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.

Making Sure Your Special Needs Child Gets the Education They Need

To the uninitiated, the world of special education may seem like a maze or like learning a foreign language. As a parent you see your child struggling academically, behaviorally, or socially and you just want to make sure s/he receives the educational services needed in order to succeed in school and in life. When it comes to providing services for special needs children, not every school district is the same. Some are more likely to provide services while others are stingier about providing services or even recognizing that services are needed. Special education identification and service delivery are guided by federal and state laws; sometimes these laws can be misinterpreted by districts, schools, or individual educators. It is important to keep in mind that all school systems have a law firm on their side when it comes to interpretation of the laws. As your child’s primary advocate this may seem daunting; however, if you remain calm, do a little research, and document your concerns and communications with the school your child will receive the services s/he needs.Prior to services being delivered a referral to determine whether an evaluation needs to take place needs to be made by a parent/guardian, teacher, or pediatrician. An initial individual education plan (IEP) meeting takes place that documents the reason for the referral and it should specifically outline what questions the IEP team wants answered. It is important for you to voice and outline your concerns during this initial meeting because your input is important to what happens next. Evaluations need to be conducted by various members of the team depending upon the area(s) of concern in order to assess you child and determine what type of services s/he needs. With recent changes to how learning disabilities are legally identified in public schools, sometimes IEP teams will use data from Response to Intervention (RTI). This data usually provides information on how well your child progressed on interventions received (if any) prior to the referral. It is okay and legal for schools to use this type of data as it is very informative about how the child responds to more intensive or more frequent instruction. As a parent, you want to leave this meeting secure in the knowledge that your child will receive an appropriate evaluation that answers your concerns and that will provide specific recommendations as to what services your child needs in school.A second IEP meeting will occur after the evaluation process is completed in order to review the results of the evaluations, determine eligibility for special education services, and determine what services, if any, your child requires to progress in school. In order to prepare for this meeting you should:
Insist that you receive written copies of the evaluation reports five days prior to the meeting.
Read through the reports, highlight or underline anything that stands out or concerns you, and jot down questions about anything you don’t understand. Reports are sometimes full of unnecessary professional jargon and you should ask for explanations about anything you need clarification on. Every profession has its own terminology and no one expects you to get a degree in education in order to advocate for your child.
Ask that the professionals who conducted the evaluations to call you to review and explain the results after you receive the reports.
Write down any questions that you have that haven’t been answered and bring them with you to the IEP meeting.
At the second IEP meeting, the team will review the evaluation results and determine eligibility for special education services. An individualized education program will be developed if your child qualifies for services. Remember, this program should be individualized to your child and his/her unique learning, social, or emotional needs. Some questions to ask include:
How is that different than the regular curriculum?
What is going to be done to ensure that my child catches up/is ready for the next grade?
What individual modifications and accommodations are going to be implemented?
How is success/progress going to be measured and who measures it?
How often will I be informed of my child’s progress?
Who is going to be in charge of managing the plan?
How will other teachers be informed of my child’s needs?
When the team is able to answer these questions to your satisfaction you can be reasonably assured that they will provide services to meet your child’s needs. It is important that you take notes during the meeting because five days after the meeting you will receive your child’s Individualized Education Plan. This is a legal document that outlines the services that the district has agreed to provide to your child. The services in this document should correspond to your understanding of what took place during the IEP meeting. That’s why it is always good to take meticulous notes at these meetings. You should call the school and speak with your child’s case manager (this will be documented in the IEP, usually on the first page) and ask for clarification of anything that doesn’t match what you wrote or heard during the meeting.If your child does not qualify for services and you are still very concerned that they need services in order to succeed, you can ask that the school provide RTI services, often this is already in place, will continue, and may be the reason why your child didn’t qualify for services, or you can ask for an independent evaluation. This independent evaluation is conducted by a professional who is unaffiliated with the school district and who is usually mutually agreed upon by you and the district.What do I do if the school refuses to listen or just doesn’t seem to get my concerns?In this case you have a few options. The first thing you should do is bring a digital recorder to IEP meetings and record them. The team is usually more careful about what they say and how they say it when they know they are being recorded. Keep a copy of these recordings. Secondly, you can call your state department of education and speak with an educational consultant. Most are eager to help parents and answer questions. Many states have a helpline that you can call that provides answers and gives directions on how to contact specific state and local agencies that will help you. You can call an advocate or educational lawyer who will review your concerns and child’s records, provide you with information and direction, meet with you, and attend IEP meetings with you. This last option will cost you money but is often very helpful in extreme cases.Remember: as a parent you know your child best and you are her/his best advocate. S/he is counting on you to be her/his voice when s/he struggles and ensure s/he receives the appropriate services in order to succeed.

