How many French Horn players does it take to change a light bulb?

I’m getting used to this kind of orchestral humour…!

It’s been ten years since I started working with the British Police Symphony Orchestra (BPSO) and twice that time that Sopra Steria has been sponsoring their annual Proms Night Spectacular concert. On Saturday 2 December, we’ll be at Symphony Hall, Birmingham again supporting this incredible amateur orchestra and enjoying a fantastic evening.

BPSO are passionate about helping others and sharing their love of music. The annual Proms Night Spectacular concert is all about raising money to help support their extensive annual programme in 2018. The rest of their concerts raise money for charity and over the years they’ve raised in excess of £150,000 for other charities and good causes.

BPSO also have an extensive outreach programme, “PlayOut!”, working with schools and children’s groups, to introduce young people into playing music and the joy it can bring. Have a read about BPSO’s 2016 project at Ingestre Hall. 

Don’t miss the fun!

This year’s Proms Night Spectacular, with its exciting programme, includes music from Pirates of the Caribbean, Magnificent Seven, Prokoviev – Romeo & Juliet, Out of Africa and Daphnis & Chloe.

Everyone gets involved with the traditional ‘Proms Night’ ending whether it’s letting off party poppers, throwing streamers, jingling bells, waving Union Jack flags or singing along. You’ll be sure enjoy a wonderful finale with Jerusalem, Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope & Glory – and BPSO’s flagship fireworks finish!

I’m always so impressed with the spectacular atmosphere that the orchestra brings to Symphony Hall and I’ve enjoyed some fabulous playing over the years, so I’m not going to apologise for this final sales plug! Join us…

Tickets are on sale and what’s better than a Special Offer? – BPSO are offering a   ‘4 for the price of 3’ special offer on their tickets priced at £23, £18 or £12 each (subject to availability). To take advantage of this fabulous offer, contact claire@bpso.net quoting ‘BPSO5’

And the answer to the joke?

Just one, but they’ll spend two hours checking the bulb for alignment and leaks!

If you’re not assessing you’re guessing: the value of an evidence based approach to strategic resource allocation

There are signs at my gym, that say ‘If you’re not assessing you’re guessing’. It’s something that is easy to ignore in your personal life, but in a business context measurement is becoming mission critical. At the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales (PSAEW) Annual Conference last week, there’s been considerable talk about stretched resources – starting with the opening speech from the President of the Association, Gareth Thomas.

“I suggest we have a perfect storm developing, comprised of fewer resources, reduced public services, new threats, and a worrying increase in some types of traditional crime. If the model for delivering policing services in the future is fewer people, working longer, each doing ever more, then I suggest that model is fundamentally flawed.”

Other presentations and conversations also highlighted the fatigue officers are feeling from heavy workloads and indeed 72.2% of respondents to the 2017 Police Federation Pay and Morale Survey said that their workload had increased in the last year.

With talk of fewer resources and overworked officers and teams, the importance of measurement takes another dimension, with forces needing to have access to the evidence which not only enables them to clearly understand the impact of changing demand and resource levels for budgeting purposes, but also helps them to balance the welfare of officers.

For the team at Cleveland Police, this ‘Evidence Based approach to strategic resource allocation’ is something that they’ve been working on for some time. In one of the breakout sessions at the PSAEW Conference Brian Thomas, Assistant Chief Officer at Cleveland Police shared his force’s story about the great strides they’ve taken in organisational planning and how this has had a huge impact in working with teams across the force to take some of the stress out of resource decision making.

Supported by a new tool, PrediKt developed in conjunction with Sopra Steria, Brian and his team are able to operate in a more informed way.

He shared three areas where the force is now regularly using PrediKt:

Reality testing – Validating actual performance against planned performance. It is giving an evidence base to quickly identify what teams are busy doing and, through a dashboard, they have information which highlights automatically when teams’ actual workload is outstripping their resource. An example is when Neighbourhood teams are recording a greater percentage of response work and less time on preventative activities. The force is now able investigate the reasons behind the inconsistency and put action plans in place to resolve the issue.

Evidence based resource planning – moving from examining performance at an individual team level, here Cleveland Police are now able to examine resourcing at an organisational level and look at different scenarios based around the changing shape of crime, for example the impact of an increase in domestic burglary and how resources can be reallocated across the Force to ensure the workload is balanced across all teams and crime types.

Futures planning – the final example was to examine a resource profile change and identify what future resource profiling could look like if we need to increase training days per annum for example to comply with new statutory course requirements. A further example was what would be the impact of reducing officer numbers.

