Category Archives: Travel

It’s Hard to Find Fraud in Big Spend Stacks …

Let’s start with T&E spend. While most organizations might believe that this spend, which is primarily for low value amounts on fairly well understood products and services, does not hide much in the way of fraud, that’s not always the case. Nor is the fraud limited to employees upgrading to business class, upgrading from rooms to suites, and spending a bit too much on drinks at the client dinner. (But even this can be very expensive. If this off-policy spend results in negotiated volume-based rebates failing to materialize, this can be very costly.) But that’s not the case. It cal also contain:

  • the same receipt for a $500 business entertainment submitted two (three, or even five) times, one month apart, on different claims and never noticed
  • a pet hosteling bill that looks just like a hotel bill
  • an invoice from Benny’s buddy Bob for 20% above market rates who drove him to the airport (instead of a licensed service at market rates)
  • that double billing by your no-longer favourite hotel for a room charged to your guest and then charged on your tab is really hard to spot (especially when some rooms were picked up and some rooms weren’t at your recent event)
  • collusion between an employee and a spouse who owns a travel “services” company can account for a lot of extra travel “services” billings that weren’t delivered
  • suppliers who know you have holes in your T&E monitoring can submit fake invoices for services never delivered
  • etc.

It’s really hard to find these low-impact fraud needles in a T&E haystack, but these needles can add up quickly — especially for products and services never even delivered! Only automated processing that can compare multiple entries across multiple dimensions and learn typical patterns can identify the majority of errant fraud that passes through your T&E system.

Moreover, as an organization learns to detect certain types of fraud, the fraudsters get smarter. No static system can keep up! AI based systems are key to an organization’s success.

In particular, AI-based systems that can work on multiple types of spend. T&E is just one category. There’s also invoice data for sourced and procured products and services that can be six to eight times the T&E volume in an average organization. And when we go broad, there are even more options for creative fraud from less-than-honourable parties. For example, you could see things like:

  • $4.95K shipping fees for $5 items because the tolerances in the system don’t kick anything up for review with shipping less than $5K
  • invoices from fake suppliers with the same name as your tendered suppliers with faked registry numbers and different bank information for payment
  • invoices from corporates owned by spouses of employees for services not delivered submitted by the employees and approved by colluding associates doing the same thing
  • etc.

For some of these instances, humans have almost zero chance of surfacing the infraction when its 1 invoice in 1000. A new solution is needed. A number of players are tackling the problem with modern AI solutions, but do the approaches have what it takes to find the gold in them there hills? Only time will tell.

Talk About a Supply Chain De-Railment!

When I saw this article over on BBC News that Trains ‘too costly’ for rail firm, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. If you were truly running an efficient rail line, than rail travel should be a cheaper option for your employees than road transport!

But for Network Rail, who own and operate Britain’s rail infrastructure, it’s cheaper to transport 200 staff by coach from Reading to Coventry for a conference — £24,000 cheaper! This tells me that either they are doing a very poor job of cost control, there is a disconnect between operations and sales (who would set the pricing), or government muddling is preventing efficient pricing and operations. (Why can’t workers travel at cost when the trip is related to their job? Do you think an airline who has to fly a pilot from point A to point B charges itself retail for the privilege?)

Your thoughts?

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Procurement Should Handle Your Travel Strategy

Every time a downturn hits, your average organization immediately responds by cutting the two T’s, travel and training, despite the fact that these actions are among the dumbest things it can do. First of all, you want your people to do more with less, which is something they can only do if they are well trained and up to date. Furthermore, with training usually clocking in at 10% of overall compensation for an average employee, or less, it’s a drop in the bucket. Secondly, you have to keep buying and selling … and as much as you’d like to think it can all be done “virtual”, sometimes you need face-to-face interaction. Ask the top 20% of your sales team the secret to their success and why they account for 80% of your sales and they’ll all tell you the same thing … face-to-face negotiations and customer relationship development. Then ask the procurement managers responsible for managing your top performing suppliers and you’ll hear the same thing … face-to-face negotiations and regular face-to-face interaction.

While you can certainly reduce travel in tough times, and significantly cut costs with good management policies, you can’t cut travel completely. And if the budget is tight, you certainly can’t let each department manage it willy nilly. That’s why I was glad to see a recent article in Procurement regarding travel expense management and how purchasing insight figures big in winning strategy, even if it was a long, meandering article that took too long to get to the point.

As the article points out, every company has two types of travel: necessary and unnecessary. Key contract negotiations with (big) potential customers, key contract negotiations with suppliers, supplier site inspections, and regular performance review meetings with suppliers are necessary travel. A finance or sales retreat to Tampa (from San Francisco, for example) is not. In the first case, the human interaction is often the key to a deal. In the latter, while your team does need an off-site every now and again for training, interaction, and a little relaxation, if money is tight, there’s no reason it can’t be at the glitzy hotel or conference center down the street. Many of us move and travel so much these days, it’s often the case that the city we know the least about is the one we live in. Procurement, used to strategically analyzing spend and supply, is in the perfect position to help you figure out what travel spend is strategic, what travel spend generates returns, and what travel spend should be cut. Thus, they’re in the perfect position to help your organization revise the travel policy so that you not only get the most bang for your buck, but turn the cost center into a revenue generating center.

Furthermore, as the organization that analyzes and negotiates deals day in and day out, they’re in the best position to help you select the right preferred carriers, define booking policies to minimize costs, and implement travel management systems, such as the service management solution provided by Rearden Commerce (the unique solution for travel procurement), that will help your employees adhere to policies and select the lowest cost options that meet their needs every time. So use Procurement to maximize your travel spend. Maximizing spend is what Procurement does best.

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