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.

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

The results of this past election proved once again that the Democrats had a golden opportunity to capitalize on the failings of the Trump Presidency but, fell short of a nation wide mandate. A mandate to seize the gauntlet of the progressive movement that Senator Sanders through down a little over four years ago. The opportunities were there from the very beginning even before this pandemic struck. In their failing to educate the public of the consequences of continued Congressional gridlock, conservatism, and what National Economic Reform’s Ten Articles of Confederation would do led to the results that are playing out today.. More Congressional gridlock, more conservatism and more suffering of millions of Americans are the direct consequences of the Democrats failure to communicate and educate the public. Educate the public that a progressive agenda is necessary to pull the United States out of this Pandemic, and restore this nations health and vitality.

It was the DNC’s intent in this election to only focus on the Trump Administration. They failed to grasp the urgency of the times. They also failed to communicate with the public about the dire conditions millions have been and still are facing even before the Pandemic. The billions of dollars funneled into campaign coffers should have been used to educate the voting public that creating a unified coalition would bring sweeping reforms that are so desperately needed. The reality of what transpired in a year and a half of political campaigning those billions of dollars only created more animosity and division polarizing one extreme over another.

One can remember back in 1992 Ross Perot used his own funds to go on national TV to educate the public on the dire ramifications of not addressing our national debt. That same approach should have been used during this election cycle. By using the medium of television to communicate and educate the public is the most effective way in communicating and educating the public. Had the Biden campaign and the DNC used their resources in this way the results we ae seeing today would have not created the potential for more gridlock in our government. The opportunity was there to educate the public of safety protocols during the siege of this pandemic and how National Economic Reform’s Ten Articles of Confederation provides the necessary progressive reforms that will propel the United States out of the abyss of debt and restore our economy. Restoring our economy so that every American will have the means and the availability of financial and economic security.

The failure of the Democratic party since 2016 has been recruiting a Presidential Candidate who many felt was questionable and more conservative signals that the results of today has not met with the desired results the Democratic party wanted. Then again? By not fully communicating and not educating the public on the merits of a unified progressive platform has left the United States transfixed in our greatest divides since the Civil War. This writers support of Senator Bernie Sanders is well documented. Since 2015 he has laid the groundwork for progressive reforms. He also has the foundations on which these reforms can deliver the goods as they say. But, what did the DNC do, they purposely went out of their way to engineer a candidate who was more in tune with the status-quo of the DNC. They failed to communicate to the public in educating all of us on the ways our lives would be better served with a progressive agenda that was the benchmark of Senators Sanders Presidential campaign and his Our Revolution movement. And this is way there is still really no progress in creating a less toxic environment in Washington and around the country.

