Members of your C-suite may seem like the top bosses, but they also report to someone — their shareholders. The C-suite at any business is responsible for ensuring return on shareholder investment. As such, it shouldn't be a surprise that the C-suite is always asking, "What will the return on investment (ROI) be for your project?" When you're looking for funding for your automation projects, you will need to speak to this primary driver to be successful.

The ROI for automation projects may not jump out for decision-makers, since there won't be an obvious increase in sales or growth into new markets. The return is generally much more subtle because it comes from savings rather than any specific growth. The ROI will usually have multiple factors, such as a blend of savings, more efficient use of resources and the ability to refocus efforts on important business areas.

The following are some tips on how you can demonstrate these benefits to your C-suite:

Automation savings

Whether they are developing testing suites, system and security monitoring or custom code maintenance, automation projects are often substantial investments. These tasks require more resource commitment than the alternative of manual processing. However, the projects are rarely a one-time occurrence in the software development lifecycle.

The savings return in these cases is about the length of the lifecycle, as well as the level of reuse between each iteration. The horizon between cycle iterations will influence the calculations of ROI horizons. The reuse will determine the amount of return for each iteration.

Automation efficiency

Automation projects are ultimately about increased efficiency. As the automation engine executes the work, you'll start to see reduced resource requirements for each iteration. Further, once committed, the automation will execute identically each time without recruiting or contracting new resources. Finally, automation requires significantly less lead preparation time to execute on subsequent iterations.

Business-critical focus

The savings and efficiencies of automation projects translate into gains and increased capability for business-critical system development or refinement. Manually intensive code maintenance and upgrade cycles can entirely occupy internal experts — in turn, this starves important projects that could move the business forward. When activities that are necessary to keep the lights on can be managed through automation, resources can be delegated to solving more difficult business problems instead.

Are you struggling to demonstrate the ROI of automation to your C-suite? What is tripping you up? Let us know in the comments.

Jason Hannula is a seasoned IT business analyst who has worked with various agencies to deliver transformation projects that improve business processes and data usage. He has also been writing about the impacts of emergent technologies and trends on businesses since 2013.