The good news and the all too familiar news...

So this week there's been good news and there's been bad news. Or perhaps I should say, good news and depressingly familiar news - and both from the same market research firm.

First up, AMR Research made us smile with its prediction that up to 80 per cent of companies expect to see their IT spending increase or remain stable in 2004. Hurrah! The corner is about to be turned.

In particular applications spending on ERP and SCM will go up, while CRM spending will stay static - and let's face it, after the turmoil of the past couple of years, the fact that it's not declining is something to celebrate in its own right.

Great. So now the bad news. According to AMR, CRM applications are still being deployed with no clear idea of how to measure if companies are seeing any genuine return on investment from them! Now this is getting a tad depressing, people. How much longer is this going to last?

ROI has been top of the politically correct checklist for several years now, but it seems that it's still something to which token gestures are made with no clear idea of how to follow up on the commitment. It's politicians promising tax cuts or improved heathcare or better education or finding weapons of mass destruction under the bed.

If as AMR suggests, there is finally light at the end of the economic tunnel and companies are preparing to ease open those corporate purses, the industry cannot afford many more 'No ROI on offer' headlines. When spending does start again, it's going to be carefully monitored and tracked for its value. The glory days of spend, spend, spend are a long way behind us now and they're not likely to be coming back any time soon.

Wise companies will spend the remainder of 2003 evaluating and putting in place robust and rigorous ROI metrics and establishing rock-solid business plans for any planned 2004 applications investments and deployments. Make the vendors work for you - they're desperate for business, make them earn their money and provide some genuine ROI assistance, not just some numbers plucked out of the air in the marketing meeting.

But most of all, do your own homework. It's your money you're spending after all. It would be nice to think that AMR had published its last ROI shortcomings report - but somehow I doubt it.

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