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.

Give Children the Gift of Simplicity This Christmas

I am making a pact with myself to keep calm and keep it simple this Christmas season. I really want to focus on the spirit of family and giving, rather than the hype of commercialism. I’m thankful my children don’t watch television; instead of asking for the latest toy, my son has asked Santa for a felting needle and wool (makes my heart swell). I’m putting more effort into the gifts I choose so I know they will be perfect and appreciated; less plastic and gimmicky, and more thoughtful and lasting. And “less” is definitely the key word here. I’m asking friends and relatives to be mindful of my less-is-more mantra as well (and I hope you’re reading this, Gramma).Focus on your child’s favourite things to help you select gifts. My daughter has always loved all things animal and insect-related, so gifts for her include animal or insect craft projects, subscriptions to National Geographic Kids or Owl Magazine, stuffed animals and bugs, and leopard print anything when it comes to clothing and accessories.Give them knowledge. Books are one of my favourite gifts to give as they are versatile and there are so many to choose from.Give them fresh air. Outdoor toys are a great investment, as well as incentive for outside play time in winter months. Snowball and snow block makers let kids create their own snowballs and forts. Sleds and magic carpets provide hours of sliding fun.Give them a green thumb. Indoor herb gardens and seed-growing kits teach children how things grow and how to care for them. It’s fun to grow something green in the winter months and kids love to watch the progress. They also get excited about eating the herbs they grow.Give them creativity. There are so many amazing crafty gifts out there, from DIY nightlights and door hangers to journal books and modelling clay. Fun fridge calendars or student organizers make great gifts too.Give them entertainment. Gift certificates are great for giving things such activities the family can do together – the movie theatre, the indoor pool or play centre, science museum and more.Give them treats. What could be better than a freshly-baked gingerbread man in their stocking? Maybe some gummy candies or caramel corn, but it doesn’t really matter, as long as they’re treats they love. You know them best, so pop some goodies in and wait for the toothy grins to appear.And do give them toys. Cute stuffed animals, handmade doll houses, puzzles, musical instruments and wooden train sets are classic toys children play with time and again. Get them solid toys that will stand the test of time so they may be enjoyed and then passed along to friends or family when outgrown.

How to Avail 12-Month Loans in London?

WHAT ARE 12-MONTH LOANS?12-month loans are a type of short-term loan that has become increasingly popular in recent times. These are designed so as to last for only a year or 12 months to be precise. They are extremely helpful as they help one to accurately budget for the concerned money that they have borrowed as it is known that it must be fully repaid within a year or 12 months. This is the main difference that makes it stand out from other types of short-term loans offered by various direct lenders.These types of loans allow one to borrow a wide range of different sums of money and these types of loans help break up the borrower’s loan into 12 manageable repayments that must be repaid on a monthly basis. Small loans are a good way of allowing one to budget for anything unexpected.DESCRIPTION OF 12-MONTH LOANSThe approximate calculated interest for borrowing 100 pounds under such a scheme comes around 13 pounds per month. There are many people who may suffer from bad credit history and there are many lenders available who are willing to provide loans to people who have a bad credit rating and who may have been denied loans elsewhere. Most lenders have eligibility checkers that help check the individual’s likelihood of being fully approved for a 12-month loan for bad credit before applying.One can improve his or her credit score by being accepted for a 12-month loan and keeping up to date with the necessary repayments for the concerned loan. This makes it easier for the individual to be accepted for any sort of credit in the near future. Missing out on payments has the opposite effect and can damage the borrower’s credit profile making it difficult for him or her to be accepted in the future for bad credit loans.There are many UK lenders offering 12-month loans with no guarantor as not everyone may have access to that facility. These 12-month loans have become extremely popular in recent years as direct lenders have started offering these types of loans which do not require a guarantor.GETTING APPROVED FOR A 12 MONTH LOANOne is eligible for such loans only if he or she is above 18 years of age and is a citizen of the UK. Having a good income source is advantageous but not necessary. One also needs to have a good credit score to increase approval chances for the borrower. Lenders always prefer people with a good credit score as they can be trustworthy and reliable and are more likely to repay back the loan amount in the stipulated 12 months or 1 year.If the borrower’s credit score is not enough for gaining approval for a 12-month loan, then the borrower can obtain loans by getting into a joint agreement which can be done by convincing a friend or family member to become your guarantor for the 12-month loan. In this case, if the borrower fails to make a repayment to the lender then the guarantor can pay in place of the borrower.Asset pawning is also a good solution for the concerned individual or borrower. In case he or she is unable to find a guarantor then he or she can pawn any asset which may be a land, property or even a vehicle. This asset should have a value equivalent to the value of the loan.BENEFITS OF 12 MONTH LOANMany lenders often provide people with 12-month loans even though they do not have a guarantor to furnish. This type of loan also helps those who are in need of emergency money. These loans are hassle-free and usually, do not carry any extra hidden charges and are also comparatively easier to repay when compared to personal loans or payday loans which have higher interest rates.Most lenders nowadays have an easy loan process that allows them to assess the financial situation of the borrower within a short period of time and since most of the systems are now online, this has reduced a lot of paperwork involved. These lenders offer personalized loans to the borrower depending on their financial situation and state of living.These lenders offering 12-month loans also provide competitive rates of interest to the borrower for people with a poor credit score and this helps a person from any strata of society with any economic background opt for a loan without being financially distressed due to the various competitive rates of interest offered to the borrower by the lender.One can opt for a 12-month loan in case of any financial emergency or an unexpected expense that may be necessary to be cleared immediately. They provide quick loan approval processes and also credit the concerned loan amount directly into the borrower’s bank account making the loan obtaining process smooth and hassle-free. The borrower can easily repay the loan to the lender in simple instalments every month for the 12 months time period of the loan.Even if the borrower has a poor history of credit and is in need of emergency money at the earliest, many lenders exist offering a wide variety of instalment loans for all types of credit score borrowers.CHOOSING A 12 MONTH LOANOne of the top reasons for more and more people opting for 12-month loans is the fact that it offers competitive APR, hassle-free and reliable loans with options for bad credit too, the lack of the need for a guarantor, availability of small and big loans as required, repayment of loans in easy instalments, ensuring that people from all economic backgrounds have a fair chance at securing a loan and many other reasons.Carefully compare and choose the best suited 12-month loan option for your needs.