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Volume 31, Issue 1

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012 14:13

Continuous Monitoring Trends for 2012

Written by  Patrick Taylor

I have noticed a few challenges in operational efficiencies and financial transaction security that I predict could affect businesses throughout 2012. Those areas — lack of expertise in managing and analyzing Big Data, hackers using social engineering to gain access to sensitive systems and optimized business processes such as procurement using transaction analysis — can be leveraged to turn a company into a much more efficient and secure enterprise, and ultimately improve its bottom line. As the year gets underway, I wanted to share some recommendations on not only meeting these challenges but turning them into strengths. The following are a few suggestions on how to meet these challenges:

Use Big Data to Make Better Decisions

Big Data provides enterprises with the information they need to make more informed, more strategic decisions. As they simultaneously observe various data sets across an organization and how they are interacting, business executives need to leverage analytics to drive better decisions at ever deeper levels of the organization – from the executive suite on down to line managers.

However, in spite of these newly developed trends in Big Data, there are some difficulties that arise in its analysis — namely, that analytics requires expertise at both the analyst level and at the executive level. But knowledgeable analysts are hard to find, and most executives rarely know how to manage using data and analytics as the bases for their decisions. To help counter this they need two essential elements — elements that transaction analytics has — that will help convert statistical analyses into better business decisions:

  • First, organizations need real-time, comprehensive business transaction analysis across all platforms within the company. This ensures that potential issues are found and resolved at the time of transaction, not weeks or months down the road during an audit or reconciliation.
  • Second, decision makers need targeted analytics that will give them actionable insights into what is happening within their company. And with continuous monitoring in place, executives have the ability to convert analytics across many ERPs and systems into plain-language risk rankings that are based on industry and regulatory best practices to ultimately provide faster, better decisions.

With these two elements in place, executives can make more informed, more strategic decisions that will positively affect their bottom line.

Detect Social Engineering within Business Processes

Security is much more than a technology problem — it’s a people problem too. When your employees accidentally click on a malicious link from a supposed trusted resource, hackers are then able to gain access to the company systems and set up fraudulent accounts and invoices that cause money leaks. It is incredible to see just how low-tech some attacks can be, and that these types of attacks happen even though tremendous amounts of money are spent each year on Internet security. These defenses are robust, sophisticated and layered and, in truth, the vast number of network security systems work exactly as intended. And yet, the bad guys still get through. The challenge around social engineering is that, at the time of the occurrence, no one really knows that it happened, so it is not detected until weeks or months later when data and dollars have already been leaked. Continuous transaction analysis (CTA), however, analyzes transactions within an organization in real time to report fraudulent situations as they happen, even if network defenses have been thoroughly compromised. It ensures the integrity of individual transactions, and instead of adding more complex and increasingly expensive defenses that still allow social engineering, continuous monitoring gives risk managers and senior executives a flexible, cost-effective security measure that keeps employees’ bad habits from working against the organization.

Minimize Costs through Spend Analysis

Managing costs can be a struggle for large organizations with multiple sites and disparate systems, but CTA provides real-time analytics that identify unexpected results within corporate activities including procure-to-pay, card spending, travel and expense, accounting and reporting, HR and payroll, and order-to-cash. Previously an employee or team of employees would submit purchase orders and then do analysis after the fact, often times not catching the possible cost savings across the organization. Through CTA organizations can quickly analyze every purchase as it’s submitted for approval and compare them against prior purchasing history and vendor contracts, to determine if the organization should negotiate a lower price or go leverage a particular vendor to get a better deal.

Given the current economic climate and security threat landscape, companies are looking for ways to be more efficient while implementing more financially sound business practices. Management can improve their level of control through implementing continuous monitoring solutions to observe potential threats for money leaks within the organization as they occur. In other words, continuous monitoring allows organizations to convert painstaking or inconvenient processes into strategic tools that save time and money, and increase operational efficiency across the board.