Spreadsheet Fraud

To any company executive or business owner, the mere possibility of fraud can be enough to send alarm bells ringing – for good reason. In a prolonged recession, the last thing investors would want to discover is a huge, gaping hole where supposedly a neat profit should have been. Also to find out that such loss was brought about by deliberately falsified accounting and poor spreadsheet controls only makes the situation even more regrettable.

Why?

Because these losses would not have occurred had there been a stronger risk management program in place and more stringent quality control on critical data to begin with.

But given the nature of a spreadsheet system i.e. its sheer flexibility and easy accessibility, plus the fact that they were never intended to be enterprise-level tools, there are no hard and fast rules for auditing spreadsheets. Also because of the lack of internal controls for end user computing (EUC) applications, in this case spreadsheets, you can’t expect these systems to yield consistently accurate results.

In fact, most managers assume that major spreadsheet errors should result in figures that are blatantly out of touch with how things stand in the real world, making these errors easily detectable.

Well they assumed wrong. You’ll find cases where the losses ran to millions of dollars without anyone being the wiser.

In instances of fraud, the problem becomes more complicated as these errors are deliberately hidden and cleverly disguised, perhaps one erroneous cell at a time. Even if these cover-ups started out with smaller figures that may have had negligible impact on a company?s operation, the cumulative costs of these ?insignificant? errors multiply exponentially as the spreadsheets are reused and utilised as bases for other related reports.

While there is no generally accepted definition of the term ?spreadsheet fraud?, its quite easy to identify one when a case crops up. Fraud arising from spreadsheets are typically characterised by:

Fallacious inputs – correct figures are deliberately replaced with false values.

Erroneous outputs owing to data alteration – hyperlinks are linking to the wrong spreadsheets or cells; use of macros or special lines of code which are understandable only to the person who developed the code.

Concealment of critical information – can be done with easy ?tweaks? such as hidden rows and columns, using the same colour for both the font and the background, or hard coding additional values into a cell.

There is nothing really highly-sophisticated or technical in any of these methodologies. But without internal spreadsheet controls in place, it would take a discerning eye and a thorough review to catch the inconsistencies contained in a spreadsheet fraught with errors. Also, if these errors are knowingly placed there, the chances of finding them are close to nil.

Learn more about our server application solutions and discover a better way to protect your company from spreadsheet fraud.

More Spreadsheet Blogs


Spreadsheet Risks in Banks


Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry


How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence


Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment


Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework


Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations


Spreadsheet Risk Issues


Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back


Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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How AI Helps Improve Field Service

Its seems that with the current rate of technological innovation that these is something new every single day.  Therefore, you’re always looking forward to a new technological innovation that’s going to help you make your business operations more efficient and automated.

One of the most fascinating milestones in the field of technology is the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in business. In one way or the other, AI gives a glimpse of machine supremacy that allows computers to perform tasks that were initially performed by humans. 

Are machines going to completely replace people in the workplace?

Of course, not.  Technologies like AI and Machine Learning are designed and meant to support employees in doing their tasks too boost their productivity.

AI is predominantly used to eliminate jobs and tasks that humans find boring, demotivating or monotonous. In some cases AI is also used to do jobs that are considered dangerous for humans to preform.

Previously the most common implementations for AI were all about gaming, entertainment, and advanced science,  now it’s spreading into a number of industries including the field service industry.

FieldElite – Field Service Software , can help you optimise the day-to-day operations of your business.

AI in field service management will enhance you business capabilities with:

  • Information Sharing
  • Real Time Updates
  • Automated Workflows
  • Digital Form Data Collection
  • Data Analysis

Improved Customer Service

For Service Based companies, customer retention is vital. Primarily because It can be 5-25 times more costly to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing ones.

Therefore customer retention should be a primary focus.? The good news is that by making use of AI you can implement services It can be 5-25 times more costly to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one.

Staying on top of and ensuring you satisfactorily address and meet you customer demands and expectations can be a daunting task.? It can also be an expensive one,? especially for small field service based businesses like :

  • Heating & Plumbing Engineers
  • Electrical Contractors
  • Fire Safety Inspectors
  • HVAC Engineers
  • Facility Management
  • Building, Construction & Trade

Implementing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to automate mundane and repetitive customer administration tasks will enable your staff to be free to provide additional value added tasks for your customers. Making your customers happier.

?Think about the active Chatbots. You can always get complaints directly from customers and address them right away.??

If at any point the customer is unhappy with your services, they can always raise the issue via the Chatbots. Since the bots contain necessary customer information, you can always get back to them and fix the issue at hand.?

With AI in field service, you can solve problems before they arise, or what is otherwise known as predictive maintenance,? In that way, you’ll have better customer relations because you’ll be able to address your customer concerns before they even become aware of them.

