The true ROI of Pfizer’s PowerPoint experiment

And from the “If-it-aint-true-just-make-it-up” department, comes this lazy article from SourPointer Jim Edwards.

His article claims Pfizer employees wasted 30% of their time on PowerPoint until they outsourced their slide-building tasks, and saw their profitability pop 15%.

Oh really?

Well, since I train business professionals how to use PowerPoint more effectively, I was intrigued with some of these ROI numbers. But just a little casual digging reveals the article is a sad case of lazy math and non-existent fact-checking.

Pfizer employees don’t spend 30% of their time in PowerPoint. An informal study of a mere 12 employees found they spend “up to” 30% of their time doing “routine tasks”, which included basic web research, crunching data in Excel and making PowerPoint slides. Pfizer makes no claims about the average time spent nor on PowerPoint’s share of that routine work.

And Edwards insinuates this helped increase Pfizer’s profitability 15% based on sales-to-sales cost (That’s how many sales dollars were generated for every dollar spent on selling). But Pfizer’s sales-to-sales costs have grown an average 6% per year for the past 14 years – the same as the 2004-2010 period.

The 2008-2010 increase was driven during a time of favorable exchange rates, a company-wide cost-cutting initiative and the Wyeth acquisition. You think that might help explain most (or all) of it?

In fact, Edwards’s graph doesn’t even have a zero baseline, which fluffs up the perceived growth rate, something honest communicators are warned to never do in How to Lie with Statistics. Why not just show the data honestly?

Pfizer estimates outsourcing routine tasks saved them about 66,000 man hours per year – or about 30 minutes per employee.

You really want to save time building PowerPoint slides? One word: training. If Pfizer employees are spending even 100 hours per year building PowerPoint slides, training will cut that time in half. Now there’s some honest ROI.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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