See if this sounds familiar to you, because it’s a scenario I see played out in boardrooms across corporate America all the time.

A CFO wants to get a clear picture of the company’s travel and entertainment spend, so she can identify centers of cost and opportunities for savings. She asks her travel manager to prepare a report and two to three weeks later gets an spreadsheet delineating in painful, tabular detail, the air, hotel and rental car spend. 

The company’s overall spend is $50 million but the travel reports only account for $22 million of it. Where did the rest go? 

Traditional travel industry reports have hamstrung travel managers and blinded CFOs to their true travel costs because they’re powered by ‘dirty,’ inaccurate and incomplete data. 

This is partially because reporting has been done pretty much the same way in the travel industry for the past 15 or 20 years. We’ve grown accustomed to making decisions with partial information because we’ve never been able to see the full picture.

Today, technology, product design and cost have come together in such a way that travel managers and the executives they support can gain a true vantage point on their travel spend for a fraction of what it would have cost even five years ago.

Machine Learning Enables Unprecedented Insight Into Travel Spend

At DVI, our flagship Vantage Point product uses machine learning to create a data engine that’s first of all clean and then secondly, is always refining, improving and becoming more accurate. Powerful visualizations fueled by that data engine make it easy to understand travel and entertainment spend. 

What really makes a software solution valuable though, isn’t the visualizations it can create. A solution lives and dies by its ability to resolve multiple data sources, like:

• Credit card feeds including ghost and virtual cards

• Agency data

• HR data

• Budget data

• Back office, financial data

Better Visual Dashboards Aren’t the Answer

Everyone thinks better visualizations and intuitive dashboards are the answer. They’re necessary and helpful, but pale in comparison to the data. 

What good are the best visualizations if they’re based on data that is only 60 percent accurate? 

Investing in a sleek, sexy dashboard without an accurate data engine fueling it is like buying a Ferrari with a lawnmower engine. It will look pretty, but get you nowhere. 

How the Right Software Can Drive Big Savings in Travel Spend

We built a system that can identify, recognize and resolve any data source with stunning clarity and accuracy. When we build a feature or resolve a data discrepancy for one company, every client subscriber benefits. 

For example, do you know how many different ways there are to spell “Hilton Garden Inn?” Various data systems handle it in a myriad of ways. We’ve gone through the effort of resolving all the many variations of it so that our system can identify it (along with every kind of data variable) to an accuracy rate of 97 percent. 

We helped one Fortune 100 company save hundreds of thousands of dollars on their travel spend within the first year of using our system. 

Here’s how.

The company looked at their ground transportation spend across multiple markets, comparing rental cars, taxies, ride sharing services and black car services like limousines. They found 10 specific markets where ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft were 50 percent cheaper than taxis and adjusted their travel policies to allow travelers to use them when they visited there. 

That one simple insight led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings. 

Typical travel reports only show 40 – 49 percent of the spend of your actual travel expenses. Think of what you could save by applying true insight and accuracy to your meal, ground transportation, air and hotel spend.

Travel managers and CFOs need a better system. One that can identify and distinguish pre-travel, mid-travel and post-travel expenses, showing exactly where 100 percent of the travel spend is going so that it can be optimized effectively.

How satisfied are you with your travel reporting and data analysis solution? Could you use an upgrade?

Brian Beard is the President of DVI and is widely known as a key industry influencer and technology trendsetter based on his strong and diverse background that includes leadership roles at GE Power Systems, Toyota, Amadeus and Travel and Transport

This post was originally published at LinkedIn.