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.

The Mistake: Not Taking Advantage of Fashion To Engage Consumers

Fashion and design partnerships are one of the strongest opportunities being leveraged by brands to market products to those cutting edge trendsetters and influencers that closely follow – and lead – today’s fashion trends.Fashion partnerships result in an enhanced image and an overall sense of innovation and hipness to the brand. These partnerships are typically different enough to break through the clutter, gain consumer interest, attract press, and generate consumer buzz. In fact, fashion, like music, is globally one of the most popular categories in terms of online consumer interest as it too transcends culture and breaks down barriers.No longer are fashion events and content limited to fashion brands – today you see brands of all types leveraging fashion, ranging from title-owning Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Subway’s runway dress made out of wrappers, Moët & Chandon on the Golden Globes Red Carpet to Intel and HP’s multi-year long partnership with fashion-themed television series Project Runway.A fashion initiative has the ability to elevate the brand and provide the perception of appearing out-of-the box and cutting edge to consumers. It is important to remember that there needs to be a rhyme or reason behind the partnership. By looking at the core fundamentals of the brand’s objectives and messaging, a mutually beneficial campaign will result in success for both the brand and the partner when identifying the common ground in messaging.For savvy brands and marketers of all types, opportunities are available at a wide range of fee levels (read: very affordable to quite hefty) to create noteworthy partnerships that will get noticed by both media and consumers, while also providing content to significantly drive social media conversations. Brands no longer need to go to Paris to find success with fashion, and almost any brand can create a successful and sales-impacting organic partnership through one of these four platforms.• Partnering With Fashion EventsFashion event opportunities exist with large scale events, such as the “official” partnerships with Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week to smaller Fashion Week offshoots that are often just as press worthy and impactful, including runway shows and celebrity gifting lounges. There are fashion weeks held in cities all over the world, the most prominent in the U.S. being New York Fashion Week and Los Angeles Fashion Week held twice a year, in February and September. Also included in the fashion event category are fashion designer showcases held at locations year round or celebrity driven award shows where the red carpet is often the highlight of the night.Fashion events provide immense traffic and engagement in social media. Based on data gathered by Social Curation and Analytics company Curalate, it was found that during New York Fashion Week 2013, there were 100,000 related Twitter and Instagram shared by more than 33,000 unique users. On average, the top NYFW brand photos generated 37,448 interactions per photo, most of which were product-driven. Marketing campaigns are extremely effective when they take place in real-time, live at an event or location. Out of the 100K+ posts that drove the most engagement, 90% were taken on site at the NYFW.As an example of this social success, Harman-Kardon created a NY Fashion Week partnership 3 day event to launch their fashion-friendly white headphones, based on their ‘beautiful sound’ platform. During and following the event, the brand’s social media traffic increased by 970%, and they received over 19 million social media impressions and 370 million national press impressions.• Partnering with Fashion DesignersWhether brands want to establish themselves as risk-taking and groundbreaking, or more proven with long-standing character, custom alignments exist with fashion designers and events whose personality reflect those same valued traits. Celebrity and newly emerging designers offer opportunities to create endorsement partnerships and to liven up brand campaigns, trade events or event point of sale.• Partnering With Fashion TV SeriesFashion in Television is a constant theme, with series devoted to covering and showcasing fashion trends. Networks such as Lifetime (Project Runway), E! (Fashion Police), Bravo (Rachel Zoe), NBC (Access Hollywood, Extra) all offer sponsorship opportunities as well as options to integrate brands directly into the content. Even daily talk shows typically have a fashion segment, which brands can creatively become part of. Additionally, scripted series can provide the basic storylines of fashion similar to the previous hit Sex In The City format. The targeted viewer is typically the coveted female demographic, with an average age 25 to 49.Pilot Pen created a 4 month long digital partnership with NBC’s Fashion Star television series. A branded customized fashion trivia game was developed with a grand prize trip to NY Fashion Week, supported by ad units across the NBC platform along with the series website and print. Additionally social media drove conversations both from the show’s designers and the brand’s fan base. The partnership reached more than 14 million consumers, with website visits 184% over goal and sweepstakes entries 85% over goal.• Partnering With Fashion BloggersFashion bloggers provide a very strong platform to share brand fashion driven strategies, and can include consumer sampling and sweepstakes components.Once upon a time, New York Fashion Week was only for a very exclusive group consisting of the fashion elite and insiders. Today, largely with the help of fashion bloggers – “everyday” girls who have managed to become big time influencers – everything is much more accessible with wider public appeal. In fact, fashion – above technology, food, sports, travel – is one of the most popular blog categories, with 3 million Google searches a day, second only to music.The proper strategic alignment within the fashion world can elevate and solidify a brands image, while tapping into a following that is enthusiastic and eager to engage online. To create a partnership that is relevant and makes sense, it is important to work with industry experts who understand the landscape and what kind of opportunities are out there to identify and activate exactly how your brand can harmoniously and successfully partner with a fashion initiative.

Pharmacy Technician Schooling – Your Ticket To A Successful Career

If you have your eyes set on working in a pharmacy, you will be happy to know that you have many options for obtaining training in your area. A lot of people are starting to become aware of the promising career options that working in a pharmacy entails. According to recent feasibility studies, due to the demand and growing popularity of enrolling in pharmacy tech schools, the number of jobs in this field may double in the next two years. With the emergence of online training, more pharmacy tech aspirants are able to pursue their goal due to the affordability of online schooling.A typical pharmacy degree may take up to six years to complete and comes with a hefty price tag. Due to the amount of time and money required to obtain a full-fledged degree many people opt for the more convenient choice which is to become a technician.What you will learnAs you may already know, the basic role of a pharmacy tech is to assist registered pharmacists by administering medication, providing customer service and doing some clerical work. The appropriate schooling will provide students specific medical training to fulfill their role within a retail pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, nursing home, or other pharmacy environment. Students are taught how to move around in the workplace by performing duties that include preparation of prescriptions by counting, weighing, and occasionally mixing the required medication. They are also taught how to maintain patient files, process medical insurance paperwork and attend to basic clerical duties like answering phone calls.How to find a good pharmacy technician schoolFirst of all, it is important to verify that the courses offered at any pharmacy tech school are accredited by the pharmacist’s boards. These boards can vary according to the country you are in. In the United States for instance, you can verify schools on the American Society of Health System Pharmacists website ( http://www.ashp.org ). Anyhow, scouting for a reputable pharmacy school will be easier if you search online for legitimate pharmacy tech schools in your region. Once you’ve compiled a list, narrow down your results to a few schools that suit your requirements and budget. In fact, you can also opt for online training as a more affordable and convenient option. Online training is ideal for people who are already working but want to start a better career in pharmacy. You can basically study online while maintaining your current full-time job. Just make sure that the school offers quality courses along with their low-priced rates.If you want to get the best value for your money, be sure to do your research well and go for reputable and pocket-friendly pharmacy schools. It is also important to have experienced pharmacists as lecturers so you can get real expectations of the work hurdles that you might face in the future. Once you get started with your training you can look forward to enjoying a rewarding and well-paying job within this exciting field.