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Travel & Expense

Where To Go When Excel Doesn’t Cut It Anymore

on May 08, 2014

In the world of reporting and analysis, Excel is a very powerful tool. It is used for many functions, including Travel and Entertainment (T&E) reporting and analysis.

I’ve been a part of smaller companies where Excel is used both for T&E expense reports and the analysis on those reports. While excel is flexible and very powerful, it has its limitations.

For instance in larger companies, the amount of T&E data makes manipulation in Excel difficult. Data can be split up by month, but then it is difficult to do an analysis over six months or a year or more.  To overcome this obstacle, many often go to a database, perhaps Access, an SQL Server, or Oracle to hold the data.  Still, even after housing the data, a big problem emerges:  a different skillset is needed for the analysis. This skillset is rare, and often not held by regular business Excel users, so reports are generated for analysts. But running reports off of Excel exposes four large weaknesses to this approach.

  1. Reports can become very “problem specific” and users end up with a large number of reports.
  2. If not specific, reports can also be incredibly general. It can be difficult to know what the specific issue is when the report becomes too generic and broad in scope.
  3. Reports rarely have all of the relevant data needed to make analysis and decisions, so you waste time by going back to the T&E source data and transaction data to determine what is happening.
  4. It can be difficult to keep track of the various reports generated plus the outcomes of the resolution. This makes it difficult to do any kind of “after the fact” analysis to look for trends or improve processes.

The question then is where can you turn after Excel just doesn’t cut it anymore?

If you’ve ever tried to be handy and “do it yourself” at home, you may have run into a problem that takes you many hours or days to resolve, while a professional is able to do the same thing in minutes. One time I tried to install a stereo in my car and worked for hours trying to detach some of the panels and molding in the car.  I ended up breaking some of the plastic snap connectors and it took me several days to get things back together and it didn’t quite fit right with the broken connectors. I then saw a professional do it and he had a small specialty tool that snaps the molding instantly apart with ease and without any damage. The point being that when you have the right tool for the job, things become easy and natural.

Oversight Insights On DemandTM for Travel and Expense picks up where Excel leaves off and provides the right tool for the job. The application conducts complex analysis automatically and provides users with an easy-to-use web-based interface that highlights the areas of highest risk, behavior trends and outliers. This information enables action for resolution while recording all activity and communication in the system for later reporting and analysis.  It gives the T&E program manager the power to affect behavior and make informed policy decisions, and provides Audit with automated powerful analysis, a complete audit trail and dynamic investigation capabilities.  Why not take Insights On Demand for a Test Drive and see what you’ve been missing?

Nathanael L’Heureux

Nathanael L'Heureux is Vice President of Solution Consulting at Oversight Systems. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley.