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.

10 Steps to Starting a Small Business

IntroductionIf you are looking for the most effective way of starting a small business without spending a lot of wasted money and time, this article is a great place to start. The advice you get from this article may be a totally new way of approaching your new small business. As I provide each of the following steps, I will give you very good reasons for why this method is the best. I provide business planning services for many new small businesses. In so doing, a business plan is often an essential aspect of getting funding.The Secret To Starting A Successful Small BusinessLet me tell you the one single factor that will assist you in obtaining funding – Customers! If you already have customers before you go to banks, friends, colleagues or relatives for money, I assure you that your efforts in raising money will be greatly reduced. I cannot tell you how many times that I have been really excited about new business ideas that my customers have brought to me. I can tell you this though, that the banks see dozens of new business ideas every day. Dozens… Their excitement level is measure a little differently.How To Get Small Business FundingYou know what the only thing banks get excited about?… Money and only money. The closer your are to making profitable sales when you ask for funding is the only way that you are going to get heads nodding behind walnut desks. Imagine yourself going to a bank dressed in your best business outfit for a loan. Think about how truly confident you would be in asking for this money, when you know that you already have the names of customers that would purchase your product now if you just had funding.How To Get Customers Before You Have A BusinessesSo you may be wondering how will you have customers before you have a business. The answer is that nearly any business that you can conceive of now has informational products that can be purchased on the internet. Whether it is a farm, auto shop, hair salon, or home improvement. These businesses all have audio or video or e-book products that can be sold on the internet that complement these businesses. How about a video product that you sell to women entitled “How to Maintain Your Hair Between Hair Appointments,” or audio podcast program series for farmers to listen to on “Advanced Crop Yield Methods” while they are busy on the tractor. All of these can be created and sold easily on the internet with a simple website. So the idea is to move into the info business first, then formalize the business into its fuller implementation after proof of concept.So let me me summarize the 10 steps to starting a small business:10 Steps To Starting A Small Business1. Market ResearchWhat is market research? Simply stated, market research is knowing that the number of customers you think are out there for your product really exist. To translate your product into customers, it is only essential that you identify the keywords that characterize your customers’ Google searches. You can easily get these numbers free through the use of the internet. Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool (adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal?defaultView=2) is easy to use and after you get a free account, it is awesome in getting quantitative data to know 1) how many people are looking for what you want to sell 2) how many competitors already are out there. Once you have a website done in the next step, you can use the brand new Google Search Based Keyword Tool (google.com/sktool/#) to refine your market research. If you have a website type in your url and your keywords.2. Build WebsiteYou website initially needs to do only two things – 1) let others know that you exist and who you are 2) communicate to them that you know their needs in terms of what are their pains and desires and how you product is absolutely the best solution for them in the world. Your website does not need to cost more than $1,000 and can be put together in a matter of days (not weeks or months). If you want to do it yourself, you can use Word Press or call us.3.Traffic and PromotionUse Google Analytics to track the number of visitors to your website to ensure that you are getting the attention to your message that they deserve. Before you get people to your site, you will need to do some promotion to ensure that this happens. There are a lot of ways to do this, but having the website 1) optimized for on-page manageable factors (meta tags, title, attractive web address (url)) and 2) getting a large number of back links to your website are the most controllable factors.4. Build List of Customers – Email opt-inWhen customers get to your website, this is where you want to get the big prize – the customer list. In order to get a list of customers, you offer them a free written, audio or video product that provides some truly valuable information to them in exchange for the their e-mail address and name. It is important to note that you will only get a sustainable business if you provide something of significant value as a “give away” at this point. I have seen many – free PDF reports, “how to” audios or videos that are really useful. Make sure that your is too. You can use Aweber or Constant Contact as auto-responder services to obtain the e-mail addresses. These are services that provide the website scripts, capture e-mail lists, provide confirmation e-mail and provide information product.5. Sell Affiliate ProductsAfter you create your website, you will go and find products that are already available that you can sell as an affiliate. What is an affiliate? An affiliate is someone (you) that is selling into a niche market that understands the needs of the customers and can sell products created by someone else. Who is the someone else? Many – Amazon, Commission Junction, Clickbank. Nearly every big internet retailer has an affiliate program. Look at the bottom of their home page for the words “affiliate” or “associate.” They provide the whole shopping experience and you get a small commission for doing so. They will give you the tools to list these products attractively on your website with html scripts that are easily implemented.6. Create information productsNow that you have a good idea of who your customers are and what they want, you can easily create your own information products in writing (e-books), audio or video. All it takes is the ability to write, record, film and edit this information in a near professional manner. The content of these products is what is really important. This process sounds very complex, but can be made very simple by someone that does this on a day-to-day basis.7. Sell own informational products and through affiliatesNow that you have your own information products, you can sell your products on your website and also through affiliate programs such as Clickbank and Commission Junction. You will need to augment your website to allow products to be listed, purchased and to accept payment. Since you are now the vendor of these products you will also need to create a purchase, return and shipping policies (if either of these applies). Most customers will want to know about these things before they purchase from you and often will not purchase until they know that you are reliable and that their money is well spent with you.8. Create business planNow that you have proven your business concept on an informational level (and at an affordable level of investment I might add), you are in a much better position to judge for yourself whether this business is investment grade. What is investment grade in this case? The answer to this comes in the form of another self-question: Would you bet that you will get a good return on the money that you are asking others to invest? There are many good business plan templates available for free. All it requires is to get basic questions answered in each section and to formalize into an attractive and readable document.9. Get fundingGet dressed up as appropriate for the money people. If they are bankers, dress in a suit. If they are family or friends, dress as friends or family. If they are colleagues, dress as a colleague. Be professional and honor their time. Make sure that you keep their interest by asking yourself what is in it for them. That is all that matters to them. For family matters, the issue is a little bit different. They will be concerned with family solidarity. In other words, what would happen if you could not pay them back? Would this permanently disrupt your relationship with them? Think about this before you go to them. When you get money there are two questions you will always need to answer for them up front 1) what will you use the money for? 2) from what source will you pay the money back? Know these answers.10. Formalize business organizationThis is the part that most people think about when they think about starting a business. Do you find it strange that this would be the 10th step in this process? Don’t worry, most other people would too. However, doesn’t it make more sense to formalize the business after it is making money first and then to formalize it? When I speak about formalizing the business, I am talking about 1) creating an appropriate legal entity (corporation, limited liability corporation or other) within your state or country 2) create tax status with the tax authorities 3) publicly announce the business formation through public recording or periodical announcements or both 4) get a checking or bank account. Note that I am not advocating subverting tax or legal guidelines…as a matter of fact I am suggesting that you follow the rules, through making your business profitable first.In SummaryThat is all there is to it. What else is there left to business than that? A business is nothing more than delivering answers to problems (pains or desires) of customers and doing so while making profitable sales. Creating new products is just using lateral thinking to create other related products that meet the needs of customers. And what a great life that is….help other people while you make money.Follow me on Twitter – http://twitter.com/frank_dobner© Copyright – 2008 Frank Dobner

