calculating return on investment

It’s time to recalculate your library’s ROI. Here's how!

February 28, 2018
Clare Brown

You might think that you shouldn’t still need to make a case for your continued existence, and I understand your frustration. However, there’s an ongoing problem across industries of people not understanding what exactly knowledge and information management professionals do.

With the end of the fiscal year approaching, and budgets to review, it’s time to reassess how you are going to show your library’s worth to your organisation. Fortunately, with research demonstrating that workers can spend 20% of their workweek tracking down internal information or colleagues that possess that information, it’s clear that there are ways to quantify your value when the time comes.

There are two main approaches to consider, depending on what will work best for your organisation: The quantitative approach, and the qualitative approach.

The quantitative approach

A quantitative approach is all about the numbers: for each dollar invested into current awareness management, how many dollars does the organisation receive in return?

To decide this, you first have to determine the total investment your firm has made into KM - this includes staff time, paid resources, and current awareness platforms. Once you’ve figured out how much money goes into KM, you can decide on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that assess whether your library is meeting its ultimate aim.

Your internal processes should help you track which cases and clients your work has impacted, and once you tally the value of the business the library has impacted - for existing and new clients - you can use your total investment to come up with a dollar for dollar ratio that answers our original question: for each dollar invested in KM, how many does the organisation get back?

Read more about financial management The qualitative approach

A qualitative approach is more about using specific examples, such as case studies, to illustrate the impact your library has on the organisation as a whole. Case studies can be a very powerful way of demonstrating your value, so it all comes down to choosing a good example.

For instance, if your library’s proactive research uncovered information that allowed your firm to impress and ultimately win a client, that’s a clear indicator that your staff time and other resources are valuable to the organisation. In this case, you might even be able to attach that all-important dollar value to your case study: how much revenue does that client bring to the firm?

Of course, there are also some out-of-the-box ideas for how to calculate your ROI. One such interesting idea is Stephen Dale’s proposal that instead of making a case for a Knowledge Management budget, you make a case for not getting rid of your KM strategy. That allows you to focus on analysing how well your KM system currently works. This reframes the concept in terms of impact rather than investment.

Download our in-depth guide to calculating your library’s ROI below, and let us know what your strategy is for demonstrating your worth to your management committee in the comments below. Download the guide now and learn how to calculate your library's ROI