How to use tool:
You may have been intensely creative in generating solutions to a problem, and rigorous in your selection of the best one
available. This solution may still not be worth implementing, as you may invest a lot of time and money in solving a problem
that is not worthy of this effort.
Cost/Benefit Analysis is a relatively* simple and widely used technique for deciding whether to make a change. As its name
suggests, to use the technique simply add up the value of the benefits of a course of action, and subtract the costs associated
Costs are either one-off, or may be ongoing. Benefits are most often received over time. We build this effect of time into
our analysis by calculating a payback period. This is the time it takes for the benefits of a change to repay its costs. Many
companies look for payback over a specified period of time - e.g. three years.
In its simple form, cost/benefit analysis is carried out using only financial costs and financial benefits. For example,
a simple cost/benefit analysis of a road scheme would measure the cost of building the road, and subtract this from the economic
benefit of improving transport links. It would not measure either the cost of environmental damage or the benefit of quicker
and easier travel to work.
A more sophisticated approach to cost/benefit analysis is to try to put a financial value on these intangible costs and
benefits. This can be highly subjective - is, for example, a historic water meadow worth $25,000, or is it worth $500,000
because if its environmental importance? What is the value of stress-free travel to work in the morning?
These are all questions that people have to answer, and answers that people have to defend.
A sales director is deciding whether to implement a new computer-based contact management and sales processing system.
His department has only a few computers, and his salespeople are not computer literate. He is aware that computerized sales
forces are able to contact more customers and give a higher quality of reliability and service to those customers. They are
more able to meet commitments, and can work more efficiently with fulfillment and delivery staff.
His financial cost/benefit analysis is shown below:
New computer equipment:
- 10 network-ready PCs with supporting software @ $1,225 each
- 1 server @ $1,750
- 3 printers @ $600 each
- Cabling & Installation @ $2300
- Sales Support Software @ $7500
- Computer introduction - 8 people @ $ 200 each
- Keyboard skills - 8 people @ $ 200 each
- Sales Support System - 12 people @ $350 each
- Lost time: 40 man days @ $ 100 / day
- Lost sales through disruption: estimate: $10,000
- Lost sales through inefficiency during first months: estimate: $10,000
Total cost: $55,800
- Tripling of mail shot capacity: estimate: $20,000 / year
- Ability to sustain telesales campaigns: estimate: $10,000 / year
- Improved efficiency and reliability of follow-up: estimate: $25,000 / year
- Improved customer service and retention: estimate: $15,000 / year
- Improved accuracy of customer information: estimate: $5,000 / year
- More ability to manage sales effort: $15,000 / year
Total Benefit: $90,000/year
Payback time: $55,800 / $90,000 = 0.62 of a year = approx. 8 months
Inevitably the estimates of the benefit given by the new system are quite subjective. Despite this, the Sales Director
is very likely to introduce it, given the short payback time.
Cost/Benefit Analysis is a powerful, widely used and relatively easy tool for deciding whether to make a change.
To use the tool, firstly work out how much the change will cost to make. Then calculate the benefit you will from it.
Where costs or benefits are paid or received over time, work out the time it will take for the benefits to repay the costs.
Cost/Benefit Analysis can be carried out using only financial costs and financial benefits. You may, however, decide to
include intangible items within the analysis. As you must estimate a value for these, this inevitably brings an element of
subjectivity into the process.