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ROI: Mad to Measure

Calculating the return on E-business investments isn't easy, but that doesn't stop companies from trying.

KPMG didn’t just need bigger in-boxes, it needed a system that could differentiate urgent from not-so-urgent messages, and could collate and store email pertaining to different projects, including relevant charts, photos, budgets, and other attachments. And it needed workflow capabilities so that if there were different versions of a document being emailed back and forth, everyone could discern which version was the most current.

The system also functions as a useful gatekeeper. “KPMG wanted a way for managers to be notified of something only when they needed to be notified,” says Robert Schoettle, vice president of marketing at Intraspect. The new system eliminates emails that “don’t contain value,” says Schoettle, while email that is deemed relevant includes “threads” connecting it to related messages, “so readers can discern the back-and-forth evolution of the issue or item being discussed.”

Most important, Courtney says, is that the system virtually eliminates the need for on-site status-and-delivery meetings. “We used to fly five or six dozen of our employees who were working on a project to some central location to discuss it with the client,” he notes. “Then we’d fly them home on weekends. In the meantime we’d rent office space for everyone to gather. This is not exactly inexpensive.”

Now those same employees gather and collaborate on the Web in the virtual workspace created for that project. They participate in discussions with project leaders, post and receive documents, add their thoughts to status reports, and so on. “The productivity improvements are enormous,” asserts Courtney.

How does he know this, other than using just plain common sense? “We’re measuring ROI two ways—how long it takes us to develop proposals for clients and how long it takes us to produce different deliverables,” he explains. “Each involves multiple people across multiple geographies. Since we know how long it took us to do these the old way, we can gauge the impact on productivity.”

There are soft benefits as well. “A new employee who is relatively inexperienced can ramp up rapidly by entering the virtual workspace and examining everything there is to know about an ongoing project,” says Courtney. “And we’re decreasing frustration levels by helping employees easily find what or whom they’re looking for. We’ve basically reinvented the way we collaborate.” —RB

Saab Cars U.S.A.

When Saab Cars U.S.A. (www.saabusa.com) was trying to determine which Internet users were ripe for the plucking, it found that the key was fermented grapes. Hoping to entice affluent shoppers into showrooms, Saab did some demographic research and found that its target market had a strong affinity for travel. “They’re also pretty adventurous, the kind of people who love to do outrageous things,” says Colin Price, interactive marketing manager at Norcross, Georgia—based Saab Cars U.S.A.

So Saab crafted an ad campaign that used the lure of a free vacation to California’s wine country, from Monterey to Napa Valley. A convertible Saab would serve as the primary means of transport, with a hot-air-balloon ride and some sea kayaking thrown in. “Basically, we made the sweepstakes virtually impossible for people in our target market to pass up,” says Price.

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