Use it or lose it. Your remaining budget, that is.

Use it or Lose it2016 is only 90 days away, and when it arrives, whatever is left of your budget departs, along with the last of the visiting relatives and Christmas cookies. You’ve spent the summer lobbying for funding to make your key initiatives happen next year, but that doesn’t mean new projects are off the table for 2015. Consider what’s left of your budget and how you can best put your dollars to use in the next three months. To help you do that, we will highlight three types of projects that could set you up for crucial initiatives in the coming year and will be an effective use of the last of your budget.

Do you foresee compliance changes coming in 2016? If so, you’ll likely need to evaluate what types of controls must be added or modified to comply. Take time now to look at your process controls; are they all functioning as they should? Do you have the infrastructure in place to implement new ones? While adding controls to an existing process will undoubtedly take work, now is a good time to examine the process controls you have in place and see if there is potential overlap. Doing so can help you avoid damming processes that are already laden with compliance controls and keep inputs flowing through. Once you have a firm understanding of the processes and controls you already have in place, you can begin to strategize on how to implement new ones, giving you a leg up moving into 2016.

A common issue we see here at NEOS arises when companies maintain aging systems well past their primes. When those systems are no longer supported by their vendors, they become especially risky. Senior management grows anxious, asking if the technology falters, would operations be crippled? A team is put together and scrambles to select the new system that is best aligned to business processes. In their haste they often lack defined selection criteria. The result is often the wrong purchase, and later, making the best of an expensive mistake.

Take the fourth quarter to consider whether you need a new system. Even though there may be unique processes built around it, continuing to use an old system long after it is unsupported is risky business. Instead, ask which functions your system must to be able to perform and what controls must stay in place. Identify criteria for your potential new system from a variety of viewpoints, e.g.in terms of functionality, level of customization required and speed to market. Base these criteria on business strategy and operational needs, not current process constraints. This will help you separate the critical from nice-to-have, make selecting a new system faster, and ultimately, engender a strategic purchase.

Well-functioning processes that are compliant and systems that are supported allow you to turn your attention to enhancements and improvements to how you do business. To start, take a look at the Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, you have in place and the types of behaviors they reward. Indicators must be measurable and actionable, and while that may sound easy enough, many companies have problems measuring and acting on their KPIs. Examine your KPIs to align strategic goals with operations by tracking what is important, not just what is easy to track.

KPIs may attempt to measure qualitative things, like level of service in a customer service center, but KPIs must be measured via quantitative data. Defining quality service in quantitative terms, such as average time spent with a customer or average number of attempts needed to resolve an issue allows managers and staff to align practices to performance goals. In the example above, it would be important to measure both indicators to align with the goal of good service, and it’s important to keep in mind that the indicators chosen can have direct or indirect impacts on employee behavior. If average time spent with a customer were the only measure, customers may receive abrupt service and not have all of their issues resolved. If number of attempts to resolve an issue were the only measure, customers may be faced with long wait times while trying to reach representatives, as representatives would aim to resolve an issue in its entirety in a single call. Considerations like these should factor in to which KPIs your organization chooses to measure performance. Examining KPIs before the close of the year will set you up to meet your goals in the coming one.

Put the last of your budget to good use! Thirteen weeks is not a lot of time, but performing some of the endeavors above can set you on the right track to execute critical projects in 2016. If compliance changes are coming soon, your systems are aging past support, or your KPIs are not yielding the information you need, there are brief, effective projects you can undertake now to bring you closer to your goals.

We have seen these types of quick-hit projects not only deliver immediate value by exposing areas in need of attention, but also by setting up your big 2016 projects for success and smoother sailing. Bringing in experts, like NEOS, can shorten the timelines of these smaller projects even more. These are only a few of the projects you can undertake this autumn; whatever you chose to do, make it count!