Information about a company's spending seems like some of its most basic data. But while corporations routinely track direct purchases–the material they buy to use in manufacturing–they haven't kept as close tabs on indirect spending, also known as operational spending. That covers everything from purchases of information technology and insurance to stationery and office furniture.

A few companies are offering software products that aggregate spending data from all of a corporation's financial systems and analyze it. The providers of such spending control software–or as it's referred to in the trade, purchasing analytics software–include Analytics

Inc., Zeborg Inc. and D&B (formerly known as Dun & Bradstreet Corp.).Analysts claim that tracking and controlling such spending can usually result in big savings. With good data on spending, "you can understand where the outliers are, the maverick or rogue spending," says John Van Decker, the program director for application-delivery strategies at research and consulting firm Meta Group Inc. "With the current economic situation, people realize they need to get more out of less."

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