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.

Digital Marketing Success – What It Is Made Of

What are the important parts of digital marketing that you wouldn’t want to miss?Digital marketing can be simple to complex, depending on how the company designs it. The company can determine whether they need to add or remove some strategies should the need arises. However, there are part of digital marketing that are not and should not be easily discarded. These are the most basic but also most important parts of digital marketing.For many businesses nowadays, having an effective digital marketing is a major plus but can also be very challenging. If a business is not able to determine well on which part of its digital marketing is really not working, then issues may arise. Here are the most important parts of digital marketing that you should think twice before making any changes.
Engaging and Sharable Content Marketing

Content marketing may seem easy for new businessmen, but it is not. A content is not just producing articles or news about your business; it is also be about being informative, engaging and sharable. It should also have keywords that will be easier to find through search engines and will appear on organic searches.According to a study made by business2community.com, less than 10% of their respondents say that content marketing is not helping their businesses grow. On the same study, 73% claims of having improved brand awareness and 64% on increased traffic due to their content marketing efforts. This goes to show that engaging and sharable content marketing creates better opportunities for companies.
Organized Email Marketing

Emails can become a bother to a consumer, especially when it is not sent in an orderly manner and the contents have no significance with the business. Have a schedule on the emails you will send to your consumers and remind them of how great your business is without exaggerating. Make sure that you send information that is relative to your business, products or services and will also be useful on their end.
Well-Built and Functional Website Design

Your website is the front of your business and an important component of your digital marketing strategy. Your web design should have a great and lasting impression for your clients and potential clients. Each button and link should direct your clients to where they intend to be and have the information they want to know. If any parts of your website is not working, it may cause your clients to doubt your site.Your website should also be neat; the less clutter, the better. Remove buttons that are not necessary or place them under tabs. Place information on your homepage that are concise but still informative. Make sure you feature more of your business than other ads. Ads are great since you also get to promote other businesses, but having too many can make your site look annoying. Consumers will also feel frustrated if they accidentally click on an ad instead of a button or tab in your site.
Organic SEO

It is very gratifying to see your business on the first pages of search engine result pages. Organic SEO means your content marketing efforts paid off without any need of Pay-Per-Click ads. Organic SEO also helps you gauge the traffic to your site and the return of investment for your digital marketing efforts.To be part of organic search category means your content is unique and your choice of keywords are mostly searched by consumers. Being included on the first pages of search results will allow your business to have more exposure to your customers and potential customers. This means bigger and better traffic and the potential of making more sales.
Mobile Marketing Ready

Making your website mobile ready allows your client or potential client to access your site even when using their smartphones or mobile phones. The use of mobile phones today is no longer just for calling or sending text messages. As technology progresses, mobile phones try to keep up by having the capability of accessing the internet and social media sites with the use of the internet.
Active Social Media

Social media has become a part of many company’s digital marketing strategy. It helps them connect to a vast number of consumers in a matter of seconds. The feedback of consumers can be assessed through their posts in social media such as Twitter and Facebook.Sharing content and answering your consumers’ concerns through your social media accounts indicate how proactive you are in reaching for your consumers. In a study made by IDG or International Data Group in December 2012, 95% of consumers are using social media, with 44% indicating their purchase is affected by the product’s exposure in social media. This shows how significant social media exposure is for businesses, big or small.
Efficient Analytics

Marketing analytics is a crucial part of your digital marketing strategy. This will determine your company standing, how well your digital marketing efforts are affecting your business’ sales and what can be lacking on your digital marketing. An efficient analytics can help your business have a solid solution in the issues you encounter and what step you’ll take next.Having all these elements working harmoniously for your digital marketing will definitely lead your company to a better future. Start on these elements and work your way up. Invest on your digital marketing needs wisely. Getting help from professionals in digital marketing will be a better move if you need any help with your next move in your digital marketing strategy.

