Six Big Data Tips for Tackling T&E Spend

Posted by Sarah Anderson on Tue, Sep 10, 2013

It’s easy for money to slip through your fingers on business trips. Here are six ways to get it back. 

Holiday Party.261 croppedAnyone who’s ever entertained a client or taken a business trip knows how fast that expense report can add up. But administrators and category spend managers are left wondering, where did that money go exactly? And how do we go about cutting back? The answer, of course, is in the data. And (of course), it’s complicated. But complicated is what Big Data solutions do best.

T&E data usually comes from four main sources: a company’s travel agency, employees’ expense reports, corporate card data, and the company’s Accounts Payable department. These sources are each unique in the type of data they provide and — more specifically — in the amount, granularity, visibility, and flexibility they provide. And none of them make getting the answers you need easy, or even possible. But there is a way to use the data you have — and even get more — to pinpoint exactly where your company’s money is going and figure out how to spend less of it. Here are the six Big Data traits every company needs in a successful T&E solution:

1. New data: Relevant T&E data can be found anywhere, in any format. You may already have it within your company, or it may be outside of your enterprise, but it’s not doing you any good if your T&E solution isn’t using it. A good T&E solution will incorporate the data feeds from suppliers and contracts, looking for rates, compliance, and process information. It should also look at unstructured data within expense reports and AP entries. Free text explanations can help classify expenses.  

2. Centralized data: If you need to go to many applications or documents to see what you’re spending on T&E, you’re missing out on a big opportunity. Not only is jockeying back and forth costing you time, but your data can’t work together if it’s not in one place. A good T&E solution will pull all this disparate information into one place, so it can align and make sense of every expense that comes through.

3. Enriched data: By intelligently grouping suppliers and creating custom service taxonomies, a good T&E solution will let you see contract opportunities that you couldn’t see before. For example, for hotel spend, a solution that automatically groups the brands belonging to a single hotel chain lets you see the total applicable spend for the entire supplier. From here, you can better negotiate company discounts and identify opportunities for consolidating spend.

4. Granular data: Most companies have high-level information covering the major categories, such as total amount spent on air travel. But with a more sophisticated solution, you get far more data and insight. You can determine, for example, how much you’re spending on tickets, baggage fees, and taxis to the airport. And you can break down information in terms of how much you’re spending on non-preferred airlines and premium cabins. You can also dig deeper internally to determine how much you’re spending on travel for internal meetings, on certain groups of employees (broken down by level or department), and so on. This level of granularity is far more empowering and allows for any number of policy changes and contracts.

5. Ability to view data from multiple angles: Once you have the granularity of data mentioned above, the next necessary capability is the flexibility to view that data in many ways. You should be able to visualize your data according to the view that reveals the most insight and suggests the clearest path to capturing value. This could be by department, employee, geography, time period, cost center, supplier, service class, and more. You’ll also want to combine views to pinpoint problem areas. So not only will you be able to see how much you spent on meals, but you’ll be able to see how much salespeople spent on wining and dining East Coast clients versus Southern clients in Q1.

6. Trending analyses of data: Catching trends just as they’re beginning can help you curb costs you otherwise couldn’t see until it was too late. Observations about more frequent trips to certain cities might prompt new negotiations for services and amenities there. Trending analyses can also include budget-busting indicators or non-compliant spend as a percent of total spend, indicating a possible breakdown of management oversight — or perhaps a new business need you hadn’t planned for. 

When you have centrally located, comprehensive T&E data and analysis that you can view from different angles — letting you see the who, what, where, and when for meals, entertainment, ground transportation, and more — you can improve compliance, reduce or eliminate non-T&E expenses, regulate usage and behavior, and improve contracting efforts. When your data works together, it empowers you to better understand where your money is going — and keep more of it.

Sound too good to be true? Check out our latest Signalytics solutions and see for yourself. We offer the Signalytics Spend Intelligence Suite, which comprises all areas of spend throughout your enterprise — including T&E. The data sheet here covers Signalytics Enterprise IQ, which gives detailed insight for spend throughout your company.


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Topics: Big Data, Supply Chain & Operations