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.

Pop Quiz Commercial Real Estate Investing

I read once that if you took all the real estate lawyers in Illinois and laid them end to end along the equator – it would be a good idea to leave them there. That’s what I read. What do you suppose that means?I have written before about the need to exercise due diligence when purchasing commercial real estate. The need to investigate, before Closing, every significant aspect of the property you are acquiring. The importance of evaluating each commercial real estate transaction with a mindset that once the Closing occurs, there is no going back. The Seller has your money and is gone. If post-Closing problems arise, Seller’s contract representations and warranties will, at best, mean expensive litigation. CAVEAT EMPTOR! “Let the buyer beware!”Paying extra attention at the beginning of a commercial real estate transaction to “get it right” can save tens of thousands of dollars when the deal goes bad. It’s like the old Fram® oil filter slogan during the 1970′s: “You can pay me now – or pay me later”. In commercial real estate, however, “later” may be too late.Buying commercial real estate is NOT like buying a home. It is not. It is not. It is NOT.In Illinois, and many other states, virtually every residential real estate closing requires a lawyer for the buyer and a lawyer for the seller. This is probably smart. It is good consumer protection.The “problem” this causes, however, is that every lawyer handling residential real estate transactions considers himself or herself a “real estate lawyer”, capable of handling any real estate transaction that may arise.We learned in law school that there are only two kinds of property: real estate and personal property. Therefore – we intuit – if we are competent to handle a residential real estate closing, we must be competent to handle a commercial real estate closing. They are each “real estate”, right?ANSWER: Yes, they are each real estate. No, they are not the same.The legal issues and risks in a commercial real estate transaction are remarkably different from the legal issues and risks in a residential real estate transaction. Most are not even remotely similar. Attorneys concentrating their practice handling residential real estate closings do not face the same issues as attorneys concentrating their practice in commercial real estate.It is a matter of experience. You either know the issues and risks inherent in commercial real estate transactions – and know how to deal with them – or you don’t.A key point to remember is that the myriad consumer protection laws that protect residential home buyers have no application to – and provide no protection for – buyers of commercial real estate.Competent commercial real estate practice requires focused and concentrated investigation of all issues material to the transaction by someone who knows what they are looking for. In short, it requires the exercise of “due diligence”.I admit – the exercise of due diligence is not cheap, but the failure to exercise due diligence can create a financial disaster for the commercial real estate investor. Don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish”.If you are buying a home, hire an attorney who regularly represents home buyers. If you are buying commercial real estate, hire an attorney who regularly represents commercial real estate buyers.Years ago I stopped handling residential real estate transactions. As an active commercial real estate attorney, even I hire residential real estate counsel for my own home purchases. I do that because residential real estate practice is fundamentally different from commercial real estate.Maybe I do “harp” on the need for competent counsel experienced in commercial real estate transactions. I genuinely believe it. I believe it is essential. I believe if you are going to invest in commercial real estate, you must apply your critical thinking skills and be smart.POP QUIZ: Here’s is a simple test of YOUR critical thinking skills:Please read the following Scenarios and answer the questions TRUE or FALSE:Scenario No. 1: It’s Valentine’s Day. You are in hot pursuit of the love of your life. A few weeks ago, she confided in you that all she ever dreamed of for Valentine’s Day was that her lover would show up at her door, dressed in a white tuxedo with tails and a top hat, and present her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. You’ve rented the tuxedo, but now you are concerned about how much money you are spending.TRUE OR FALSE: Since flowers are pretty much all the same, it is OK for you to skip the roses and show up with a bouquet of fresh yellow dandelions.Scenario No. 2: For several years you eyesight deteriorated to the point where you can barely see your alarm clock. You are now considering corrective eye surgery so you won’t need glasses. Your sister-in-law had corrective eye surgery and has had spectacular results. She recommends her eye surgeon, but mentions the cost is about $5,700 for both eyes and that the surgery is not covered by insurance. A few years ago, you had surgery to correct your hemorrhoids and it cost you only eight hundred bucks.TRUE OR FALSE: Since surgeons all went to medical school and are all medical doctors, you are being frugal and wise by asking the surgeon who performed your hemorrhoid surgery to perform your corrective eye surgery.Scenario No. 3: Several years ago, when you first got married, you asked a former classmate who is a lawyer to represent you in the purchase of your townhome. The cost was only $375. A year later, you started a family and decided you needed a Will. The same attorney prepared Wills for you and your wife for a total cost of $700. You started your own business and your attorney friend formed a corporation for you and charged you only $600 plus the cost of the corporate minute book. Years later, when your son was arrested for misdemeanor reckless driving, your attorney friend handled the criminal case and got your son off with supervision for only $1,500.Your business has been successful and you have built a pretty sizable nest egg, but you are tired of working for every dime and want to try investing in real estate. You have your eye on a strip shopping center. It includes a grocery store, bank, hardware store, dry cleaners (on a month to month tenancy), a couple of fast food restaurants, a gift shop, dental office, bowling alley (with a lease about to expire), and wraps behind a gas station/mini-mart on the corner. The purchase price is $8,000,000, but the net operating income looks pretty good. You figure if you turn the bowling alley into a full service restaurant/banquet facility, and convert the dry cleaners into a 24-hour coin laundry, the net operating income will increase and the shopping center will turn into a spectacular investment. You plan to pull together much of your life savings and put down $2,000,000 to buy this strip shopping center, borrowing the balance of $6,000,000. You remember that your lawyer friend handled the purchase of your home several years ago, so you know he handles real estate.TRUE OR FALSE: Commercial real estate is the same as residential real estate [Hey, its all dirt, isn't it (?)], so you are being a shrewd businessman by hiring your lawyer friend who will charge much less than a lawyer who handles shopping center purchases several time a year. [What is this "due diligence" stuff anyway?]ANSWERS:If you answered “TRUE” for any of the foregoing ScenariosSTOP!The Quiz is over.Please find a quite place to reflect upon your life and consider whether the decisions you make consistently give you the results you desire.If, on the other hand, you understand that the answer to each of the foregoing questions is FALSE, I am available to help you in Scenario No. 3.For Scenario No. 2, you should follow your sister-in-law’s suggestion and contact her eye surgeon, or some other eye surgeon with equal skill.For Scenario No. 1, you are on your own. [But, if you answered TRUE for Scenario No. 1, you may be FOREVER on you own.]Investing in commercial real estate can be profitable and rewarding – but it requires good critical thinking skills and competent counsel.You have a have a brain. It is strongly recommended that you use it.

