Year-End Budget Left?
Where to Spend It!
It’s that time of year when we heed the warning about budget – use it or lose it! If you’ve got budget left at the end of the year, management is likely to think you don’t need that much next year. Whether that’s rational or not, it’s what happens in most organizations.
If you find yourself in the lucky position with some year-end cash, here are some great ideas for where to spend it, and some strategies to try to get the most bang for your buck.
Contract by December 31
There’s never a better time of year to ask for a discount than year-end.
Many salespeople’s bonuses will be determined by the number and size of sales they have completed by midnight on December 31st. If you’ve been reviewing software or considering a big consulting project, ask for a discount if you sign by the end of the year. Many vendors will be delighted to agree to your terms.
Buy Time at this Year’s Rates for Next Year
It’s no secret that inflation is at a decades-long high. Wages have risen steadily in response – as has the cost of nearly everything.
In response, businesses will be raising rates in 2023. If you use law firms, consulting firms (like Spark Compliance), or other professional services firms that charge by the hour or day, ask if you can pre-pay for hours in 2023 at this year’s rates. For most companies, cash in hand is better than waiting for 30, 60, or 90 days to be paid after invoicing.
You’re likely to score yourself a deal.
Ask for Package or Multi-Year Discounts
Companies love to lock in multi-year deals. It allows them to plan their cash flow much more successfully and being able to count on your company’s business for the future is highly beneficial.
As such, be sure to ask whether the vendor can give you a discount for a multi-year commitment.
Many companies offer multiple products or projects. You may be able to bundle your conflicts of interest disclosure software with your hotline and case management system for a discount if you take all three. Similarly, consulting firms may sell many services you may want (e.g. risk assessments, training creation, program reviews, etc.).
Ask if you can get a discount for committing to multiple projects.
What to Buy
There are so many great options when it comes to spending your budget. Try one or more of the following.
Advanced Training Products
Everyone hates to get the same training year after year. Spice up your training with a spiffy new innovative package.
We’re highly partial to Compliance Competitor, the business simulation software game that uses complicated scenarios with no right answers (only less bad ones!).
Everyone knows that the most effective training and meetings are done in person.
For training, there’s nothing like being on the ground in a high-risk territory to find out what’s really happening. You can answer questions in real-time during training and follow up to ensure that people understood what you were saying. For meetings with your team, nothing substitutes for the in-person planning and the bonding that can happen over drinks or dinner after the meetings finish.
Plan training sessions and/or meetings for Q1 and buy the travel now. Book the flights, secure the hotel rooms, and send the calendar invites.
A Professional Risk Assessment
The DOJ’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs guidance made it clear: if you don’t have a current risk assessment, you need to make it your priority to get one.
The guidance repeatedly emphasizes the need for a risk-based program. You need an up-to-date risk assessment to inform your training and communications plan, due diligence for third parties, monitoring plan, and where you assign your human and monetary resources.
If you haven’t had the time to complete a recent risk assessment or aren’t comfortable performing one, pre-pay for a professional risk assessment for next year (Spark Compliance does these), or start it in December so it can be completed next year.
Compliance Program Review
Building on our theme of DOJ guidance, organizations must engage in a periodic review to ensure their programs stay up to date. This evaluation must include “a gap analysis to determine if particular areas of risk are not sufficiently addressed in its policies, controls, or training.”
You can do your compliance program review in-house or engage an external firm (like Spark Compliance Consulting) to perform your evaluation. Outside consultants have experience with best practices and can provide insights that you won’t have from the inside. Best practice is to complete a program review every 24 to 36 months.
Once again, either pre-pay or have the project started in December. Most program reviews start with a documentation survey. That’s easy to do in the run-up to the holidays imminent, unlike, say, interviews.
Ethical Culture Survey
Putting your finger on the pulse of the employee experience is critical to understanding your organization.
Ethical culture surveys can give you deep insight into what is going on in various regions or functions. What’s more, you can use your ethical culture survey to create a baseline from which to judge progress in 2024.
Professional culture surveys frequently come with benchmarking from other similarly-situated companies, which can help put your results in context. Order them from companies like Ethisphere, NAVEX or SAI Global.
You need to remind people of your program, including your whistle-blower mechanisms.
To do so, you need materials. Pay for posters to put up in your offices reminding people of the Ethics Helpline. You can also produce games, lanyards, or materials for Compliance and Ethics Week.
Clever design and interesting schwag can make your program memorable to employees when they’re under stress, and that’s worth buying into.
If you’ve got a bigger budget to spend, some incredible technology solutions are on the market that will blow your Excel chart out of the water. These include:
Investigation management software (including analysis and reporting)
Policy management software
Conflicts of interest management
Third-party management software (including audit trails, report storage, and easy review of whether a third-party has been approved)
Data audit/data mapping software to help you comply with GDPR and CCPA
Learning management systems to help track your training assignments and completions
Digital communications materials
Sanctions screening software
And more! As you can see, there are many ways to spend your budget, and prioritizing using a risk-based approach is critical for your program.
CEO of Spark Compliance Consulting
Kristy Grant-Hart is the founder and CEO of Spark Compliance.
She’s a renowned expert at transforming compliance departments into in-demand business assets.
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If you’re interested in learning more about Compliance Competitor, get in touch and we’ll reach out to discuss the ways we can tailor training scenarios to your needs.