The Better Way of Applying Benford’s Law for Fraud Detection

Applying Benford’s Law on large collections of data is an effective way of detecting fraud. In this article, we?ll introduce you to Benford’s Law, talk about how auditors are employing it in fraud detection, and introduce you to a more effective way of integrating it into an IT solution.

Benford’s Law in a nutshell

Benford’s Law states that certain data sets – including certain accounting numbers – exhibit a non-uniform distribution of first digits. Simply put, if you gather all the first digits (e.g. 8 is the first digit of ?814 and 1 is the first digit of ?1768) of all the numbers that make up one of these data sets, the smallest digits will appear more frequently than the larger ones.

That is, according to Benford’s Law,

1 should comprise roughly 30.1% of all first digits;
2 should be 17.6%;
3 should be 12.5%;
4 should be 9.7%, and so on.

Notice that the 1s (ones) occur far more frequently than the rest. Those who are not familiar with Benford’s Law tend to assume that all digits should be distributed uniformly. So when fraudulent individuals tinker with accounting data, they may end up putting in more 9s or 8s than there actually should be.

Once an accounting data set is found to show a large deviation from this distribution, then auditors move in to make a closer inspection.

Benford’s Law spreadsheets and templates

Because Benford’s Law has been proven to be effective in discovering unnaturally-behaving data sets (such as those manipulated by fraudsters), many auditors have created simple software solutions that apply this law. Most of these solutions, owing to the fact that a large majority of accounting departments use spreadsheets, come in the form of spreadsheet templates.

You can easily find free downloadable spreadsheet templates that apply Benford’s Law as well as simple How-To articles that can help you to implement the law on your own existing spreadsheets. Just Google “Benford’s law template” or “Benford’s law spreadsheet”.

I suggest you try out some of them yourself to get a feel on how they work.

The problem with Benford’s Law when used on spreadsheets

There’s actually another reason why I wanted you to try those spreadsheet templates and How-To’s yourself. I wanted you to see how susceptible these solutions are to trivial errors. Whenever you work on these spreadsheet templates – or your own spreadsheets for that matter – when implementing Benford’s Law, you can commit mistakes when copy-pasting values, specifying ranges, entering formulas, and so on.

Furthermore, some of the data might be located in different spreadsheets, which can likewise by found in different departments and have to be emailed for consolidation. The departments who own this data will have to extract the needed data from their own spreadsheets, transfer them to another spreadsheet, and send them to the person in-charge of consolidation.

These activities can introduce errors as well. That’s why we think that, while Benford’s Law can be an effective tool for detecting fraud, spreadsheet-based working environments can taint the entire fraud detection process.

There?s actually a better IT solution where you can use Benford’s Law.

Why a server-based solution works better

In order to apply Benford’s Law more effectively, you need to use it in an environment that implements better controls than what spreadsheets can offer. What we propose is a server-based system.

In a server-based system, your data is placed in a secure database. People who want to input data or access existing data will have to go through access controls such as login procedures. These systems also have features that log access history so that you can trace who accessed which and when.

If Benford’s Law is integrated into such a system, there would be no need for any error-prone copy-pasting activities because all the data is stored in one place. Thus, fraud detection initiatives can be much faster and more reliable.

You can get more information on this site regarding the disadvantages of spreadsheets. We can also tell you more about the advantages of server application solutions.

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How Armstrong World Industries is going Cradle-to-Cradle

The Cradle-to-Cradle concept holds that human effort must be biometric, in other words enrich the environment within which it functions as opposed to breaking it down. This means manufacturing must be holistic in the sense that everything is reusable and nothing is destroyed. Armstrong World Industries was the first global mineral ceiling tile manufacturer to achieve Cradle-to-Cradle certification. We decided to take a closer look at how they achieved this.

Armstrong Worldwide Industries has five plants in the UK alone. These produce an annual turnover of ?2.7 billion. They have been making ceilings for more than 150 years. Fifteen years ago and way ahead of the curve it started recycling, and has maintained a policy of not charging contractors for waste ever since. Along the way, it developed a product that can be re-used indefinitely.

