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Published on April 5th, 2018 | by Emergent Enterprise


Steve Jobs and the ROI on Emerging Technology

It was 1997 and the company was floundering. Even though it was admired throughout the world for its innovation and creativity, those qualities had not translated into profitability in recent years. Some bad decisions about products and missteps in vision for the company had caused shareholders and board members to question if the right leadership was in place. It seemed obvious that it was time for change.

A previous leader of the company who had left twelve years prior was brought back into the fold. He was brash and reckless and sometimes a “total jerk” but maybe that’s just what was needed to get the company back on course.

Upon his return, the prodigal leader was going on a tour of the campus to see what had become of the company he had helped start and which had changed the world. His tour eventually guided him to the design department and he stopped at the workbench of a designer surrounded by computer parts and prototypes. This is where Steve Jobs found Jonathan Ive working on the iMac, the computer that was the start to bring Apple back to its influential status. Supposedly what attracted Jobs to the iMac was that the entire “guts” of the computer were in the teardrop monitor itself. Genius on the part of Ive. This was a product that Jobs was willing to take a risk on now that he had returned.

Obviously that risk paid off. But was it a reckless risk? Or did Jobs see the many benefits of the unprecedented design and know that there was a high potential in the return on investment? ROI is a combination of risk AND strategic thinking. It means launching a new idea, product or process to a critical audience that wants something useful and valuable. When you have an understanding of what the audience needs and wants and then align your new idea with it, your chances for a successful ROI increase.

This is true of introducing emerging technology in your company. By evaluating existing tasks and processes in your business and then determining how new technology could improve them can lead to exciting results. Consider these potential ROI targets:

  1. Increase in productivity. You probably know the existing output of specific job roles in your business. How can technology boost that productivity? For instance, having timely heads up information through AR glasses could be a benefit to the employee on the assembly line.
  2. Savings in travel expenses. If you can develop a virtual environment that can be widely distributed to employees who would normally travel to the one real life physical environment you can add up all of those saved travel expenses in your ROI statement.
  3. Reduction in job injuries. When employees work in dangerous environments they can benefit from “just in time” information. If a technician needs a warning on the plant floor, IoT sensors could send a notification to his or her smartphone, glasses or watch.

It should be clear how you can attribute dollars to these three scenarios and develop an ROI total. For instance, most companies have a general idea how much a workplace injury costs. If new technology can help reduce the number of injuries by five in one year the savings are evident – let alone the fact that there are less injured people!

Obviously, Steve Jobs made mistakes in some of his decisions. Have you ever heard of the Apple Lisa? Mistakes are inevitable in visionary thinking. But launching new ideas doesn’t have to be like tightrope walking with no net. There are ways to attach a clear ROI argument to many types of untried concepts, procedures and processes. Also remember that stagnation, especially in the face of your competition, can be very costly. You may have your own Jonathan Ive in your midst with that new concept that can revive old ways of getting things done. Stop and take a look at it and you may realize a true return on investment.

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Emergent Enterprise

The Emergent Enterprise (EE) website brings together current and important news in enterprise mobility and the latest in innovative technologies in the business world. The articles are hand selected by Emergent Enterprise and not the result of automated electronic aggregating. The site is designed to be a one-stop shop for anyone who has an ongoing interest in how technology is changing how the world does business and how it affects the workforce from the shop floor to the top floor. EE encourages visitor contributions and participation through comments, social media activity and ratings.

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