Editor’s note: "Innovation Exchange” is written by Noah Garrett, former director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association. He is a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, who owns and operates NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a Web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Research indicates that return on investment (ROI) is the most important factor when making technology purchasing decisions today. This isn’t a new idea by any means, but it’s certainly become a major component for industry and life as we know it.

Today’s customers are not passive. They are on the Web searching for companies and products that meet their needs and budgets. From a technology standpoint, proving your solution will quickly pay for itself is crucial to landing more business, gaining customer trust, and building relationships.

Hot new features and some small talk about competitive advantage used to be all it took to close a deal. Today, customers want proof that money spent equals a realistic payoff – and a quick one at that.

Businesses must make the most of scarce resources today and at the same time respond to ever-increasing demands for improved performance and new technology. These competing demands generate close scrutiny for new technology investments.

It’s not just that budgets are tight right now – and they are. What has happened is that the market has matured and technology decision-making is much more polished.

This is our forum to exchange ideas. This is an idea place. But, let me tell you, if you can’t build a credible economic justification that generates fiscal results quickly, it doesn’t matter if you have the latest and greatest idea on the planet. You won’t make any money on your idea and/or gain any street cred if you don’t make the ROI argument. It’s as simple as that.

Another trend is that focus really has shifted from longer-term initiatives and moved toward efforts that deliver quick ROI and facilitate short-term business objectives that bring immediate cost savings.

So, what do we do?

We work smarter.

However you compose your ROI model is really the beginning of a long conversation about how the product will actually be used and its realistic impact. For example, if your model calls for productivity gains from a new feature, make sure there’s a plan in place so the feature actually gets used.

That’s just one example among many.
Another quick example is non-technology related but certainly timely based on our economic climate.

I receive a lot of resumes that are chalked full of accolades and professional profiles. This is fine. But, many times, I and many other potential employers also see hiring an employee is an investment. The ROI argument of yourself should be demonstrated in your resume and demonstrated clearly.

That’s just a quick note of advice to job seekers right now.

In summation, today’s business owners and decision makers face constant pressure to do things faster, better, and cheaper. Technology investments, especially, allow little margin for error in our current economic environment. New solutions not only have to be simple to install, operate and maintain, but they must start paying for themselves immediately.

ROI is not just about math, it is a matter of survival. Make the argument and you will see success.