Establishing Business Credit – The Seven Steps to Success

Business versus Personal Credit:Personal – Personal credit building starts when an individual provides their social security number and applies for their first credit card. At that point a credit profile is started with the personal credit reporting agencies in the region of the country in which they reside. This profile, also commonly known as a “credit report”, is built with every credit inquiry, credit application submitted, change of address and job change. The information contained in the report is usually reported to the credit bureaus by those businesses issuing credit. Eventually, the credit report is viewed as a statement or report of an individual’s ability to pay back a debt, and is the key tool to access and grant credit.Business – When a business issues another business credit, it is referred to as trade credit (credit from vendors or suppliers). Trade, or business, credit is the single largest source of lending in the world, but it typically not reported to the business credit agencies by most small businesses. The data regarding trade credit transactions must be submitted and then is accumulated by the business credit bureaus to create a business credit report using the business name, address and federal tax identification number (FIN). The credit bureaus use this data to generate a historical report about a company’s business credit transactions and payment history. Typically, the businesses issuing credit rely on the business credit report to determine the credit they are willing to grant and the amount of the credit limit. Additionally, many businesses (suppliers/vendors) will submit credit reference applications to the key suppliers of the business as a method to obtain payment patterns as part of the credit granting process.The major credit bureaus are:Dun & Bradstreet
Business Credit USA
Corporate Experian
Small Business Equifax
TransUnion (Personal)The information provided to the business credit bureaus (primarily D&B) is sent in voluntarily, as businesses are not required to report. Therefore, credit bureaus may never receive any information about the business transactions on credit and a business could go for years accumulating business history without being reported to the credit bureaus and establishing a positive business history of sound credit practices.Establishing Business Credit History:Business credit scores range on a scale from 0 to 100 with 75 or more considered an excellent rating. Personal credit scores, on the other hand, range from 300 to 850 with a score of 680 or higher considered excellent. With today’s tighter credit scrutiny the higher the credit score, the more likely an individual or business is to obtain credit and at more favorable terms (interest rate and contract length).While it is important to know that there are many factors http://www.myfico.com that affect a credit score; it’s based on more than just whether you pay your bills on time (still very important). The credit score will be affected by the amount of available credit you have on bank lines of credit and credit cards, the length of time you’ve had a credit profile, the number of inquiries made on your credit profile, paying the bills on time, bankruptcy, as well as other considerations.The typical American consumer credit report receives two to three credit inquiries per year and usually has 11 credit obligations – typically broken down as 7 credit cards and 4 installment loans. Business owners are not your typical consumer, because they carry both personal and business credit. This typically doubles the number of inquiries made to their personal credit profile and the number of credit obligations they carry at any given time, all of which negatively impact the personal credit score. Additionally, because business inquiries and personal inquiries are not separated on the personal credit report, the personal credit scores are negatively impacted. As mentioned earlier, using the personal credit history to get credit for their business, businesses are not able to build their business history/score, all of which could help attain critical business credit in the future.A critical mistake many business owners make is using their personal information to apply for business credit, leases and loans. This practice has the resultant impact of potentially lowering their personal credit score, while not building a business credit history and business credit score.A key to establishing credit for the business and a profile and score is to find companies (UPS, FEDEX, etc.) or your key supplier and vendors that will grant credit for your business without using your personal credit information and then report the payment experiences to the business credit bureaus. By reporting the information to the proper credit bureaus, those companies will help the business establish a business credit profile and score.The Seven Steps to Success:1. Company Legal Structure – The business must be a legal entity unto itself in order to establish business credit. Therefore, it is recommended to form a corporation (C Corp) or LLC (discuss with your CPA the advantage/disadvantages of a C Corp versus LLC) as opposed to structuring your business as a sole proprietorship or partnership. Formation of a sole proprietorship or partnership, dictates that personal credit information could be included on the business credit report. Additionally, as a sole proprietor or partner in a partnership, you are personally liable for the debts