Uber's slick transaction experience has caught the eye of many payment companies, but it's the app's geographic tracking that's adding more transparency to corporate travel.
ACL Services Ltd., which sells compliance and auditing software to help companies manage risk and fraud, recently introduced a new platform to leverage vast new troves of data available from cloud-based apps and other third-party services, sharpening its ability to spot errors and fraud in everything from routine business payments individual employees’ travel-expense reports.
One result: An ACL client with hundreds of U.S. employees recently began requiring its workforce to use Uber for all business travel-related cab rides, after ACL revealed how Uber’s geolocation data could be correlated with the details of employees’ expense reports to verify that people actually traveled to and from the destinations in question.
“After the new policy was introduced, the corporation's taxi expenses for business travel dropped,” said Dan Zitting, ACL’s chief product officer, declining to identify the company. “Apparently, prior to mandating Uber, there were cases where workers were submitting receipts for cab rides where employers had no operations or meetings, and by analyzing data from Uber with our platform the company has eliminated a lot of these mixups."
ACL’s new open-architecture platform might make it harder for employees to pad expenses, but it’s also helping companies see other areas where they're losing money through inefficiencies. By blending and correlating internal corporate information with new caches of data from third parties like Salesforce.com, Concur, Google and Amazon, the platform enables users to capture more deals and volume discounts by streamlining processes for overall payments auditing, Zitting said.
“For the first time, companies are using our platform to intersect their own information with hundreds and hundreds of new data sources, opening up new possibilities for verifying transactions and making sure other corporate operations are in compliance with internal and external policies and regulations,” he said. ACL's new platform went live September.
The upgraded tools can reduce internal manpower needed to review and analyze travel expenses and other costs because with broader data, analysts can often instantly understand why costs spiked or employees varied from travel policies. This can have the effect of making internal policies more lenient, Zitting explained.
“Companies are finding that with more data available, they can see the big picture and more easily understand what's driving specific trends, which sometimes results in lightening up restrictions on spending controls, giving employees and managers more freedom to make the most cost-effective decision on the spot even if it's outside of an existing policy," he said.
For ACL, a Vancouver, Canada-based company established in 1974, the challenge in recent years has been devising an efficient way to use some of the vast streams of data that are now available.
"This whole notion of 'big data' can be very nebulous, but with our new system we're bringing it into focus so companies can detect exactly what's happening and why." Zitting said.
ACL has 15,000 companies globally, including many Fortune 500 companies and government organizations.
“Some of our clients have hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses flowing through their systems and typically we find about 5% or 10% of those can be the result of fraud or misuse,” Zitting said.