Improved Productivity

Scheduling tasks and managing the workforce isn’t a walk in the park. It goes beyond assigning tasks to your team members in the field and giving them deadlines to meet. Whether it’s a small firm or a big organisation, it’s quite difficult to organise the workforce.?

However, adopting Artificial Intelligence can iron out the difficulties most field organisations face in scheduling and managing tasks. Some years back, most firms relied on human intelligence to dispatch jobs to the right people based on given conditions. This was quite difficult, especially that it wasn’t always successful. But thanks to AI. With field service apps like FieldElite scheduling tasks and managing workforce is only a few clicks away.?

What’s more? There?s no room for error. Therefore, you’ll always match the right people for the job. Again, your team will always get tasks on time. That means, the job completion rate will go up, and hence the workforce becomes more productive.?

Predictive Maintenance

Usually, most business operations are based on ?solve the problem as it occurs?, which is just OK. However, it’s not always safe to wait until a problem occurs so that you solve it. Prevention is better than cure, and that’s why Artificial Intelligence comes handy in Field Service.

Using FieldElite Workforce Management Software , you don’t have to wait until something breaks.? Utilizing AI in field service enables you to proactively address field service needs and prevent unforeseen failures and interruptions.?

The ability to predict field service needs through field service apps like FieldElite enables you to make more accurate forecasts. In this way, resource planning is made easier, and as such, you’ll have smoothly running workflows. Again, by taking care of unforeseen circumstances in advance, you’re flexible enough to take care of the unexpected. And that means the overall productivity of your business will go up.

Job Management

Most field service jobs involve multiple stages that can take several days to complete. In addition to this, more often than not, you have to coordinate lots of equipment and contractors at the same time. All these can’t be achieved solely by human efforts. For more successful outcomes, it’s important to incorporate Artificial Intelligence in your field service operations.?

FieldElite is the field service solution that can help you manage sophisticated tasks. The app is packed with field service management tools that enable you to assign complicated tasks and keep track of your field techs. For long-cycle jobs, FieldElite app enables you to follow up on the activities going on the field to ensure they’re completed.?

With AI, there?s no room for error even when the jobs become more sophisticated.

Data Analysis

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Field service industry involves lots of data. Some years back, organisations depended on human intelligence to analyse big data. Well, things still worked out, but as a human is to err, the outcome wasn’t always perfect. However, with Artificial Intelligence data analysis, 100% accuracy in data analysis is achievable. Field service solutions like FieldElite provide sophisticated data analytic tools that enable you to crack massive data and offer accurate solutions.?

FieldElite data analytics capabilities give you an insight into what’s not working and what needs to be improved. In that way, you can always address matters arising and take care of the loopholes.?

It’s time to go paperless with field management software like FieldElite if you?d like to make your business more profitable. Apart from improving the productivity of your workforce, incorporating AI in your business increases profitability. If you’re still doing your usual field rounds with a clipboard, it’s time to simplify your task with FieldElite app.?

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Vendor Selection

When shopping for an IT solution for your enterprise, there are two things you should scrutinise: the product (or service) itself and its vendor. Many times, companies overlook the importance of the latter, giving the reason that “it’s only the product we need”.

Wrong.

What about after-sales technical support and training? Ok, so you have an in-house team with the required competency for that IT solution in question… not that I believe it’s reasonable basis to pass up on the expertise that the vendor can provide. How about upgrades, patches, and documentation?

Still unperturbed? Here’s one factor that you may not have started to consider – What happens to your product if the vendor goes bankrupt or gets swallowed by a merger and acquisition? Surely, you no longer believe this is far from possible, do you?

But how are you supposed to know the financial stability of each vendor or whether it is an acquisition target? Well, you can either conduct your own research or you can leave that up to us. Part of our job includes not only establishing linkages in the industry but also being in-the-know on such relevant information.

Evaluation of Business Needs

You can’t separate vendor selection from the process of choosing the desired IT tool. That’s why our vendor selection services starts by defining exactly what your business needs are.

Once we’ve pinned down your needs, we can then narrow down the list of possible IT solutions. Only then can we proceed with the main vendor selection process.

Have you ever been caught in a situation wherein you thought you knew what you wanted, only to end up realising it’s not what you were looking for after all? We’re here to make sure you don’t get caught in that kind of situation when choosing an enterprise-class IT solution.

With the TCO (total cost of ownership) of such solutions typically running up to hundreds of thousands of euros, you can’t afford to arrive at what you really want by way of trial and error.

These are the things you stand to benefit the moment we start working with you:

  • Thorough assessment of your IT needs. We’ll consult the people in your organisation who’ll be affected the most in order to obtain a clear picture of what your specific needs really are. Most IT solution purchases are made with very little consultation that, after installation, many of the end users don’t benefit at all.
  • Minimal interruption during assessment. As with all our other services, we see to it that the interruptions we make are absolutely necessary. So the moment we start with our work, you can still continue with yours.
  • Insightful suggestions of the required IT solution. You still know your business better. So even after we’ve gone through the assessment and given our recommendations, the decision as to what IT tool should be pursued will still be up to you. The difference now is, you’ll be making a decision based on expertly gathered information put forward in an insightful proposal.

