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By Tim Buckley Owen

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Abstract

Measuring the value for money provided by information services, and determining whether particular products represent a good return on investment, has always been one of the biggest challenges information managers face. But FreePint writers have been tackling this issue head on, describing techniques for gathering both quantitative and qualitative data and making an evidence-based business case to senior management and other stakeholders. Metrics are part of the process - but so too are case studies and testimonials, all underpinned by the art of persuasion.

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Every organisation needs an intranet - right? And from time to time you need a new one.

"Really?" you might hear senior management saying. So, advises FreePint's James Mullan, before you even think about the technological aspects, you need to build a business case.

Link your business case closely to your organisation's strategy, James advises. So if it's trying to cut down on the number of emails people send, show how your new intranet can help this happen.

James's article on building a business case for a new intranet is one of a raft of recent FreePint pieces on the thorny problem of proving that what you do and the services you provide offer value for money. When it comes to an issue like knowledge management, for example, Sarah Dillingham has five great ideas for ensuring that your cherished new programme will secure buy-in from senior stakeholders.

Evidence, Not Hearsay

Don't be swayed by the voices that shout loudest, Sarah advises. You need to base your business case on evidence, not hearsay.

The more you can quantify it, the better; this isn't necessarily easy, but if you can show how much time you're wasting under the present system, that's a good start. And make sure you identify some quick wins to focus on first.

You can understand why people are dubious about plans for new systems, with all their accompanying technological upheaval. So FreePint's Robin Neidorf has been developing a survey to help information managers rate their organisation's technology culture - the attitudes, processes, talents and systems that drive its adoption of new technologies. "Or," she adds ominously, "prevent said adoption".

As Much Art as Science

Convincing your stakeholders of the value of what you propose is as much art as science, Robin implies. But the process can still be systematised, in four simple steps which she calls the Art of Persuasion.

First, you all have to agree that you have a problem and then that you need to act. Next you need to get people to accept that you have a viable solution and finally (and crucially), that the solution will do the job.

You need to be no less rigorous when making sure that the content you invest in provides good value, advises Willem (Bill) Noorlander. For instance, just saying that vendors won't let us do this or that isn't good enough - the problem may be that you're trying to do something not authorised under the contract.

A short term fix (frequently involving money) may stop the immediate pain but won't solve the problem. Telling the vendor you're an important customer isn't likely to cut any ice either; instead you need to take time to define the issue, determine the business requirements (and the associated risk) - and make sure you include the right stakeholders.

Testimonials vs Metrics

Compliance tools are some of the hottest property around at the moment and, as Penny Crossland warns, the consequences of getting your compliance wrong can be dire. Even so, almost a third of companies apparently still don't measure the effectiveness of their compliance programmes.

Many of the metrics that are used are the same as those used by knowledge managers to assess value for money in their subscription packages, Penny says. But she adds that case studies and testimonials can be an even more effective way of measuring compliance products' value to an enterprise.

Making a good business case for what you do and the products you provide has been a major headache for information managers for years. But there are tools and techniques that you can press into service, and FreePint is at the forefront of helping you discover them.

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