The Challenge

Going green must also be commercially sustainable. In Armstrong?s case, it faced a rise in landfill tax from ?8 per tonne per year to ?80 per tonne per year. This turned the financial cost of waste from a nuisance to a threat. It calculated that recycling one tonne of ceiling materials would:

  • Eliminate 456kg of CO2 equivalents by saving 1,390 kWh of electricity
  • Preserve 11 tons of virgin material and save 1,892 gallons of potable water

They hoped to extend their own recycling project by asking demolition and strip-out contractors to join it, so they could reprocess their scrap as new batches of tiles too.

The Achievement

As things stand today, an Armstrong ceiling tile now contains an average of 82% recycled content. Indeed, if they could find more ceilings to recycle this could reach 100%. In the past two years alone, Armstrong Worldwide Industries UK has saved 130,399m? of greenfield from landfill, being the equivalent of 520 skips that would otherwise have cost contractors over ?88,000 to dispose of.

The Broader Context

Armstrong Worldwide Industries is a global leader in water management, and is bent on minimising its reliance on fossil for energy. It has implemented online measurement systems that feed data to its corporate environmental, health and safety system. This empowers it to produce reports, track corrective actions and measure progress towards its overall goal of being carbon neutral.

Next time you sit beneath an Armstrong Worldwide Industries panelled ceiling, spare a thought for how much ecoVaro consumption analytics could contribute to your bottom line (and how it would feel to be lighter on carbon too).

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Outsourcing

Are you ready to outsource? Do you even need to outsource? We’ll help you answer those and other questions regarding outsourcing and your company.

Once we’ve determined that outsourcing will render your organisation more focused on your core competencies, more cost-effective, and more flexible, we’ll offer you the full spectrum of our services. Our specialists can assist you in every stage of the entire outsourcing life-cycle.

Starting from evaluating what can be outsourced, through finding the right outsourcing service provider, building the contract and agreements, getting everything in place, and managing the outsourcing relationship – we’ll be with you every step of the way.

Learn more about some of the outsourcing services we offer:

Outsourcing Contracts and Agreements

When an outsourcing project fails, both customer and service provider are quick to put the blame on the other party. But in most cases, the actual culprit was really just sitting there since day one – a poorly planned and implemented agreement.

We understand how costly and disruptive a failed outsourcing project can be for your business. That is why we put utmost attention to each contract and SLA (Service Level Agreement) that our customers enter into. This always reduces the likelihood of having unmet expectations, one of the major reasons why some outsourcing relationships fail.

We make sure that each agreement is fair, not only for our customers but also for the service providers themselves. Why? Because a disadvantaged provider will most likely end up delivering poor service as an offshoot of efforts to improve its profitability and ROI.

To accomplish this, we’ll thoroughly assess the infrastructure, resources, and expertise of your potential service provider to ensure they have the capability to meet your expectations. We’ll also make sure that their expectations are realistic and clear to you as well.

Here’s what you can expect from us when we start managing your outsourcing contracts and agreements:

  • A thorough assessment of your specific needs and the service provider’s profile to determine whether you have the right match before proceeding with any agreement.
  • Professional assistance when the time comes for you to discuss the scope of work, expected service levels, and when negotiating for appropriate pricing. We’ll also help you set up provisions for possible changes in the scope later on.
  • Expert counsel during drafting and finalisation of the contract and Service Level Agreements. Whenever applicable, we’ll help you propose penalties whenever service levels are not met and rewards when they are exceeded.
  • Regular reviews to determine whether everything agreed upon in the past, like pricing and service levels, are still realistic or competitive enough in view of current technological advancements and the prevailing social and economic environment.
  • Mediation expertise whenever the outsourcing project appears to be falling apart. We’ll work with you and the service provider to resolve conflicts and avoid the expensive exercise of having to terminate the contract. But if the best solution is to part ways, we’ll make sure you make an exit with the least disruption, missed opportunities and financial loss.

Application Outsourcing

I’m sure you’ve come to realise that to gain competitive advantage these days, you really need to invest in IT applications.

There are applications for enhancing your customer relationships, speeding up production, streamlining processes, advancing collaboration, protecting your systems from malware and many more. Selecting the right application, testing it, implementing it into your system, and then managing it can deviate resources which would have otherwise been used in other areas to build business value, increase profits, and enhance innovation.

Wouldn’t it be nice to unload yourself of the management processes which usually accompany IT applications? Actually, you can – through application outsourcing. Application outsourcing providers possess the expertise to either partially or fully assume responsibility of your IT applications.

