As you move up the corporate ladder to a management position, one mandatory skill is being able to present a convincing business case for major IT upgrades. Telling your boss that the company must perform an IT upgrade because "It rocks" or "Because I want to learn the latest technology" probably won't get the desired results. The company must receive more benefit from an upgrade than the upgrade costs. One way to evaluate the effectiveness of any company expenditure is Return on Investment (ROI). In simple terms, ROI is the length of time it takes before the benefits received from the upgrade exceed the initial cost of the upgrade--the shorter the time period the better. For most large capital expenditures, ROI periods of 1 to 2 years are pretty attractive, but smaller expenditures usually require a shorter ROI period to gain approval.

Let's assume that your company is swamped with spam. You need a good spam-filtering solution that blocks junk mail and has a low false-positive rate. For simplicity, let's assume the following facts about your company:

  1. Your company has 100 email users and they're paid an average of $30 per hour.
  2. The average user spends 10 minutes a day clearing out spam from his or her Inbox.

So spam costs your company $500 (100 users x $30 per hour x (10minutes/60 minutes)) per day in lost productivity. Assuming users work 5 days a week, the company is losing $2,500 per week in lost productivity or $10,000 per month. And these are just the "hard costs;" this model doesn't factor in the cost to store the junk mail on the server, backup capacity, Internet bandwidth, and maintenance time, so the total cost of spam is higher. Let's assume you're considering an antispam solution that costs $15,000. What is the ROI? One and one-half months ($15,000/$10,000)! This means the benefits that the company receives will start exceeding the cost of the initial antispam investment in less than 2 months. Presenting this ROI case to your boss will have a much stronger effect than simply asking for $15,000 for an antispam solution. Of course, your assumptions in your ROI model must be realistic. I suggest using conservative numbers in any ROI model when presenting a case to your boss. You can always state that if the lost productivity costs are actually higher, the ROI time will be shorter.

If your company has a tight budget and tries to cut corners too often, remind managers about past IT projects that actually cost the company more money because they didn't want to invest the necessary capital to do the job right the first time. The economy seems to be getting better and IT budgets are getting larger, but you still must have the skills to convince your boss to invest in IT to increase the productivity of employees in the company.

Tip: Running APC PowerChute 6.x Business Edition? Upgrade to 7.x
We're in the process of upgrading all our clients to the latest version of Symantec Norton AntiVirus (NAV)--NAV 10.0. The NAV 10.0 installation process requires that you reboot the server several times. During the reboot, the computer appeared to hang during the "Applying computer settings" boot message. At first, we thought it was a conflict with the NAV 10.0 software and possibly one of the critical updates. To troubleshoot the problem, we used the guidance from the Microsoft article " How to troubleshoot startup problems in Windows Server 2003" (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/325375). We booted the server into Safe mode and disabled each service individually. When we disabled the American Power Conversion (APC) UPS Powerchute services, the server started up normally. The Powerchute software will gracefully shut down a server connected to an APC UPS when a power failure occurs. The software also monitors the quality of the power entering the UPS and logs major power events. We initially thought that there was a conflict with NAV 10.0 and the Powerchute software. We did a little more research and found the answer here. If you run APC Powerchute Business Edition 6.x after July 27, 2005, it will cause serious problems with your servers because the Sun Microsystems Java Runtime Environment (JRE) expires on that date. You must upgrade to Powerchute 7.x as soon as possible. You might get your server to boot, but at one client location it took 45 minutes on a relatively fast (2.0GHz) server. In addition to the slow-booting problem, we had one client's Symantec Backup Exec backup tape drive go offline because of the Powerchute software. As soon as we upgraded the server to Powerchute 7.x, the backup ran fine. Save yourself some grief and troubleshooting time and upgrade to Powerchute 7.x as soon as possible.