Client Straight Talk And Project ROI

by Anish Mistry

Picture this, you're sitting down with your client (Orange-Beverage) getting ready to work on a great new project idea they have. The project looks quite large, it's going to require combining information from all 5 of their databases. All departments will need to have access and even certain external customer will have restricted access. The CEO of Orange-Beverage says "It will be revolutionary, we'll be able to leverage statistics about our supply-chain we've never had access to before. It's going to be HUGE. How fast can we get this built?" The next couple thoughts are, wow, this will make our next 2 quarters, this will HUGE for us too. Hmmm...wait, what are they trying to do? How is this benefiting them? Have they done even a basic ROI study?

If those last 3 questions didn't go through your head when you read what the CEO said, you may want to lookup the definition of client.

  1. one that is under the protection of another
  2. a person who engages the professional advice or services of another

Being an executive for hire you need to always remember at the end of the day you're in that CXO position for the benefit of the client company. They have engaged your services for advice, but you're also there to protect them. Most of the time this is from outside forces, but many times it may be internal, or more specifically themselves. This is a case of the latter. After talking with the CEO he hasn't even talked with the CFO about ROI or simple cost projections. After peeling back the onion a little bit more, some of the basic number are starting to point to a non-viable project. The ROI projections don't make financial sense. Even though the ability to access all of the additional supply chain information may be useful the CEO and executive team have yet to determined a clear set of goals and objectives of what to do with the data. More importantly how the analysis can be used to improve process or profitability.

Asking the tough questions of the CEO and the entire executive team is part of your job in the C-suite. If you're unable to do this you're not completely fulfilling your role.

As their CIO, what would you do?