Our job is to see to it that you link up with the provider who can best answer your needs. The overall proficiency of these providers spans both proprietary and opensource solutions, allowing them to cater to a wide range of preferences and budgetary limits. At the very least, they can provide professional support for well established applications.

If needed, they can develop applications for your organisation, taking charge of every step in the system development life-cycle: starting from system initiation, requirements analysis, through design, construction, acceptance and eventually to implementation.

Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy once we start managing your application outsourcing initiatives:

  • Freedom from time-consuming tasks such as installations, upgrades, configurations and repairs.
  • Reduced total cost of ownership (TCO).
  • 24/7 support from well-trained personnel. This can substantially cut downtimes caused by inexperienced troubleshooting.
  • The option to have your applications housed in more secure and reliable environments with much higher availability and much lower planned/unplanned downtimes.
  • Dedicated specialists who can focus on providing better regulatory compliance and risk mitigation initiatives.

Infrastructure Outsourcing

Keeping up with the competition nowadays usually requires technological advancements as well as the capability to manage and maintain the infrastructure that has to support them. These undertakings can suck your resources dry.

If you’re looking to reduce costs even while improving the performance of your networks, servers, databases, firewalls, desktops and mobile devices, you might want to consider IT infrastructure outsourcing among your top options. Infrastructure outsourcing service providers have the resources dedicated to a stable, secure, scalable and always available IT infrastructure.

Typical service provider facilities include data centrers equipped with high-speed networks, reliable power, dependable security, as well as provisions for upgrades, consolidation, disaster recovery, or even business continuity.

These providers employ specialists and staff who can manage and maintain all of these for you. While your provider juggles your core IT-related tasks, you can keep your eye on the ball and refocus on your company’s business goals.

Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy out of infrastructure outsourcing:

  • Freedom from time-consuming tasks such as installations, upgrades, configurations and repairs.
  • Since service providers, who are expected to have better horizontal and vertical scalability, will deal with the technological intricacies, your company’s strategic development initiatives can proceed unhampered.
  • Greatly reduced electricity expenses as a result of consolidation.
  • Easier, faster, cheaper, and more reliable disaster-recovery solutions through virtualisation.
  • Lesser risks of disruptions caused by power outages, cyber attacks, or Internet connection downtimes.

Business Process Outsourcing

With the sheer number of business processes your company has to attend to, it wouldn’t be surprising if you rarely have room to innovate.

Through business process outsourcing, we can free a considerable part of your financial and manpower resources which are currently focused on routine activities. With more resources to drive innovative initiatives, you’ll be able to accelerate production, improve customer service, enhance overall business value, and arrive at a stronger bottom line.

Some of the business processes that may be outsourced include data entry, finance and accounting, form processing, procurement, and HR, among others. If you’re interested in finding answers to the what, how, who, and where of BPO, specific to your organisation, we’ll be happy to enlighten you.

Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy once we start managing your BPO initiatives:

  • Professional guidance to ensure that your BPO undertakings will really result in substantial savings and significant improvements to your organisation’s business value.
  • Careful monitoring of service levels to ensure faster turnaround, accurate data, and high quality outputs.
  • Expert evaluation of information handling processes to guarantee full confidentiality.
  • Professional and unbiased management dedicated to establishing a strong, reliable, and fruitful relationship between you and your provider.
Field service and customer transparency

These days, a business is as good as it is transparent. Businesses are on unsteady ground because of the ever changing face of social media and a never-seen-before demand for information. With many sources of info on the internet, being credible is a sure way of building trust and loyalty among clients.

Here is an example. Customers will always believe what they see. If they see the work you put into furnishing their favourite products, you have a greater chance of getting their approval. They can invest more in what they see. The clothing merchandise Patagonia did this for their Footprint Chronicles line to show how their jackets are made and worked out fine for them.
Transparency is a must. Nowadays, customers never forget when they feel cheated. It is even harder to ensure transparency because many clients are also experts who scrutinise every detail. So, how can you keep transparency at the forefront?

Have transparent workforce management

Customers always look for new information and want to be in the know. There is nothing worse than not being able find a product manual or an easy way to set up appointments. By giving your clients a self-service option, they can pick the services they want. This leaves more time to get stuff done rather than answering unending service calls from dissatisfied customers.

