How to Calculate Return On Investment For Software Development

If you are planning to create a SaaS application or any other software for your business or have already launched your application, then first of all you will need to find out how much income you have received using the application and calculate the return on investment (ROI).

This article will help you figure out how to calculate the planned return on an IT project. We believe that only by determining the projected return on the project, you can understand how much it would be appropriate to spend on it. It is noteworthy that when calculating the return on investment, there is nothing specific, this method is suitable for any business.

The key idea that we want to convey is that for IT projects it is important not how expensive and cheap it is, but how efficiently you spent your budget.

Does It Make Sense to Measure ROI for Software Development

ROI (Return on Investment) is the rate of return on investment. In simple terms, return on investment. This indicator shows how profitable or disadvantageous a project or product is.

Investment is understood as a contribution directly to the business, that is, the cost of employee salaries, premises rental, marketing, the purchase of raw materials and materials, the purchase of software and services necessary for work.

The calculation of ROI is necessary when you want to know how much money invested in a team, project or advertising campaign returns. This indicator is often used to calculate the payback of different types of advertising: contextual or banner, target in social networks. It is ROI that allows you to find out the return on investment.

calculation of ROI

For example, let's say we're in the shampoo business and want to know how effective our Facebook ad campaign was. In this case, the calculation of ROI will help us: we will find out how much the investment in advertising paid off along with spending on the manufacture of shampoos.

Why calculate ROI

Calculation of ROI helps to make management decisions and avoid costly mistakes, as well as determine the profitability of projects. Therefore, ROI is one of the main formulas with which you can form the direction of business development and decide where to move the company so as not to burn out.

ROI, ROMI, ROAS - what are the differences

ROI is often confused with ROMI, ROMI with ROAS, and vice versa. Let's see what are the main differences between these indicators.ROI (Return on Investment) is the payback ratio or return on all investments. This indicator helps to determine how profitable the whole project is, taking into account all the investments in it. To determine the ROI, you need to take into account all the costs of the project and the income from it.

ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) is a return on marketing investment. ROMI is most often confused with ROI. If ROI helps determine the return on all investments, then ROMI takes into account only marketing costs: advertising budget, printing, billboard rental, but does not include the cost of producing goods.

ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend) is the rate of return on advertising costs. ROAS only takes into account the marketing spend for a specific advertising campaign. The main task of the calculation is to find out whether the company makes a profit from the advertising tools used.

Return On Investment Formula

Return on investment is typically calculated by taking the actual or estimated income from a project and subtracting the actual or estimated costs. That number is the total profit that a project has generated, or is expected to generate. That number is then divided by the costs.

The formula for ROI is typically written as:

ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100

In project management, the formula is written similarly, but with slightly different terms:

ROI = [(Financial Value - Project Cost) / Project Cost] x 100

The last one was used to plan one of our most successful SaaS projects.

Example of Calculation the ROI  for IT Project

Suppose there is a company that sells services for 455,000 USD per year. Let's calculate the profitability of CRM implementation. Let's assume that due to automation, the efficiency of employees will increase and gross income will rise by 10%.

The initial data is as follows:

The total cost of the project, including development, implementation, support, payment for the platform - 36,000 USD;

Return on the project - 10% increase in gross income from 455,000 USD - this is 45,500 USD.

We substitute the data in the formula:

R = (45,500 USD / 36,000 USD) * 100% = 1.25.

Which means that for every dollar invested, the company will receive 1.25 USD of additional income.

Though, it is fair to add that each project may have its own nuances and force majeure. This is an average formula and for each project it must be adjusted.

ROI Calculation for SaaS Product Development

AppsFlyer and Facebook conducted an analysis last year to calculate the average ROI of an app. They analyzed 3,800 apps that generated $2.4 billion in total revenue.

oftware development roi

Average global mobile app revenue per user

Mobile gaming ROI per user was the lowest at $1.70 per user, while shopping app revenue averaged $13.88 per user. The average revenue for in-app purchases may seem high, but most popular games are free to play and generate revenue using an in-app purchase model. In these games, most users pay nothing and continue to play for free. On the other hand, some users can spend up to $100 on exclusive in-game items.

The average travel mobile app ROI was $29.42 per user, which may seem much higher, but we have to factor in 180 days. If you move to a 90-day period, then the average drops to $14.71, which is still higher than shopping and gaming apps. Let's take a look at the detailed steps and holistic process of calculating ROI for a mobile app.

Step 1 - Define your goals

The most important step is to know what business goal you want to achieve with the app. You must define measurable short-term team and long-term goals even before you choose the design and development phase.

Once you have defined the strategy and goals, you need to translate it into actionable steps and communicate with the design and development teams. Mobile app developers need to be well aware of the business goals and KPIs at all stages of development. This is important for the efficient use of funds.

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Step 2 - Calculate the total app development cost

You need to stay within your budget and not use excessive resources in the development process.

Costs should include:

  • UX/UI development costs
  • Software development costs
  • Support and integration
  • Testing costs and performance improvements
  • Final launch deployment cost
  • Long term costs

Once the software is developed, there will be small regular maintenance costs and overall application improvement costs that you can add to the long-term costs.

Step 3 - Define a Measurable KPI

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) vary from one organization to another. Some may see customer loyalty, customer retention rate as a KPI. While some may consider customer engagement, average revenue per user as a KPI.

If your goal is customer engagement, you should focus more on attracting new customers by keeping them in your app. Hence, you are comparing development costs to customer acquisition efforts.

Step 4 - Weigh Your KPI With Costs

Measuring KPIs versus costs is the last but most important step in calculating mobile app revenue. When you have measurable KPIs with results, you can measure the overall value of your app. Compare KPI results with development costs and determine whether your results are better or less.

By comparing costs with KPIs, it is recommended to estimate the lifetime of the software. You can also consider how much time you want to keep spending on app maintenance. You can calculate the ROI of mobile app development by dividing the Net Present Value (NPV advantages)* by the NPV* costs. 

*Net present value (NPV) is the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows over a period of time.

Sum Up 

Software development ROI calculation requires a holistic view. As the world becomes digital, many companies are investing in mobile app development. Calculating the ROI of a SaaS app is not as easy as solving a mathematical formula. The correct way to calculate requires a holistic view so that you can understand the impact of each development step on your business.

If you are already planning the development of a new SaaS product, but without measuring ROI for software development, we can help you calculate the Proof of Concept and plan the right development without losing your investment.

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