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Projects That Defy ROI

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Management and technology consultants will tell you, though, that the benefits of any IT asset can be tracked and quantified. Take disaster recovery. You can use your own experience or industry benchmarks to determine the likelihood that your systems will be knocked out in the coming year, then take the dollar value of transactions lost during the estimated downtime to determine the potential loss, says Ken Neimo, COO at TMNG Technologies, a telecom consulting firm in Bethesda, Md. That number will tell you whether a hot-backup system is worth the expense, Neimo says.

But some IT execs don't buy into this approach. When it comes to technologies that address risk, they rely on intuition more than on any ROI calculation because, they say, the more you try to count every penny, the wilder--and less believable--the numbers become. For example, Neimo's formula assumes that every transaction attempted during a system outage is lost forever. That's not always true. In many businesses, employees and customers can wait until the systems come back up.