Investment Tips Based on Moon Sign for Diwali 2010

“Diwali” (Deepavali) will be celebrated in India on the 5th November 2010 (Vikram Samvat 2067). The day of Diwali is auspicious for every Hindu but it is more important for business and business community. People take various investment decisions on this day. The attempt of this article is to help investors take informed investment decisions based on their Moon signs.Aries:Arians should avoid taking rash decisions concerning investment. Speculation should be avoided generally. Property investment may give positive results. Special care should be taken before entering into any contract and signing any document. Some Arians may gain from abroad. Investment in shares of good companies may also be considered.Taurus:Natives of Taurus should exercise extreme caution while investing in property. It may be advisable to go through the history of land or builder before taking any investment decision. There may be gains from stocks if investors go by fundamentals. Greed should be avoided and investment should be made on sound analysis. Ideal investment may be government bonds, IPO’s and mutual funds. Risk free investment is better option.Gemini:The Gemini people may invest in property for long-term for real gains. If the idea is to gain quickly, this may become a cause for loss. The natives are advised to remain careful while taking loans. They may fall into some kind of debt trap if prudence is not exercised in managing debts and investments. The focus of investment should be on the shares of good companies. Investment in gold may also payoff in the long run.Cancer:Speculative gain is possible from stock market if it is done with caution. Investment should be made on good companies. Care is necessary for investment in property. It is not wise to be overambitious with respect to future price rise of property. Shares or mutual funds may be good option. Gossip and hearsay should be avoided while taking investment decision. Investment in business may also prove to be a good option.Leo:Goddess of fortune seems to be kind this year to Leos. Possibility of gain exists in shares, stocks, property and the like. The stars of fortune are smiling and if such fortune is backed by intelligent plans and investment, good money can be made. However, it will be necessary to control nerves and be watchful. Some calculated risks can be taken for extra advantage.Virgo:If investment has been made in property, the projects may get delayed. Caution should be taken while making new investment in property. Read the agreements before signing them to find the finer points. Informed investment in stock market, fixed deposits, government bonds and interest bearing securities are better options. In short, it is important to minimize risks.Libra:Librans should be extra careful while investing in property. Gains can however be made in commodities market and share market. Planned investment will be better than speculation. Investment in gold may also be done for long-term gains. For investment of any kind, a proper survey of the situation will be beneficial. Possibility of gains from foreign source also exists.Scorpio:The time is very good for those who are planning to buy property for personal use. Gains from old property or ancestral property are indicated. Share investment may also give good returns. Stars are favorable with respect to investment right now. However, some calculated risks may be necessary to convert the advantage into material gains. Investment in gold and ornaments can be made for risk free investment.Sagittarius:Extreme caution should be exercised in taking investment decisions. It is better to make efforts for maximizing earnings. Invest the hard-earned money in safe instruments like Government bonds, securities, insurance and mutual funds. It is better to avoid speculative investment. Property investment should also be done with due prudence. It is better to seek expert opinion regarding projects in which investment is to be done.Capricorn:Time is good for several types of investment. Money can be made from almost every investment, but, investment should not be done with a blind eye. Caution should be exercised with respect to property investments. Delay in delivery of projects may become a matter of concern. There may be some issues with respect to financial liquidity as well. Unnecessary expenses need to be curbed.Aquarius:Money can be made from stock market. Speculation and short-term investment may also payoff well. However, informed investment is advisable. Investment in property may also give good returns. Gains from abroad are also indicated. Stars are favorable right now and prudent investments may become rewarding. Yet, caution is advisable while signing contracts and in finalizing deals for long-term.Pisces:There may be some career-related issues for natives. Such issues can be overcome with sustained and intelligent efforts. Risky decisions with respect to career and property investment should be avoided. It is better to avoid speculation. Investment in government bonds, securities and fixed deposits may be good investment instruments. Investment in gold can also be made.