a better handle on the costs/benefits and to convert, if possible, intangibles.
  • Manage expectations through discussion.
  • Use your information to drive change. Focus on the cost of not implementing to your client service or staff.

Example of Proof of Concept: Laptops and Wireless Internet Access

This legal services organization is testing the use of laptops for one program before rolling it out statewide. This is the list of questions they answer as part of the pilot:

1. How easy (or not) it is for staff to set up and use the equipment laptop, printer, scanner, cables, etc.?
2. Will staff use the equipment?
3. What will staff use the equipment for?
4. Can we make setup and maintenance simple enough that staff will be able to troubleshoot minor technical problems unassisted?
5. Will advocates consider it helpful to be able to input data as they are interviewing the client?
6. What impact, if any, will the use of the laptop have on good attorney client relationships?
7. Are laptop more useful for doing work

Source: Legal Aid of Western Ohio