Advice On Sports Nutrition Supplements

Have you wondered how your favorite athletes do their workout? Or what kind of exercises they perform, what kind of food they eat or how do they manage to relax under pressure situations? Probably you don’t care about all this because what matters for you is their performance in the sport. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t take care of themselves like we do.In fact, athletes need to monitor their lifestyle very closely and keep their health conditions at par with their competitors; not just by eating right food items but also by consuming supplements.Supplements are an integral part of athletes’ diet. It is required to have an enhancement of their endurance, and also to increase or, if not increase, at least maintain the appropriate muscle mass to be able to improve size and strength.One of the most important parts of any sports nutrition is protein supplements. Without these supplements, athletes would not be the way they are at present. However, contrary to what most people think, diets jam-packed with protein do not necessarily build up muscle strength.Building up muscle strength would be the job of regular physical activity. So if you want those big muscles you have to do exercises, not necessarily at gyms but could be also at your residences, daily. The key factor here is regularity. What you can achieve with steady and regular exercises may not be possible with a high profile but an irregular one.Sports nutrition supplements need high levels of protein, which you can get from protein-rich foods. Enumerating all those food item will be a total waste of space in this article.But to make you aware of the basics, here are a few of the foods that are rich in protein. There is fish, poultry and dairy products, and these are the foods you usually get your protein from because some sources of protein are high in fat and also in calories. So basically, you must take note of which sources are high in fat and which are not.Even though nutrition supplements are useful, there are many reasons because of which sports nutrition experts discourage use of such supplements. One of the reasons is that these supplements can put a strain on your liver and kidneys.Other reasons include high amounts of nitrogen in the nutrition supplement, which will only be excreted from your body as urea. But it is not as easy nor is as safe as it sounds because this said excretion often causes fluid imbalance, which leads to dehydration.Another problem with sports nutrition supplements that have high amounts of protein from animal sources is that there are higher risks of heart diseases due to the high fat intake associated with such nutrition.One more disadvantage of sports nutrition supplements is that there is a huge tendency that you will ingest amino acids that are capable of interfering with other amino acids, which results in a metabolic imbalance.Beware of sports nutrition supplements that have high amounts of amino aids because it can cause gout; diarrhea and stomach cramping that can rank from mild to severe pain.Even though sports nutrition supplements are being discouraged by sports nutrition experts, Bricker Labs, a sports nutrition supplement manufacturer, still does a lot of research, developments and marketing in this area.Bricker Labs has over thirty years to blame for their success in their provision of sports nutrition supplements. They do not apply to sports nutrition only too, but also to weight loss, diet, health and other nutritional aspects.It’s because of their experience in the field of sports nutrition and also because of their choice of perfectly safer ingredients in developing the nutrition that you would not like to consider any other manufacturer for your sports nutrition supplements. So what are the ingredients they use and how are they safer than those that other manufacturers use?They make us of the L-Carnitine, which is mainly used for weight loss, energy and also for having a healthy heart function; Colostrums, which gives your body a healthy immune system function and also gives your body an improved stamina and also for an easier recovery in almost all cases; Vandayl Sulfate, which is capable of growing your muscles and also has the ability to define your muscles; Protein, everyone knows what protein is for and that is for sports nutrition, and also for health and muscle growth.Another component is called Creatine, which is used for sports nutrition and muscle growth but it also involves bodybuilding at this time; HCA or Garcinia Cambogia, are for losing weight and suppressing your appetite; and last but certainly not the least, Vitamin B-12, is for overall health and nutrition.All these ingredients mixed proportionately make the right sports nutrition. And an adequate dose of such nutrition gives the athlete required energy and muscle strength. Now you know what keeps an athlete going!