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Travel & Expense

Oversight, Data Management, and Spring Planting

on March 05, 2015

I recently conducted an interview with The Company Dime on the value of data management and it reminded me of a story I wanted to share with you. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I have five children. One spring several years ago my wife wanted flowers planted in the front yard. (All five of my children were under the age of ten at this time.)

I went and picked up pallets of flowers, brought them home, and began setting up a system in the front yard. I had different stations prepared: one for digging and spreading fertilizer, and another for grabbing the flowers to plant. It took me some time to set everything up, but once we started, the kids had planted all the flowers in no time. By taking the extra care beforehand I was able to keep the kids engaged, they were able to feel accomplished, and we were able to knock out a daunting task in a short period of time. A neighbor remarked how he had wondered why I was spending all the time setting up the stations until “bam” the five kids were engaged and the pallets of flowers were planted. And the best part, the kids felt a sense of accomplishment from making a (positive) difference in the appearance of our yard before running into the end of their short attention spans.

So now you’re asking…what does this cute story have to do with data analysis? I’ll explain in a minute.

Many of the people that manage travel and expense programs ask: how can we make a difference? (Especially when we have our “day jobs” that keep us busy) Analytics is often cited as a way to make a difference, in truth, it can be an efficient process if the right things are set up for you. Many companies claim to provide value with managing and analyzing data, but do you know what to look for?

Data Analysis typically involves three big steps:

  1. Acquire/Get the Data - People are (correctly) concerned about data security these days. On top of that everyone thinks they “own” card data. The data processor thinks they own it, banks think they own it, and the company actually using the corporate card thinks they own the data. Because of these two sentiments, it makes getting copies of data very, very difficult.

  2. Putting multiple versions of data into a format where it can be analyzed easily. – Say you have data from a card processor, and then data from an expense management system, like Concur. First, you have to figure out how you can relate two different sets. How do you organize it?  ERP systems have a real tendency to strip out the stuff you don’t need, and the details they take away might really prove interesting during the analysis. (Concur is really good because they keep and provide a lot of great detail. Read more about our Concur partnership here.) This is the main headache you’ll encounter when trying to analyze your own data.

    Data transactions are organized so that they will process efficiently, since that is what processors are supposed to do. If you want to analyze data efficiently, you’re going to want to organize data so that it can be analyzed quickly and easily. This involves developing a data model that is good for analysis, and then understanding how to take raw data and fit it into the analysis model without losing any of those tasty details.

  3. Analyze The Data - Vendors apply analytics and churn out a report of their findings, or display them in a dashboard.  But there’s a whole action plan that needs to happen after the analysis is delivered.  Where are the biggest problems and the leverage points for making a difference? There’s follow-up with errant employees and root causes that should be tracked.

If you’re evaluating analysis solutions for your T&E data, you need to make sure the companies can efficiently handle the above three steps. Many claim to, but they often create more problems than they solve, often requiring clients to handle 1 (or more!) of the steps before they can begin analysis.

The beauty of Oversight is that the headaches I outlined above GO AWAY COMPLETELY when customers engage with us for data analysis. We do all of the steps for you: grabbing data, stripping it, making it fit into an easy analysis model, and then we deliver the findings to you.

We’re also unique in that our findings are pushed to users through a unique software technology that not only shows you the findings, but gives you the capabilities to follow up with employees, close out exceptions, and drill down into suspicious behaviors. It’s not only analysis, but an action plan.

Over the last ten years that we have been in business we’ve spent a lot of time developing a system that can easily grab and extract data from any system. Because we’ve spent the time setting up the process, we make it easy to work with customers who want to make a difference in their T&E programs.

Going back to the story about my children, we’re setting things up so you can easily make a difference (not that I’m saying you have a short attention span.) Now all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the pretty spring blooms.

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