4 Ways To Maximize ROI With Mid-Year Business Evaluations

On a mid July morning, a group of five people silenced their smart phones as they walked into a conference room for a day long ‘offsite.’ As business leaders with sizable portfolios in a financial services firm, they knew the next 8 hours would need their undivided attention. The group was here to decide the Business Unit(BU)’s optimal course of action for the next five and a half months.

Having studied the past six months’ business results, they knew where each stood: two of the sub-segments were exceeding their goals, one was close behind and the largest segment was trailing and struggling to meet its goals. While the prospering sub-segments showed good potential, the trailing segment’s results had a bigger impact on the BU’s financials. How will they determine the next course of action?

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If your recent mid year business assessments resembled a compressed annual planning process, that wouldn’t be a surprise. With the technology disruption rapidly changing the industry landscape, financial services businesses cannot afford to continue down the path decided earlier in January without taking a critical relook at the focus areas mid-year.

However, as business leaders, you have fewer degrees of freedom to change course mid year. Apart from time constraints, you may have not access to incremental funds, and may find it difficult to deviate from commitments made to your Board, your shareholders, your customers and your team earlier in the year. So, the focus of the mid year assessment should be to maximize ROI, given those constraints.

ROI: A foreword on the definition

As business leaders you are no stranger to ROI definition. You have probably used Return on Investment (ROI), the measure of benefit from the investment relative to the investment made, countless times to evaluate opportunities. Your business may even have a minimal ROI threshold for potential opportunities to be considered favorably.

While getting to a quantitative ROI measure is important, it is equally important to acknowledge that ‘Investment’ and ‘Benefit’ have both quantitative and qualitative components. Investment involves more than money/funding; it involves other resources including talent, time and focus. Similarly Return is more than monetary; it could be competitive advantage or even industry survival. When evaluating ROI for initiatives, the intangible components are not to be ignored.

A prerequisite to a ROI focused mid-year assessment is that the business has the intent and internal alignment to re-prioritize and re-allocate resources as needed. Else, the evaluation process will be suboptimal. With that in mind, here are four ways to increase effectiveness of your mid-year business assessment exercise:

1. Start with informed decision makers

The exercise will be only as effective as the information enabling the decision. Without appropriate information the exercise is inefficient, or will lead to bad decisions. The decision makers should have access to financial and non-financial information about:

  • Status against annual goals: Year to Date (YTD) results vs. goal comparison as well as full year forecasts based on YTD results and your current pipeline.
  • Non-discretionary focus areas: These relate to changes not initially anticipated during annual planning but require business to course correct and comply for the rest of the year. E.g., new regulatory standards, service level changes requested by a major client (esp. in the B2B space), etc.
  • Discretionary opportunities/ Potential changes: These could be potential changes to your business strategy, in response to changes in customer needs and/or change in competitive landscape. For example, while you followed a ‘wait-and-watch’ approach earlier in the year, you may want actively pursue M&A opportunities with FinTech companies to compete effectively.

All relevant organizational groups — staff and business groups — need to contribute to creating a information packet that is distributed with adequate time to digest.

2. Prioritize based on pre-determined evaluation criteria

Businesses are usually presented with more opportunities than their resources can support. So, it comes down to prioritizing in the short term. Taking a “keep, drop, add” approach, group your initiatives into three categories:

  • Category A: Continue as planned
  • Category B: Divert more investment due to increased involvement; adjust current involvement; start involvement
  • Category C: Reduce investment due to decision to stop/ pause initiative

As a business leader you may have your favorites. Aligning on prioritization criteria that is in sync with the businesses values and operating principles will help you and your colleagues come up with an objective list of initiatives to pursue.

3. Take a pragmatic approach to reallocating resources

Reallocating funding from one initiative to another may be the easiest. Even securing new funding for a new initiative mid year may be feasible in some cases. When it comes to re-allocating people or focus, recommendations may not translate well from paper to real life.

Reallocating people between initiatives will require thinking through the skill set requirement, difference in job descriptions and career aspirations of employees. Done hastily, reallocating people to existing or new initiatives could negatively impact employee morale. In B2B scenarios where client relationships are built over time, reshuffling people can impact client experience.

Even if hiring contract workers to support re-prioritization, it is important to ensure that individual business leaders are not burdened with multiple initiatives impacting their ability to deliver.

4. Make it happen with prompt execution planning

This is where even well thought out decisions fail to see daylight. Prompt follow through and effective execution planning translates these plans into actions. Be it starting new initiatives, shutting down/pausing current initiatives or increasing momentum for existing initiatives — they all need sound planning with clear ownership.

And it all starts with effective communication planning where you share the outcome of the mid-year business assessment with rationale implications. Open communication and transparency goes a long way in building internal support for changes to annual priorities, if any.

While these four practices individually can improve your mid year business assessment exercise, together they’ll help you and your business maximize ROI for the rest of the year.

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At the end of the ‘offsite’, the group had decided to put all their teams’ energy behind the larger sub-segment and press pause on one the other sub-segments. This allowed them to divert resources, funding, and the BU leader’s mind share where they were needed most. After a few weeks of internal and external change management, the BU diligently worked towards achieving a shorter list of goals. While they still missed the larger sub-segment goal by a few percentage points, the mid year reallocation had reduced the gap significantly. The BU team had maximized ROI within the given constraints.

[Note: The above instance is based on a true incident]

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