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Dave Coderre, RiverAA

I have been performing analytics for more than 30 years and I am not sure if it was simply a case of “hard to teach an old dog new tricks” or what, but I never really saw the point of visualizing the results.  If I run an Accounts Payable duplicates test and identify $500K in duplicates and can tell you that it is because of three main control issues: duplicate in the vendor table, improper entry of date information, and inconsistent entry of invoice number – why do I need to visualize the results?

As an auditor, I have my recommendations: 1) Restrict access to vendor master creation capability (access control);   2) Provide A/P clerks with training on the correct entry of critical date fields; and   3) Develop and implement a standard for invoice number entry so you don’t get “Inv# A123”, “A-123” and “A123” for the same invoice number.

I can simply open the results file and sort, summarize, filter, whatever to see the specific results that I want.  I suppose I could create a pie chart showing the duplicates by region or the duplicates by control issue (Master table, Date entry and Invoice entry).  I could also show the duplicates by year.  My view was “None of this would change my recommendations, so what do I need visualization for?”  Also, it would mean an extra step – exporting the results and developing visualizations which would probably need to be changed.

However, in the past year I have been working with (younger) colleagues who are keen on using visualization and I have tried to remain ‘open’ to the idea (“Show me an example of a visualization that contributes to my understanding of the root problem and recommendations and I will support you.”).

Recently, we have been working on developing software as a service to business process owners in several functions such as Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Payroll, Contracting, Financial Operations, Travel & Entertainment, and other areas including Internal Controls, Internal Audit, and P-Card Monitoring).  While the analytics are similar, the purpose (and the reporting thereof) is different than my experience as an Internal Auditor.   When you include all the possible users of the analytics – Senior Management, Boards, Chief Risk Officer, Chief Financial Officer, etc. – in addition to the business process owner – visualization makes a lot of sense. 

So, the ‘old dog’ enhanced his analytics to facilitate the visualization of results using Power BI.   In A/P, for example, each invoice gets tagged with the ‘hits’ (tests that flagged the invoice e.g. duplicate, improper date entry, user who entered invoice also created the vendor, etc.).  The visualization can present results in a dynamic fashion (e.g. Invoice Amount: by type of ‘error’; by A/P office; by User; etc.) and supports drilldown into the actual results.

The dashboard for the Manager of Accounts Payable could be like the “AP Analytics Overview”, with a comparison of current period with the previous pervious period. 

The A/P manager can dynamically drilldown into any of the analytics areas (e.g “Revenue Loss”) and even see more detail and even view the actual invoice transactions that were tagged by the analytics.

This will help to assess the risk mitigation efforts and determine where (and if) additional action needs to be taken.

I have been convinced.  I can see the value of carefully develop and designed visualizations that are integrated into the analytics so that there is a seamless transfer from source data to analytics to visualized results that supports dynamic views of the results.

I have finalized the enhancement of hundreds of scripts in different business processes/ functions to maximize the utility of the analytics for all analytics consumers: senior management and functional owners; and risk, control, audit, financial operations.  The analytics, initially designed to work with any SAP configuration, have also been modified to work with any ERP or source data file.  They can be quickly and easily customized to any ERP or other data source and with produce results standard results or be customized to highlight issues that are most relevant to management. 

For me personally, this is very exciting.  I feel that this ‘completes’ the analytics in a way that I had not seen before and am glad that I was challenged.  It represents a significant leap forward in the analytics – making them more consumable by personnel who may have less technical (analytics) capabilities but know their business process and are looking for tools that will help them identify revenue loss, inefficiencies, fraud, risk, non-compliance, etc.  and prompt targeted action.

Dave Coderre (the old dog)

Principal Analytics Partner, RiverAA

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