Spend Data Management Explained

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A key component of gauging a business’s financial health is understanding its spending. But for any organization to conduct a successful spend analysis, its data must be organized and managed effectively. This is where spend data management comes in.

Spend data management ensures that the data associated with a company’s spending is organized, accurate, and easily accessible. Without a proper system to manage the data, it can become cluttered and disorganized. This can lead to inaccuracy and inefficiency of insights derived from the spend data, as well as potential compliance issues.

This article will cover everything you need to know about spend management, including how it works, its importance, and best practices in setting up a system.

Spend Data Management Definition

Spend data management is the process of organizing, categorizing, and analyzing spending data to gain insights into an organization’s financial health.

The data is typically sourced from a company’s accounting system or other records, such as invoices and receipts. It’s a process done in real-time to ensure data accuracy and reliability.

The goal of spend management is to make the data more accessible and easier to interpret by creating categories that can be tracked over time. This allows businesses to get a better understanding of where their money is going and how it could be used more efficiently in the future.

Difference Between Spend Analysis and Spend Management

It’s important to understand the difference between spend analysis and spend management.

The spend analysis process involves reviewing spend data to gain insights into a company’s financial health. It typically involves tools such as dashboards, reports, and visualizations to compare spend categories over time.

Spend management, on the other hand, is more focused on organizing and managing the data associated with a business’s spending. This includes categorizing expenses for better tracking, ensuring the accuracy of invoices and receipts, and creating systems for easy access to data.

You can say that spend management is a component of spend analysis. You cannot perform a comprehensive spend analysis without properly managing the data. Both processes are essential for business growth.

How Does the Spend Management Process Work?

The spend management process may vary depending on the needs of a particular organization. However, there are generally four steps involved:

 1. Collecting the data. This includes sourcing invoices, receipts, and other spending records from accounting systems or other sources.

2. Organizing the data. The collected data is then organized into spend categories like vendors, expense types, time periods, and more to make it easier to analyze later on.

3. Analyzing the data. Once the data is organized, it can be analyzed using techniques such as trend analysis or budgeting to identify patterns of overspending or savings opportunities that need attention.

4. Reporting and taking action on findings. After analyzing the spend data, the results are reported to the organization. From there, corrective action can be taken based on the findings.

Examples of Spend Categories

To give you an idea of what data points are typically included in spend management, here are some examples of categories that might be used:

  • Vendors: These include the companies or suppliers that a business purchases goods and services from.
  • Expense Types: These refer to the type of expenses that are being tracked, such as travel, office supplies, marketing costs, etc.
  • Time Periods: This could be anything from daily spending to yearly expenditures.
  • Locations: If a company operates in multiple locations or countries, this category can provide insight into how much is being spent in each area. 

These are just basic examples. The categories can be further broken down and tailored to the specific needs of an organization. Comprehensive category management is the key to getting the most out of your spend data.

A breakdown of a spend category in a procurement department would look something like these:

  • Raw Materials > Steel > Aluminum > Plastic (direct procurement)
  • Office Supplies > Paper > Ink and Toner > Furniture
  • Security > Cameras > Access Control Systems > Software (indirect procurement)

Why Do Businesses Need Spend Data Management?

Business spend management is essential for companies to gain accurate spend visibility. Here are the benefits of employing such a system:

It helps organizations gain actionable insights into their spending patterns so they can make more informed decisions. 

An effective spend management system collects all data needed to create a comprehensive picture of all company spending. But more importantly, it organizes the data into meaningful categories so that businesses can easily identify where their money is going and make more informed decisions about how to allocate it.

It helps businesses maintain compliance with government regulations and financial reporting standards. 

Financial regulations require companies to maintain records of their spending. An established system ensures that the data is organized and accessible so that businesses can meet these requirements. 

It helps streamline the budgeting process, allowing businesses to allocate resources more efficiently.

Since spend data is already organized, it makes budgeting a much easier process. With an effective spend data management system, businesses can easily identify savings opportunities and avoid overspending.

It allows companies to identify areas of overspending or underutilization of funds so they can adjust their spending accordingly. 