It’s clear that workload isn’t decreasing, as NPCC Chief Sara Thornton told the conference, ‘everybody knows what police should do more of; few say what we could do less of’. The final presentations also brought home the reality of cyber crime and the changing nature of crime, which will have a huge impact on policing and resourcing in the future.

It’s a world where forces really should be ‘assessing and not guessing’.

Getting a formal evidence base will transform resourcing so forces can truly assess the impact of changes to demand and resource levels, as well as helping to balance the welfare of officers.

Find more about PrediKt, Sopra Steria’s Police Resource and Demand Modelling Tool or contact me by email.

Digital Justice in the near future

What might the justice system look like in 2020?

Here’s a fictional example of the digital technology that could be used to manage cases…

“The police are called to a shoplifting case in a local supermarket. In the process of trying to leave the premises with stolen goods the accused allegedly assaults a security guard before being held awaiting the police. He has no ID on him and is reluctant to give his name. The police officer uses an app on his smart radio which carries out a facial recognition check to attempt to confirm his identity. The smart radio receives an instant response from the central justice hub with a photo match and informs the police officer of the accused’s full name and address and that he has an outstanding fine payment from a previous offence. Before the police leave the shop they review and upload some CCTV evidence to the central justice hub and attach it to the electronic police report they’ve created on the spot. The police report is sent directly to the Crown Office case marking queue for them to decide how to proceed. After escorting the accused to the local police station their work on this case is complete. As they arrive at the police station a notification has already been received from the Crown office that the accused can be released on conditional bail. After being informed of the bail conditions and electronically signing his acceptance the accused is free to leave.

Fast forward to a Skype meeting between the accused, sitting in a private booth in his local library, and his defence lawyer, sitting in his office. The defence lawyer has direct access to the CCTV footage which clearly shows his client stealing from the shop but only partially shows the alleged assault. They decide they’re ready to proceed to a trial.

Fast forward to the day of the trial. The presiding judge arrives at court and checks his case management work queue. He has three cases to hear in the morning but attends to other business as the live attendance dashboard informs him that none of the cases have all their attendees in the court building yet.

The defence lawyer has already checked in electronically at the court and is concerned that his client is not present. One of his client’s bail conditions was to allow his phone location to be tracked and when his defence lawyer checks this via the central justice hub he sees that his client is two streets away from the court house. Two minutes later he receives a notification on his smart phone that his client has arrived and has been checked in automatically based on his proximity to the court house reception. As everyone is now present, the judge receives a notification in his work queue to indicate that one of his three cases is now ready to proceed. He updates the case record to notify the accused, his defence lawyer, Crown prosecution representative and the single witness that the case will commence in 5 minutes.

As the trial actors enter the court room the judge briefly reviews the case file summary on his screen. The accused has, prior to the trial date, accepted that he is guilty of shop lifting but denies assaulting the security guard and the judge sees that this is the only relevant point to be debated.

A short while later the judge decides that the accused is not guilty of assault and issues a fine for the shop lifting offence and orders the offender to agree a payment plan to pay his previous and new fine before leaving the court house. The court is cleared as the judge notices on his work queue that all participants in another of the two remaining morning cases are now in attendance and are ready to be called. This time he issues a 15-minute notification to allow him to complete and close his first case file.

As our offender has a mobile phone he agrees a 12-month instalment payment plan to be paid via his mobile phone bill. He also accepts that his location will remain trackable until the final payment is made. He has the choice to pay the balance or more than the monthly payment at any time via the courts mobile website. As soon as the fine balance is clear his location will no longer be trackable.”

So what are the benefits?

Easy access to data that enables and supports the process

  • identity assurance – we quickly know exactly who we are dealing with
  • early access to case data – e.g. CCTV evidence may result in earlier pleas and fewer cases going to court
  • previous convictions – a more holistic view of the offender

Offender tracking

  • tracking can be used to monitor current, and predict future trends
  • soft sanctions that may help reduce re-offending

More efficient court scheduling

  • less time wasted waiting for cases to proceed as they are called in the order of availability meaning all case actors have an incentive to turn up on time (this is already happening in Malaysia)
  • more control placed in the hands of the presiding judge

Greater visibility and control of collecting fine payments

  • new payment channels reduce volume of desk or phone payments with more accurate, automatic reconciliation
  • additional payment channels for those who may not have a bank account

But there are challenges…

  • greater data sharing trust needed between justice organisations
  • creation of shared infrastructure to host centralised resources
  • potential changes to legislation e.g. to allow location data to be gathered and stored

Do the benefits outweigh the challenges? I think so, but what do you think? Leave a reply below, or contact me by email.

