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.

Types Of Online Businesses That May Interest You

There are various types of Internet businesses that an Internet business newbie or aspiring online entrepreneur could choose from. Generally, online or e-businesses are relatively cheaper to set up & easier to run than their offline counterparts, but they’re arguably more competitive. To succeed in the world of online business, an e-business newbie must be passionate about the business, must have a good knowledge of the business and must possess a good deal of communication & marketing skills. The early days of new Internet businesses are usually the toughest & most discouraging, and during these times, it’s only passion that keeps the newbie from throwing in the towel. Of course, it would be foolish to jump into what you know absolutely nothing about. Doing a lot of research & planning is, thus, absolutely crucial to the ultimate success of any online venture. Most importantly, if you cannot communicate adequately and promote your products or services, then don’t even bother starting an Internet business because the competition will just put you out of business.Types of online or e-businesses include the following:1. Corporate Websites – these are not actually e-businesses in the real sense of the word. They are, rather, online representations of established offline businesses. These established “physical” corporations use their websites to maintain an online presence through which they market their products or services to a much broader audience. They can also use this medium to transact business with clients who, otherwise, would have been impossible to reach out to, hence increasing their customer base.2. Informational Sites – this type of Internet business includes online encyclopedias, online news, e-magazines, blogs, forums, specialized websites, etc. These e-businesses monetize their sites by paid subscriptions, placement of contextual ads like Google AdSense, promotion of affiliate products, or even selling ad spaces on their sites directly to advertisers. Of all these, I believe blogs are probably the easiest and most inexpensive to set up and run, hence I advocate blogging for any Internet business newbie or aspiring online entrepreneur with little or no start-up capital.3. Web Services – this type of online business include email services, search engines, social networking sites, chat rooms, bulk SMS service, web hosting, graphic design, web design, Internet marketing, translation services, market research, online payment services, directories, online market place, software development, etc.4. Online Shops – just as the name implies, this type of Internet business entails displaying and selling of ones own products in a shop, except in this case both product display and transactions are carried out online. Delivery of the sold “physical” products, however, is done offline, well except for some digital products like software, e-books, music, videos, games, etc, that are downloadable directly to the buyers computer, PDA, phone, etc. Note that in this type of business, the shop owner must actually own the “physical” products on sale, not necessarily being the manufacturer, but has at least acquired the products and have them in stock ready for delivery to any buyer. Hence, it could also be an already established offline shop looking to expand its customer base online.5. Affiliate Shops – the difference between this type of online business and online shops as described above is that with affiliate shops, the shop owner doesn’t have to own or have in stock any of the “physical” products on sale. It is also not the responsibility of the affiliate shop owner to deliver any sold product to its end buyer. All the affiliate shop owner does is to market and sell products owned by other individuals or companies.6. Online Trading – this includes forex trading, stock trading, options, futures, precious stones, crude oil, real estate, e-minis, etc.Now, of all these various types of Internet businesses, some are easy to setup while others are less so, some are also easy to run while others, not so and some are relatively less expensive than others. For a new Internet business owner or aspiring online entrepreneur, I advocate blogging and/or affiliate marketing because they are relatively easier to set up and run, and also very inexpensive. For instance, you could start a money-making blog with NO CAPITAL at all, provided you have access to a computer linked to the Internet.Well all I can say at this point is good luck with your chosen type of Internet business.

Case Study: From Red to Black, Generate Double-Digit Sales Increases Through Strategic Marketing

