Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.

The Fashions and Designs of Women’s Hoodies

Today’s hoodies for women are far from the baggy, shapeless and predominantly black items we have been used to seeing on teenage boys. Now there are womens hoodies in all the top designer ranges, in a rainbow of colors and a multitude of stunning designs. There is no excuse for any woman to not have a hoodie or two in her wardrobe.There are hoodies in velour, silk and cashmere. Juicy Couture makes a whole range, with and without logos in short or long sleeves, including a style with a peplum. Kritik make some bright terry hoodies which team with matching shorts as beach and vacation wear and Pencey make a faux fur hoodie which is positively elegant.One of the hottest designs at the moment is the Kamikaze womens hoodie by Ed Hardy. Ed Hardy’s designs are celebrity favorites and can be seen on Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears and Ashley Tisdale. Online urban fashion stores stock all the well-known brands.Bench makes a beautiful soft grey cashmere mix hoodie with cutaway shoulders and Diesel has an attractive lightweight hoodie with crochet trim.A fresh idea in womens hoodies is hoodie dresses. These are just a longer length version of a pull on hoodie, though usually with short sleeves, in soft jersey fabric that can be worn as a mini dress. Worn over opaque tights or slim fitting jeans tucked into slouch boots these hoodie dresses are a fashionable addition to a young woman’s wardrobe.Among the newest bejeweled hoodies, as worn by Paris Hilton, are those of the Twisted Heart brand. Fantasia is a richly embellished hoodie with the gothic looking heart design on the back set with many tiny beads. Their Tropical Soul hoodie has silk drawstring ties and brightly colored beads in a heart design on the back. Whilst the Twisted Anchor hoodie has a nautical feel with flared sleeves, and an anchor motif in rhinestones.For teens and tweens, Hannah Montana hoodies are all the rage. All the girls want to look like their idol from the hit TV show, Hannah Montana played by Miley Cyrus. The show has been enormously successful and launched Miley on her singing career. Girls love the style of clothes Miley wears in the show and Disney has produced a range of fashion clothing based on her character. There are a number of different hoodies in the range, with sparkly metallic accents, and with a picture of Hannah emblazoned on the front.For older girls and young women who like to cycle, Rockstar’s ladies zip hoodie features a cozy fur-lined hood and an attractive grey and white stripe design with the double R Rockstar logo. Far too nice to wear on a bike this would make a great casual coat worn with leggings or jeans on a chilly day. If you are into snow sports the Roxy hoodies including the Roxy Porter hoodie is made from eco-friendly fabrics with a warm sherpa lined hood, perfect to keep you warm whilst looking totally cool.

How Do I Start An Online Business And Make Money Online?

Many people have heard that you can make a lot of money by having your own online business and their first and biggest concern is how do I start an online business? This is a very good question and the good news is that it can be done in a few simple steps.The keys to achieving and enjoying long term ongoing success however are to continue learning more and better ways to improve and grow your business. This will help your business to continue getting better and better results, which will also allow you to start earning more and more money as well.One of the first things that you will need to decide on is which business model would you like to start with? For most people the easiest and quickest online business model to work with is an affiliate marketing business model. This will require the least amount of investment to start and has the potential for providing you with relatively quick results.This is the model that we will be covering in this article. However just about everything that you will learn for an affiliate marketer business model, you can also apply it to any other online business model as well.When looking to answer the question ‘how do I start an online business’ there are some key fundamental things that you should learn which will help you start seeing success as quickly as possible, things such as:How to do market research – this will allow you to check the profitability of any potential market that you may wish to pursue. You will also need to learn how to determine the strength of the competition that is already doing business in that market. If you find that the competition is too strong for new businesses, you can either pick a different market or find a sub niche, which is a smaller segment of that market.
keyword research – This is where you will want to identify ‘buyer’ keywords or the best type of keywords for your market. You will also need to choose keywords that do not have a lot of competition but that do get a good amount of search volume.
search engine optimization (SEO) – This will allow you to configure your site and your content so that they are search engine friendly. Which will allow you to rank well in the search engine results pages and get free search engine traffic to your site.- Site setup and configuration – This can be a very quick and easy process when you are using WordPress as your content management system. WordPress has made it possible for anyone to be able to setup and configure a fully functional online business website with little or no technical knowledge or background.marketing and promoting – This is one of the most important determining factors to your online businesses success. This should include everything that you learn about SEO, things like optimizing your content and link building however you should also be learning and using other forms of marketing as well.
For example you should also be doing social media marketing as well as email marketing and you may want to try search engine marketing or pay per click marketing as well.Now to answer the question ‘how do I start an online business’ here are the basic steps that you will need to take:1.) Make a list of things that you feel strongly about. This will help you to choose a business opportunity or market that you are passionate about and will enjoy working in.2.) Next you will need to do market research for each item on your list and select a potentially profitable market for you to start your business in.3.) Once you have found a potentially profitable market to start a business in, you will then need to do ‘keyword research’ to get a list of keywords that you can create your content around. This is how you will be able to attract interested visitors to your site.4.) Now its time to get your domain and hosting account setup so that you can install your site and load your content. Hostgator is a great provider for hosting services because they have very competitive prices and excellent support and customer service. And Namecheap is a great provider of quality service as well, for registering your domain.5.) The last step is to submit your site to the search engines and start your on going link building and marketing campaign.Initially this may seem like a lot to do but the key is to plan your work and work your plan until your online business is an online success. By doing this others will look at your success and then ask you, how do I start an online business, and you will be able to smile and confidently explain the entire process to them as well.