For instance, you could have a field service customer self-service application that allows customers to look for personalised services, a machine manual, book appointments, or solve any other problem. Customers then get feedback anytime. This one-on-one approach can help customers feel like their questions are being answered. They?ll also not go through the hassle of long hold times to reach an available customer service representative.

Create transparency in field service repair projects

If field technicians have access to field service software, it allows technicians to be more open to customers. This gives them vital information like customer history and the ERP, so that they can explain changes that were made after past enquiries and what is being done in current products. Such information can be a guide for future updates or let the techs suggest products that suit a client’s taste. Unlike always staying offline and out of touch with your client, using field service software can allow entry of allowances and mileage, and also let the customer know the delivery time for their products.

Show customers what they’re paying for

With field service automation, billing will also be transparent. By using the available information about your field service solution, the station can send updated service reports to the customer like mileage, allowances, parts, hours worked, and photos of broken parts from the service. After the customer authenticates the transaction with a signature, the field service agent can generate and sent to the customer an invoice based on the agreed upon services. In case allowances and mileage can be forwarded to the customer, it will be shown on the invoice.
Because you use field service automation, it means that the customer will receive the invoice really fast ? in days rather than weeks ? and transparency will skyrocket because the whole experience of the service will leave a permanent mark in their mind.

Mistaking information for transparency

Being honest with your customer is the one thing. Wasting their time with unnecessary information is another. Here is an experience I had with a small retailer. Tracking information is only useful if it has recent updates and is accurate. If the company want to use real time tracking, let them do so under one condition ? updates should be regular and on time so as not to leave the customer frustrated because they also make plans based on the same information. Late updates shed light on the nature of the service command. Everyone hates cooked-up real time information.

A company must not always have a one to one exchange of information with customers to maintain transparency..

  • Use simple language that all customers can understand
  • Don’t use abbreviations that only employees know
  • Never ever air your failures and flaws to your customers

It is interesting that most of the tools we use to keep in touch with our clients and servicing their requests can also be used to gather data and iron out possible errors to improve products and services. This is a good chance for service providers to evaluate and make necessary amendments.

There are some areas that will need improving while others will not, nevertheless, the client needs to always be informed and know why things are the way they are. Not all details should be told, so filter what you share.

5 ways field service supports customer service

Sales organisations are always in motion, working to deliver the right product to their customers. To keep customers smiling all times is hard and only needs close communication and fulfilling promises that were made to them. This is where the field service delivery team comes in. Field service can either meet this demand or fall short plummeting satisfaction rates.
This is a task that relies on right people using various parts and information to get the job done. No matter what, the customer always expects to get exceptional services whether it be over the phone, chats, in the field, online messaging, over email, or social media.

These five field service points are suitable for any business model and guarantee excellent company-client relations.

Proactive service

A proactive service gives more to the customer. More attention is given to the customer so that the right actions, deliveries and repairs are done. By getting everything right the first time, the customer has less to do ensuring that they are satisfied with the services.
However, the field service technician is flooded with a myriad of unpredictable situations; overheating equipment, stalled machines, and insufficient precaution. But through field management software, they get more data about the customer and type of service or parts expected and they easily ride through any storm and prevent future damage.

Transparency

Nothing frustrates a customer more than a schedule that delays repairs. They easily ditch you for better services elsewhere. By offering the customer a service where they book appointments based on their own availability, we can easily sync this to the technicians and manager?s calendar. This not only saves time but also money from otherwise idle equipment.

On-site and off-site collaboration

Having seamless communication between field and office technicians is vital. Field technicians need to know more about parts, repairs, client maintenance history, and predict what should be changed in the long run. The faster they do this the better.

There should be a system that creates and automates communication between field and office technicians. Let each have the upper hand when providing parts, products or services to the customer.

Flexibility

Information is key to field service agents. They make the first impression since they make the initial contact with clients. Regardless of the resources, the field technician must always be armed with mobile tools they will need to access online resources and be ready for any emergency.

Actionable performance improvements

Customers demand excellent service a company could offer. But as the game constantly shifts, the service management technicians must also come up with plans to stay up to par with competition. All these stems from coming up with KPIs, measuring them and turning them into a workable plan for the future.

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