I often hear people ask for the ROI for a technology investment. This seems to me to be misdirected -- kinda like asking what is the ROI of a table saw. In the hands of a skilled carpenter, the potential return on the investment is huge, whereas in my hands, I may never see a financial return.
In think we have to step back a bit and ask "what is the return on investment for the incremental cash flows resulting from our business change" -- the real reason we are buying IT. We need to run the Net Present Value against the new incremental cash flows that the technology is enabling. In the hands of the right business with the right skills, the technology could enable huge returns. In the hands of poorly skilled staff, deployed under a flawed strategy or mistimed in its launch and the same technology investment could be a total loss.
It is for this reason I believe solutions, or what Geoffrey Moore (author of Crossing the Chasm) calls "whole products," are critical. These are clusters of products, process, people, and guidance and automation that are oriented around a business challenge. Solutions help you think through the steps to plan, build, deploy and operate a set of technologies for solving a specific scenario. It is in the thinking process that you can begin to outline and then control the costs required to produce the incremental cash flows. Understand all your costs -- people, process and technology -- and you have a better ability to gauge the return on your investment.