of the business and all your personal assets are at risk in the event of litigation.Corporations and LLC’s, on the other hand, provide the business owners liability protection, and can build a business credit profile that’s separate from the personal credit profile. Therefore, apply for credit under your business’s name and find businesses will to grant credit without a personal credit check or guarantee.2. Register with Business Credit Agencies – The best known business credit bureau is Dun & Bradstreet. Dun & Bradstreet has a process on their web site to establish a D-U-N-S number (a specific 9 digit number related to your business) and instructions how to establish a business credit rating. It is strongly recommended that you contact D&B and follow their process to establish business credit. The following is from the D&B web site:How do I get started with D&B? With our unsurpassed global data collection system, D&B continually gathers the data that initiates the creation of business credit profiles on new companies. Many kinds of activities can trigger a profile on a new company, such as incorporating your business, applying for a loan, getting a business telephone number, taking out a lease on office space – even just when another company seeks information from D&B about your business. Still, a new business may not have a complete business credit profile. Getting a D-U-N-S Number from D&B – the worldwide standard for business classification systems – is an essential part of helping you establish your business credit profile and will ensure that when a company looks you up in the D&B database they will find you. In some cases, a D&B D-U-N-S Number is so a requirement for doing business some entities, such as the US government.You should make sure you have a D&B business credit profile if:You are planning to obtain a business loan
You need to purchase or lease equipment
Your cash flow is tight
You want to ensure you are getting a fair deal from lenders compared to your competition
You want to pay net 30 days instead of COD (Cash On Delivery)
You are paying interest at prime plus 1, or even higher
You plan to do business with entities that require a D-U-N-S Number, e.g. the US GovernmentThese issues and dozens other like them can be addressed by having a strong business credit profile. A good rating provides you with the financial freedom to take the steps you need to grow, and is a straightforward, unbiased method for other companies to assess your level of risk when considering taking you on as a creditor. A poor credit rating is a certain barrier to growth and success, preventing you from getting adequate funding on fair terms.Communicating directly with D&B will help establish your business credit in less time. If you are a new company, D&B can help you build a complete business credit profile from the ground up; if you have been in operation for a while, you will want to improve and/or protect your business credit profile. Find out more about how to establish, monitor, improve, or protect your business credit.3. Credit Market Requirements – Businesses must meet all the requirements of the credit market in order to have a higher probability of credit approval, as not being in compliance with the credit market can “send up signal flares” with both credit bureaus and potential grantors of credit.Some of the “signal flares” include:not having a business license,
not being registered with the Secretary of State for a certificate of good standing,
operating under your social security number rather than a FIN or EIN,
not having a phone line (land line) that is listed in the phone directory in the exact business legal name,
no web site, or
not having a business email address (not AOL or gmail, but a specific URL for your company).4. Small Business Credit Lines – Investigate and locate a minimum of five businesses (vendors/suppliers) willing to grant a small business credit without personal guarantees and will report the payment experiences to the business credit bureaus. This will assist your business to establish a credit report and build a financial credit foundation for the company. Find companies willing to grant credit that report to the credit bureaus such as marketingoncredit.com, UPS, FEDEX5. Business Credit Cards – Obtain three business credit cards (Sam’s Club Discover Business card), that are not linked to you personally and that report the business credit to the reporting agencies. Then be sure to always pay your bills on time!6. Financial Statements, Business Plans and Loan Packages – These documents are often required by many credit grantors as part of their loan application process. CxO To GO is a national professional services firm that has assisted many business with their financial statement preparation and business plans. Additionally, CxO To Go has packages such as PowerPlan and PowerPlan2 for business plans, PowerPuncher for executive summaries, CFOCast for financial projections and BankSell for bank proposals so lenders and bankers will take action. It is important to note that 61% of all businesses are turned down for a loan due to a poor loan package, however with BankSell the lender loan package gets results and moves the applicant to the top of the list for review and credit committee approval.7. Debt management – Be a smart money manager and manage the debt levels to ensure they are not too burdensome and can be paid back with current cash flow. Do not incur debt that will over leverage the company and cause missed or late payments.