Why we do things - ROI

Long ago, one of my professor's told me, "The purpose of education is to increase pleasure enjoyment." I've yet to fully grasp exactly what he meant (he was a professor of philosophy and often spoke in riddle), but I think it was something along the lines of, "Knowledge allows us to improve our station in life." It may take the form of allowing us to obtain better jobs, improve our ability to appreciate things or allow us to take better advantage of the opportunities presented to us.

Let's examine a familiar concept - investing. Whether it is because we want to be able to make a large purchase (a house or car), enjoy a comfortable retirement, or live out some of our dreams, most of us are putting money aside. This money is invested based on our individual risk / reward preferences. If you lie awake at night worrying about your investments, you may be outside of your risk / reward sweet spot.
Individuals who want to be safe, invest in financial instruments such as money market mutual funds, treasury bills or other assets where the risk of losing the investment is small (note that small risk generally implies small potential return.) Individuals with a higher risk tolerance purchase financial assets with higher potential returns.

The prudent investor analyzes their assets periodically to ensure a suitable return on investment (ROI) is being realized. There is a good guide on ROI available on SearchCIO.com explaining basic ROI concepts from a business perspective.

I want to introduce another concept - opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is defined as:

The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.
In business, all else being equal, you fund projects that have better rates of return for your company. Businesses use capital from their shareholders and money they've borrowed to fund their projects. Furthermore, a company is expected to invest in projects with ROI that exceeds their opportunity costs (e.g., projects that make them grow!) From the perspective of an individual investor you probably wouldn't be willing to purchase shares in a company that wasn't trying to increase its future earnings. Would you?

Thus, in business the ultimate goal is to increase profitability. A business does this by undertaking projects that are expected to yield a return above their opportunity cost. These projects have specific goals and objectives that support the business' strategy. This is why it is important to tie requirements back to business goals and objectives. As well as business goals and objectives back to strategy.In business and in our personal life, we do things to improve, to grow, and as my old philosophy professor would say, "...To increase pleasure enjoyment."

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