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  • Writer's pictureK. Wilks

Back to school can be just as scary for CEOs. Here's why:

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

I was chatting with my friend yesterday who said their two young kids were already back at school. Wow! Where has the summer gone? And that means there are really only four months of working project time left before most companies enter their annual freeze period. That’s right – the time from mid-December to early January when absolutely nothing gets through. Nada. Zilch. Zippo.

Most savvy COO’s avoid the year-end rush by setting deadlines for larger, multi-sprint projects earlier, usually to coincide with the end of Q3 thus allow for snagging and process refinement in Q4.

How’s your project going? Are you on track for Q3 and year-end? It’s usually this time of year that companies see an uptake in overtime and negotiation of deliverables where the goal posts have moved. Recruiters and interim agencies start to get a lot of calls to help companies shore-up the gap to hit their promised target.

And statistically the odds aren’t great. 68% of corporate projects fail (Forbes), 27% of IT projects overrun on cost (with 1 in 6 blowing the budget by up to 200%), and 70% of projects deliver later than committed (HBR Survey).

Such scenarios have a way of derailing other aspects of the company performance, too. It can affect personal performance, morale, and bonus pay-outs, not to mention investor and board perceptions. So executives are motivated to get the best results, fast.

What are your options? Compromise on the target deliverable with a diluted version? Defer the delivery to next year? What if the deliverable materially affects a new product roll-out or market expansion? In such cases, bringing in extra resource is the best option, and research has shown that companies with leveraged resources grow faster.

And yet bringing in a consultant or an interim specialist is still time consuming and expensive. And this late in the year is the wrong time to have to defend both. Of course you should consult with your PMO and program sponsors for their desired path forward, and if it turns out they want to parachute in some added resource, here are some ways to save money and raise shareholder value to offset some of the unplanned burden.

1) Negotiate early renewals on key commitments due for renewal next year: your tech stack and facilities leases are often the biggest recurring expenses for a business (after people costs and travel). Pick five of the most expensive commitments and call your supplier for an early extension in exchange for either i) an immediate discount on Q4 costs, or better ii) waiver of all or part of Q4 costs - especially if you’re renewing for another 2-3 years without re-tendering.

2) Publish an ESG plan. Companies with a comprehensive ESG plan with measurable targets for reducing carbon emissions while substantially increasing diversity and inclusion (at all levels) not only benefit from improved morale and higher NPS results but tend to see faster growth, 10-20% higher valuation, and 5-10% lower operating costs (McKinsey).

This is where Spring CPO can help you. As a Fractional CPO, we offer Procurement on Demand, plug-and-play ready. What does that mean? It means you get an executive leader to oversee, direct and support expedited delivery of critical programs at a fraction of the cost. And we do this in short, agile, 90-day sprints. Our goal is to get you to your destination faster. A typical 90-day retainer includes:

- A dedicated slack channel

- Up to two drop-in Negotiation Clinics/month

- Supplier contract reviews

- Roadmap planning, review or course correction over weekly status meetings

- ESG collateral and plan (if needed)

- Done and dusted in a 90-day sprint

If you decide to opt for the Fractional CPO package, you get all of this plus you leave the leadership with us, and we’ll take the reins until the sprint is delivered.

Not as simple as shopping for that fun back-to-school gear, but it doesn’t need to be a scary year-end either. A Fractional CPO will show up wearing that metaphorical backpack filled with all the bright and exciting essentials just as if we were sharing the first day back with you, together – minus the meatloaf sandwich.

Kelli Wilks is Management Consultant at Spring CPO where she advises clients on procurement transformation, negotiation strategies, supplier performance and ESG priorities.

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