Skin Care – Why Bother?

Skin care is much more than just buying expensive skin care products and hoping they’ll keep the skin looking healthy and young. The skin is a living, breathing organ that reflects the body’s general state of health, irrespective of what skin care products you choose to use.In the following article we will look at the type of skin care that should be used at different stages in our lives and other factors you need to include in your ‘health plan’ to maximize the long term health of your skin.TeenagersWhy should a teenager, male or female, bother with skin care? After all their skin is young, supple, has no wrinkles, and has all the elasticity it requires.This is a stage at which skin is undergoing considerable change. Hormones are going ‘crazy’ and the whole body of a teenager is developing into its adult form and functions – even the skin.Acne is a probability during the teenage years and this is a very good reason to pay particular attention to your skin. Acne affects almost every teenager to some degree. In some cases acne can be so bad that it is necessary to seek professional medical advice and resort to having it specifically treated. However, in most cases, acne is more of a nuisance then a medical problem and by adopting a daily skin care regime using natural and organic skin care products, the effects of the acne can be reduced if not entirely eliminated.Young men have an additional issue with their skin – shaving. Not only do they get acne, but they start growing facial hair and begin shaving. Razor blades and acne pimples do not mix and cuts can lead to infections and spreading of acne.This should be avoided at all costs. Using natural shaving products which contain antiseptic herbs and essential oils will help to minimize infection and spreading of acne pimples.AdultsFollowing the tumultuous years of being a teenager, putting up with acne and if you’re a male starting to shave, now is the time for giving your skin all that you can to maintain its health, youthful looks and build its resistance to prevent premature aging. By now, your skin will have developed its basic skin types and your choice of natural skin care system(s) should reflect your skin types. Yes, there are usually more then one skin type.Often there is an oily T-zone while the cheeks, neck and eye regions are either normal or have a tendency to be dry. If this is the case, you literally need to treat the different areas with different products. That is, you need to use skin care products for oily skin on your oily T-zone and products suitable for normal or dry skin on the remaining area of your facial skin and neck.Again you need to take care of your skin on a daily basis and should include an exfoliant and/or facial clay mask at least once every week.As the body ages, skin cell renewal slows and elastin and collagen production also take a nose dive. This is when fine lines and wrinkles start to appear. The precise age at which this starts to happen depends on your genes and to a large extent on how well you’ve been caring for your skin; how much sun exposure your skin has been subjected to and how much exposure it has had to the elements and other environmental factors. Changing hormones also become a factor again during the 40′s and 50′s in most women.Some people’s skin looks 30 in their 70′s and they did very little to make this happen – they are the very lucky and isolated ones. Most people find that as they get older the skin reflects this by showing its age too. This is where the effort of the past few decades will start to pay off, if you’ve been using a good quality, daily skin care regime, stayed out of the sun as much as possible, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and generally looked after your body’s health, your skin will reflect this also – you are what you eat and this truth starts to show itself in later years.Bothering to take care of your skin is not just for preserving a youthful, healthy skin, but your skin’s health will have a marked effect on your body’s health. The skin is a major organ that has many important functions to perform and if we do not look after the health of our skin, this can result in other, more serious health problems.Similarly, if you have health problems, these will be reflected on your skin. For example, liver problems can cause skin discolorations, as can kidney problems. The skin around the eyes is often tinged brown or black if there is liver or kidney disease. Jaundice is a well-known symptom of liver disease, for example hepatitis.Chronic dehydration will lead to dry wrinkly skin; chronic inflammation or infection can cause hypersensitivity of the skin. Skin problems can result from a deficiency of vitamin A, niacin, vitamin C and many other nutrients including several amino acids, a deficiency in dietary minerals, and so on.All the skin care products in the world will not make your skin look healthier or younger, if you do not look after and treat your internal health problems.