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Travel & Expense Big Data

When it Comes to Big Data Challenges, Improved Reporting Isn’t the Answer

on July 22, 2014

Forrester’s “The Power of Real-Time Insight” survey (done in conjunction with Oversight partner, Concur) is an interesting view of the realities of travel and expense spending and business requirements for more data analysis capabilities. Our CEO, Patrick Taylor, wrote about his reactions to the study, and I echo his statements.  He echoed the survey’s findings that most travel managers aren’t analyzing spending, because, what they often lack, as the Forrester study reflects, are the tools to find these answers. I’m not surprised that the survey is making news because it indicates that despite automation, T&E is still a difficult thing for most organizations to control.

 At Oversight, we believe T&E managers are underserved by data analysis solutions and capabilities, and we believe that T&E managers know the questions to ask of their data and what to do with the answers.  This is going to sound counter-intuitive, but I don’t think improved reporting and flexibility of reporting is the answer.  Reporting tools, including business intelligence tools, are great for providing one-dimensional answers and the ability to explore data.  Reports tend to be a mechanism for categorizing the data in different ways for further review and exploration.  Access to data is excellent, but our T&E customers tell us the real problem is that they don’t have time to explore data. Our customers tell us that they are looking for the answers to questions they have about their expense transactions.  They don’t usually have the time to perform the data analysis or explore their data through reports and business intelligence tools to analyze policy effectiveness. They have enough on their plates managing their programs and addressing anecdotal policy issues they identify. It is ultimately a time and resource problem.

So how do you solve this problem? After all, wasn’t the whole point of automating expense reporting to decrease the time and resources necessary to stay on top of program spending and provide better insight into potential fraud risk and employee behavior? Based on the Forrester survey, the data analysis technology of the future needs to address the challenges of analyzing T&E transactions while incorporating information from multiple sources (including sources outside of companies). Solving this problem is the driving force behind Oversight Insights On Demand for T&E. We even include an automated workflow (we call it “The Workbench”) to help our users sift through the analysis and tackle the identified priorities first.

 In the era of 24/7 news, fast food and social media, simply delivering reports isn’t enough. Savvy expense managers are going to want solutions that deliver actionable answers. The managers simply don’t have time, and even if they did, why would they want anything less than the answers to the questions they have and the knowledge to take action. Through the use of our Connector for Concur, expense data flows seamlessly to our Insights On Demand solution. Our customers find that the combination of a leading expense management system (like Concur Expense) and the use of Insights On Demand as an advanced analysis solution for company spending addresses many of the items identified in the Forrester report.

Chris Rossie

Chris Rossie is a blog contributor for Oversight.