Request and Evaluation of Vendor Proposals

With so many IT solutions companies mushrooming, it is becoming more difficult to keep track of them, their specialities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Companies selling best-of-breed products may be relatively easy to spot. But there are also other attributes that are equally important but not as well publicised. For instance, which companies offer better quality management philosophies? Which companies have strategic visions running parallel to yours? Which of them possess implementation capabilities that can cater to your rapidly growing IT requirements?

Vendors who answer positively to these queries need to be given the appropriate importance in the selection process. We see to it that these and other relevant attributes are factored into our scorecards and evaluation processes.

These are the things you can look forward to when you grant us the opportunity to serve you.

  • Experience is a vital item in our vendor selection criteria. Our vast knowledge of the reliable players in the industry will lead you to experienced vendors who can hit the ground running from day one and continue with the same vigour onward.
  • We can help you draw positive response for each of your Request For Proposals (RFPs) or Request For Information (RFIs). Did you expect these vendors to be enthusiastic in sending out proposals each time you asked them to? Think again. You’ll have to persuade them first of your sincerity to become a potential customer. With our help, your RFPs will make preferred vendors see “opportunity” written all over.
  • No need to go “Eany, meeny, miny, moe”. Deciding which vendors should move up in the selection process can take up a lot of time if you don’t know which criterion should be given more weight. Our scorecards are designed to collect the most relevant information and to generate results that will help you decide on these matters at a glance.

Interview, Negotiation, and Monitoring

As soon as you start getting positive response to your Request For Proposals, the interview process should be next. It’s at this point that vendors can present and highlight their strengths while we try to glean as much information of their true capabilities as well as their dedication to the project.

Some companies can provide proof-of-concepts and we may require them as part of the interview process. This will not only give us a better idea as with regards to their product’s capabilities, but also to their level of expertise on the solution in question.

  • We’ll help you set up the interview process and organise the evaluation committee. Members of the committee will typically include representatives from each department that will be affected by the new technology, which we would have already identified during our Evaluation of Business Needs.
  • Since our scorecards are designed to expedite the filtering and selection process, you may eventually be able to choose the finalists yourself. However, in the event that two or more vendors turn out evenly matched, we’ll help you identify the better company.
  • We’re very familiar with the price ranges of various IT solutions, including the effects on price of certain variables. As such, we can tell you whether a product’s price tag is justified or not.
  • Our exceptional familiarity on both the IT industry and the entire negotiation processes itself will give you the edge when it’s time for us to haggle for the best bang for the buck.
  • After the contract is awarded, we’ll even be on hand to monitor whether deliverables are handed over and milestones are achieved as promised.
Making Click-and-Collect click

In my previous post, I introduced you to integrated e-commerce and explained why it is the right way to extend your business online. If you already have a brick-and-mortar retailing business and you’re looking to improve your online presence, you could start offering a click-and-collect service.

With click-and-collect, customers order online and then collect their merchandise from one of the retailer?s local branches. Why would they want to do that?

Apparently, there are buyers who now prefer a click-and-collect service over the delivery service of a purely online retailer. With the latter, they sometimes have to wait forever for the delivery van to arrive or contend with a missed-delivery card.

Basically, customers who want both the convenience of placing orders online and better control of their time find click-and-collect a better option.

Last December 2011, IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) reported a ?significant rise in the percentage of click-and-collect e-retail sales in the 3rd quarter of 2011?. This accounted for 10.4% of all e-retail sales in that quarter. More specifically, the gain was 7.4%, which was also the strongest quarterly gain since IMRG started collecting this data.

Clearly, this particular service is gaining popularity. But how do you meet the rising demand in this area?

A click-and-collect service requires a highly synchronised ecosystem. You don’t want to have a customer order items from your online store, drive a couple of minutes from his house to your nearest outlet, only to find out that one of the items is no longer available.

This can only work if all systems involved are interconnected. Changes in the inventory in your individual outlets should reflect on your database in real time. In turn, these changes have to be reflected instantly on your online store. Conversely, once a buyer has picked items online and is already directed to a local outlet, those items have to be reserved there.

But that’s not all. Your system has to be seamless enough to support fast and reliable service. You don’t want your buyer to have to wait a long time before the items are ready for pick-up. It also has to be capable of tracking the status of ordered products, handling uncollected orders, and monitoring inventory.

By implementing an integrated e-commerce system, these won’t be the only things you?d be able to do. You can even add more value to your service. For example, you can connect to your CRM and learn more about your customers? purchase history, buying habits, and preferences.

That way, it would be easier for you to provide a faster and more convenient buying experience for them in the future.

Click-and-collect is a very promising way to increase your sales and improve customer loyalty.

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