My new year’s resolution… is to stick to resolutions

How are your New Year’s resolutions going? So far I’ve been struggling. In fact I haven’t even started some of them! I’m thinking that maybe 1st March is a good time to begin.

Every year I have a general ambition to begin the year afresh, be more organised and manage my time and my finances more effectively.  It always starts with a list which I religiously write in a nice, new notebook. The debate this year with my finances has been around how much money I’ll choose to save for my forth-coming wedding and on the flip side what therefore has to go? The handbag I have been coveting and stroking in Selfridges for a while or the daily lattes?

It’s the same with my time – too much to do with too few hours. Exercising more is probably on a lot of people’s lists, including mine and my dog’s, so is spending more time with elderly relatives (my list not the hound’s).  But going out for that run and then having cakes with my Aunt Alice (in itself counterproductive) means that time spent on other chores and activities will need to reduce.

This got me thinking that all this juggling isn’t too different to the way that organisations have to manage their valuable resources. Although unlike my New Year’s resolutions, their planning isn’t optional.  In the business world there are systems and processes to support such important decisions and in policing we have created a system for Resource and Demand Management to ensure that a Police Force’s resources are deployed in the right place to achieve maximum benefit whilst minimising any negative impact on other areas of the business.

Our Resource and Demand Modelling tool simulates potential changes to operational services and enables a Force to understand what the impact would be of for example, reducing officer numbers managing road traffic incidents and increasing those protecting vulnerable people.

In summary, it helps them to understand demand, threat, risk and harm and to allocate resources to the greatest priority.

I recently presented the solution to a number of sectors across Sopra Steria at our annual kick off meeting in Paris. The feedback confirmed my thinking that the model can be easily and effectively used in other organisations, e.g. recruitment or health and cross-sector. As an example, if there is a fall in the number of mental health nurses, what impact will that have on calls into a control room?

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

I’m now back to thinking about cakes or running? I know which is going to come out on top.

SMEs are the engine room of the UK economy but they need large firms to succeed

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are a crucial engine of economic growth. There are 1.2 million SME employers in the UK who are responsible for fourteen million jobs. And, over the past twelve months, half of these SMEs have launched a new or innovative product or service. The UK compares particularly well internationally in its percentage of small high-growth technology firms.

But too many viable businesses fail or do not reach their full potential

Typical obstacles include inadequate finance and managerial shortcomings. The Digital Economy Minister, Ed Vaizey, recently called for ideas on how Government can support entrepreneurial activity and promote digital innovation. In our response we highlighted the Government’s role in creating an open and supportive framework for SMEs to grow and providing specific support to those with the most growth potential.

This framework includes recognising that SMEs do not grow in isolation but in partnership with larger companies. For example, SMEs rely on larger firms at the top of supply chains for new opportunities and for the commercialisation of their ideas. In return larger firms benefit from new types of breakthrough innovation developed by SMEs that can deliver superior outcomes for customers, and even shift a market.

How can SMEs and large firms work together?

Like other large firms, Sopra Steria maintains a diverse supplier base including SMEs. During the first half of 2015 we spent over £18 million with over 500 SME suppliers across the UK. We work hard to foster long-term relationships with smaller businesses that bring creativity and add value to our own skills and capability.

But large firms also need to understand that late payment is a frequent bugbear of SMEs. We are proud of our reputation as a responsible business partner and our responsible business practices. That is why we signed, and comply with, the strict standards of the Prompt Payment Code. This means that we give clear guidance to suppliers and pay suppliers on time.

Large firms are already working with Local Enterprise Partnerships, universities and other partners to put in place local solutions to help SMEs to grow. This includes business support through Growth Hubs, loan schemes to finance expansion activities and advice on export markets through UKTI. Devolution through City Deals and Growth Deals will encourage more growth and innovation.

Large firms can support this growth through events that highlight opportunities to work with them and their partners. In Cleveland (where we have a strategic partnership with the police) we run supplier open days, including bidding advice surgeries, and we attend meet-the-buyer events. This can make a tangible difference to an SME; a good example is a local firm that received coaching and went on to win a contract with the police to provide specialist uniforms.

Please get in touch by email to share your thoughts on SMEs and large firms working together, particularly if you have ideas or experience of the obstacles or enablers of partnership working. Or visit the Sopra Steria website for further details about how we conduct business with SMEs and other suppliers .