How to Successfully Meet the Three Biggest Marketing Challenges

I like to think I’m a pretty good marketer of my professional services.After all, I’ve been at it for 34 years, read hundreds of marketing books, thousands of articles and studied with the very best marketing gurus.But marketing is still challenging for me and the majority of independent professionals. If it weren’t, we’d all have more clients than we could serve, they’d be paying us high fees, and we’d never having to worry where our next clients would come from.And we wouldn’t need the thousands of marketing coaches and consultants like me offering services of all kinds to help you attract more clients.So, why is marketing so challenging?There are many marketing challenges, however, if you look at marketing closely, there are actually only three big challenges that give us the most trouble.Learn how to meet those challenges and your marketing will become more successful, easier, and fun.Here are those three marketing challenges:Challenge #1. Clearly communicating the value of what you are offering. Someone will not buy your services if they don’t see the real value to them. Your message can’t be vague or confusing; it must be clear and beneficial.One way to zero in on the value of your service is to define the top three attributes your service possesses. One or two is not enough; five or six tends to dilute your message.So, for instance, a sales training company might want to emphasize that their training is guaranteed to increase sales, improve sales confidence quickly, and can be delivered virtually in 45-minute online modules.That’s easy to understand and obviously beneficial. That kind of clear and valuable message is likely to generate attention, interest, and response.Seems simple, but not so easy to do. In my experience with thousands of independent professionals, their messages tend to be vague, not specific, and weak in terms of value.And if that value is not clear, prospects won’t respond.Taking the time to work on your message, fine-tune it, and test it until it gets a favorable response is one of the most important things you can possibly do in your business.To succeed at this task you must get inside the heads of your ideal clients and ask what they want the most, what problems they struggle with frequently, what isn’t working for them, and what could make their jobs easier and more productive.Jaynie L. Smith of Smart Advantage consulting says that 90% of companies don’t really know what their clients value the most. No wonder marketing messages are so bad.You can improve your marketing messages by reading and research (ask Google), sending questionnaires to your clients (Survey Monkey), or conducting a virtual focus group (via Zoom Video). Ultimately, you want to find out their biggest challenges and what they value the most.When you have that marketing intelligence, it will be a lot easier to come up with powerful marketing messages.This is challenging because it takes time and deep thinking. But if you realize its importance, you’ll invest your energies to come up with a powerful message that makes your service attractive, interesting, and compelling to your ideal clients.Challenge # 2. Making your business visible with repeated impressions of your message over time. It can take several impressions before someone responds to your marketing message.Just today, I noticed a message that one of my first level connections had sent to me on LinkedIn. When I checked the message, I noticed that he had sent me a total of 13 messages over a one-year period.The messages were actually very good. They had the right tone and great calls-to-action. It’s just that I don’t pay a lot of attention to my LinkedIn messages and had completely missed the first 12!He understood the value of repeat impressions over time and had developed a system within LinkedIn that had enabled him to send a unique, personalized message every month for a year. Pretty impressive.If he had only sent one or two messages, the chances are good that I wouldn’t have seen them.Again, my experience with the majority of self-employed professionals is that their marketing visibility is, at best, random and inconsistent, and at worst, non-existent.As you may know, I’ve sent out an email newsletter to my list pretty much every week for 21 years. That’s visibility. It’s really quite simple, but not so easy.If you want to be effective at your marketing, you must identify marketing strategies that enable you to get your message in front of your prospective clients consistently.And again, this is challenging. What is the best marketing activity for you, your personality and talents? How can you fit something into your schedule and do it consistently, not for a few weeks but for years?The question is not just what marketing strategies to use. Networking, speaking, blogging, email newsletters, webinars, social media, and direct outreach can all work.The more important question is what strategies will work the best for you and how exactly you can implement those strategies without spinning your wheels.You’re looking for proven, step-by-step instructions so you can evaluate if a strategy is right for you and something you can fit into your schedule on a regular basis. Remember, sporadic implementation is a waste of time.Implementing visibility strategies takes commitment and persistence. Is growing and succeeding in your business important enough for you to make that kind of effort? If it is, you’ll succeed at finding the best strategy for you.The final challenge may be the most important of all to overcome.Challenge #3. Maintaining the right marketing attitude and mindset over time, despite setbacks. If you can’t maintain The 3 R’s of success – responsibility, resourcefulness, and resilience, your marketing will never achieve the results you want.These 3Rs are absolutely essential. Responsibility is the stance that the buck stops with you. You are the only one who will find a way to attract clients and you won’t give up until you find that way. You won’t make excuses or blame circumstances, but instead will be accountable for making results happen.Resourcefulness is the skill to utilize your talents, and abilities to quickly find smart ways to overcome difficulties and find solutions. And to be resourceful, you can’t be full of doubts and fears of failure or rejection. A responsible person commits to finding a way; a resourceful person tries every way possible until they discover the best way.Resilience may be the most powerful trait of all. It’s what enables you to bounce back from adversity, setbacks, and even failures. And if you’re working to attract great clients, you’ll inevitably experience all of those many times. People who are not resilient don’t even try, let alone succeed.All of these essential qualities are in short supply. But if you work to grow those qualities persistently, over time, they will help you succeed with the first two challenging things in marketing – messaging and visibility.Despite these three marketing challenges – messaging, visibility, and mindset – there is good news.Improving your skills or abilities – even a little – in any of these three challenge areas will increase your marketing effectiveness.There is no perfect way of tackling all three challenges and you can’t do it in big leaps that get you there overnight. But you can work on all three slowly, with persistence, making small gains every week.When you improve your messages, you’ll start to see a better response in communicating to your prospects. Marketing then becomes like a game that starts with the question, “How can I communicate my value more clearly and powerfully?”When you increase your visibility, you’ll also notice a better response because to some degree, marketing is a numbers game. Your question might be, “How can I get my message in front of more of the right people this month?”And when you enhance your responsibility, resourcefulness, and resilience, you’ll find that playing the game becomes easier and more fun. The 3Rs are the fuel that enables you to persist with the first two challenges.Where do you start?You start by admitting where you are now and then committing to a purpose (your WHY for being in business in the first place), a goal (a specific thing you want to achieve), and to taking action (the actual steps you’ll implement to get there).Yes, marketing is challenging. But meeting those challenges is absolutely worth it.Cheers, Robert