By gaining a thorough understanding of their spending patterns, businesses can identify areas where they are overspending or underutilizing funds. This allows them to take corrective action and eliminate unnecessary spending. It also helps them create more efficient processes and save money in the long run.

It facilitates better collaboration between departments by providing an up-to-date picture of where money is being spent.

A common challenge in many organizations is that departments often operate independently and don’t have an accurate view of how much money each one is spending.

With a spend management system, all the expense data can be collected and analyzed in real-time, so everyone has access to the same information and can collaborate more effectively.

It helps improve supplier relationships.

Knowing where your money is going and how it is being used helps create better relationships with suppliers.

With a comprehensive spend data management system, businesses can access real-time information about their spending, which allows them to negotiate supplier contracts more effectively and ensure they get the best value for their money.

Challenges in Spend Data Management

Spend data management can be a challenge for many companies due to these factors: 

Lack of Standardization in Data Format

Standardization is crucial to ensure that the data is accurate and easy to analyze. Without it, different departments may use different formats or have incompatible versions of the same software, making it difficult to analyze spend data accurately.

Lack of visibility into spend data

Another indication of poor spend management is disorganized data. If the data is not organized in an easily accessible way, it can be difficult for stakeholders to gain visibility into the spending of their organization. This lack of insight can lead to inefficient decision-making and potential compliance issues.

There needs to be a system in place that allows stakeholders to easily access the data they need. 

Inaccurate or Incomplete Spend Information

Spend data can be inaccurate if there are duplicate entries or incorrect information entered into the system. It can also be incomplete if certain categories or fields are missing from the records. This reduces its value as an analytical tool and can lead to unreliable insights.

Data Silos That Hinder Collaboration Between Teams

Data silos can form when different departments within the same organization use incompatible systems. This makes it difficult for teams to collaborate and share information, as they can’t access data from other departments. 

How to Set Up an Effective Spend Data Management System

Now that we’ve discussed how spend management works, let’s look at the best practices for establishing an effective system.

1. Define your business needs.

Before you can begin setting up a system, you need to start with the basics. What are your company’s financial goals? Are you looking to reduce spending or increase efficiency?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help inform which solutions you should use and how they should be implemented. These will also give you information on what data to collect and how to organize it.

2. Identify all sources of expenditures.

Another step to go through before moving to the technical setup is to identify all the sources of expenditures. This includes looking at your accounting system, invoices, purchase orders, and other records that contain every dollar spent.

A good record of expense data would include both direct spend and indirect spend. Direct spend refers to the money spent on goods and services. Indirect spend, on the other hand, is any expense related to non-tangible items such as travel or employee salaries.

Don’t forget to include tail-end spend or spend that is hard to track and monitor. This includes things like purchases made with cash or spot buying situations.

It would be helpful to have an idea early on of how these sources will be categorized and organized. For example, think of sub-categories that could fall under marketing expenses, like advertising, travel, office supplies, or consultant fees.

3. Choose the right technology.

Of course, part of a good spend management strategy is choosing a platform. You’ll need the right technology to help you organize and analyze your data. Fortunately, there are various spend management software solutions available that integrate with accounting systems and collect data from multiple sources. 

Some features to look for when selecting management software include automated reporting, budgeting capabilities, analytics tools, and integration with other business solutions like ERP and CRM systems.

It’s important to choose a spend management platform that helps you eliminate time-consuming tasks and provides real-time insights into your spending.

4. Set up procedures for data entry.

Once you have the software in place, it’s time to start setting up procedures for data entry. This means creating clear guidelines on how and when data should be entered into the system. It also involves training staff on best practices, such as validating information before entering it.

Doing this can help ensure that your spend data is accurate and up-to-date.

Bottom Line: Spend Data Management

Spend data management is essential for any organization looking for valuable insights into its spending patterns. It ensures that the data is accurate, organized, and easily accessible so it can be used to make informed decisions.

By implementing a standardized system of spend data management, companies can reduce errors in their records, improve collaboration between teams, and ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

With a comprehensive approach to managing your spend data, you’ll be able to better understand where money is being spent and how it affects the financial health of the company.

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