Conventional wisdom states that when times are bad and sales are down, management should cut all expenses except sales and marketing. And when things get really bad, management must cut everything but sales because selling is the fastest way to increase revenues.This business-to-business case study illustrates how, if executed properly, strategic marketing can sometimes be a quicker, more efficient and more effective way to grow sales.The Situation A manufacturing firm’s brand enjoyed high name recognition, and the longstanding business had survived and often thrived through multiple business cycles during its storied history. A competent management team had been assembled and was balancing operational needs with cash-flow requirements.However, sales of the manufacturer’s primary division were declining and the market for its products was in a severe depression. The lack of volume meant the company was not covering its overhead. Escalating energy and raw material costs were eroding profit margins.Product and Distribution ChannelsMarket perceptions of its products were mixed. The company had a strong reputation as a manufacturer of “green” building products, but it was not well regarded for solving end-user problems. The firm was not in a position to compete on price.Although the company’s products were esteemed by specifiers and designers for being sustainable and other specific performance attributes, many end-users were put off by the high cost of the products, and sometimes found these products to be difficult to work with and of questionable quality.Low sales volume and slow inventory turns decreased the company’s value to channel members and kept new distributors from taking on the line. To cut costs, existing distributors reduced their inventories of the company’s products, and dropped slower-moving niche items manufactured by the firm entirely.In response, management hired a full-service marketing firm and undertook a full-blown marketing and advertising campaign. The marketing message trumpeted the environmental friendliness of the firm’s products but failed to communicate their other performance values.Choosing Strategic PrioritiesRather than simply initiating a typical marketing campaign, the company needed to find:· A high-volume application…· In which it could be cost-competitive…· In which it had a different story to tell…· In an expanding market, enabling growth without having to take market share…· And reestablish its value to distributors.Internal AssessmentThe company’s primary product is a fiber board used for various purposes by construction trades. Reducing sound transmission in buildings appeared to be the company’s best opportunity to generate volume. Multi-family projects that required sound reduction could require multiple truckloads of product. The firm already marketed this application but was not emphasizing it.The company’s sound-reduction product performed well and was cost-competitive in flooring applications. It was installed very differently than the products dominating the market. Competing products were sold directly to specialty contractors, bypassing traditional distributors and contractors.The housing market had collapsed with no recovery in sight. The lack of money for down payments, overly strict mortgage requirements, and fear of declining home values crippled demand.Still, people needed places to live. Apartment construction, while also down, remained viable, and increased demand was forecast for the foreseeable future. Demographic changes predicted surging demand for student housing and assisted living. Changing consumer tastes were boosting the desire for urban living. The Federal government’s spending on affordable housing, often in the form of apartments, was increasing in an effort spur economic growth.Executing the Strategy A volume application had been identified that met the company’s strategic imperatives. The marketing group now needed to focus all its resources on implementing the initiative as quickly and inexpensively as possible against larger, better-capitalized competitors that dominated the market. Every problem perceived by customers that could hold back sales needed to be solved.HowThe marketing team implemented a wide array of tactics to support the new strategy:Brought It Inside. To reduce cost, the firm terminated its engagement with the full-service outside marketing agency and brought marketing in-house, with assistance from independent professionals.Aligned the Messaging. The marketing team developed a compelling tag line aligned with the new strategy. The message was simple and specific, yet universal to the company’s other product lines.Developed Aligned Materials. The team conveyed its solution and addressed all known obstacles through new marketing tools in a wide variety of mediums, including video, website, packaging, sales aides, installation graphics, product sheets, trade show booths and more.Accessed All Available Channels. The team tapped all available cost-effective channels to disseminate the message, including the company website, YouTube and industry related third-party websites.Quality Improvements. The marketing team communicated quality improvements needed to increase market acceptance to operations. The Operations Department innovated and made improvements. Third-party testing labs were engaged to refute end-user performance concerns and induce confidence.Bottom LineThe shift in marketing strategy contributed significantly to turning around declining revenues into consecutive year-over-year sales increases of 20% and beyond. Identifying and targeting an expanding market segment supported this growth in sales. Increased market share remained a goal but was not required for significant recurring revenue increases.Companies that follow conventional wisdom run the risk of leaving core problems undiagnosed and fail to turn sales around. The strategic marketing process avoids this pitfall. Strategic marketing effectively gives the sales force an improved product to sell and a better market to sell it into, thereby propelling increased sales at a rapid rate.The company could not have sold its way out of declining revenues without first changing its go-to-market strategies. It needed to find a market opportunity that met its strategic imperatives and provided a focus point for success. Compelling marketing messages provided efficient market penetration in a way that selling by individuals or teams could not.If done innovatively, with an eye on costs, strategic marketing can be the fastest way to spur sales growth.