The Productivity Paradox: Accounting for Returns on IT Investments
There has always been somewhat of a struggle between the IT department and “management”, much of the difficulty existing with the need to demonstrate clear returns on investments for IT purchases. Unfortunately, expenditures in information technology are often the result of short-term views of long-standing problems, applying “solutions” that do not fully address the requirement or which do not deliver the productivity or performance gains expected, particularly in a dynamic and rapidly changing business environment. The assumption is that a wise investment in information technology will result with improved profitability and performance. Demonstrating this on paper is not always easily accomplished.
There is a great deal of research on the subject of accounting for returns on IT investments. Some of this research describes “The Productivity Paradox”, referring to early studies on the “relationship between information technology and productivity, and finding an absence of a positive relationship between spending on IT and productivity or profitability”.  Previous to the emergence of cloud computing and widely available remote and mobile technologies (and now possibly even more with the prevalence of available options), businesses invest heavily in IT infrastructure and applications which deliver nominal benefit to the business when measured against the cost of acquisition and implementation. Heavy IT investments are made with little or no measurable benefit to profitability, even if operational performance improvements are created. In many cases, the difficulty in “proving” benefit from information technology investments rests with the lack of information relating to impacts in non-operational areas, such as with investors, auditors or analysts.