Use P-Card metrics to keep a program on target.

Do you ever wonder how other P-Card professionals utilize metrics? What do they track and why? I recently had the opportunity to dig into this topic with industry veteran, Karla DeSimone. With nearly 20 years of program management experience, she has successfully used metrics to drive growth, while also juggling 10 different P-Card programs under the umbrella of the parent company. Keep reading to learn how she met the related challenges through a combination of metrics and communication, and subsequently achieved a $140M card program.

Managing Multiple Programs

Q: Did the parent company require its affiliates to use P-Cards?

A: No. As the parent company acquired additional companies, they allowed these “affiliates” to conduct business as usual—however they saw fit. P-Card usage was encouraged, but was not mandatory.  

Q: Many P-Card professionals struggle with the politics of managing disparate programs. What was your communication strategy?

A: My goal was to get them to trust me. I was always in touch and very accessible to them. I provided advice about how they could grow their P-Card programs, including sharing examples and the estimated benefits. I also encouraged the different affiliates to talk with, and learn from, each other.

Program Goals

Q: How did you drive program growth?

A: Each year, I asked the affiliates about their P-Card goals, quantifying them in terms of spend and transaction volume. We then provided quarterly metrics that compared quarter over quarter and year over year, so they knew exactly how they were tracking. Also, the parent company returned 100% of any earned rebate back to the affiliates quarterly. 

Q: How did their goals impact the overall program?

A: Based on the collective goals of the affiliates, I made projections five years out and purposely pursued an aggressive contract with the card issuer. When our program was growing significantly, there were times I would use these projections to initiate a new contract before the expiration of the current one, ensuring I was returning the best rates to our affiliates. 

Q: What happened if an affiliate did not meet its goals?

A: Because P-Card usage was not mandatory, there were no consequences if an affiliate did not meet its goals. However, there were monetary consequences if the company overall did not meet the contract terms with the issuer, but, fortunately, this never happened. Metrics provided a road map to me and I closely monitored each affiliate’s program. If one was tracking down, I knew I had to recoup that volume elsewhere. Often times that meant revisiting an affiliate that had not yet joined the program or determining how I could get an existing affiliate to utilize the program more. 

Q: How did you approach an affiliate that was falling short of goals?

A: In addition to the robust quarterly metrics we provided, mid-year I would make suggestions on how they could get back on track. For example, I might suggest the issuer perform a “vendor match” to see who accepts cards. This allowed us to get a feel for the affiliate’s potential versus their actual card usage. At times this caught the attention of upper management, depending on the potential. Then, at year-end, I would highlight opportunities they could capitalize on in the new year. 

Metrics Tracked

Q: Which metrics did you track and how often?

A: On a monthly basis, we tracked:

  • Transaction counts and spend for the month plus annualized
  • Average monthly spend
  • Estimated earned rebate
  • Large ticket (for which the rebate was lower)
  • Non-qualifying/non-rebate spend (e.g., rush cards, fraud, etc.)

We also tracked fraud:

  • Monthly fraud by affiliate and who had the most fraud exposure
  • Annual fraud percentage by affiliate and for the whole program overall
  • Outcomes; for example, if all the money was not returned, we called the bank at 90 days to ensure credits were applied, balancing to zero

Q: Were process costs evaluated as well? 

A: No, it was not possible for us to evaluate process costs due to the size of our organization and eclectic nature of our company. We did not follow any one process, nor use any one ERP system across all our affiliates. As we bought companies, we allowed them to remain independent and then manage/incorporate their business into our operational management.

Q: What would you report to management?

A: We used a dashboard style (single page) on a monthly basis, which included the following by affiliate and aggregate.

  • Monthly metrics: Spend, transactions, card count, estimated rebate, and a fraud summary
  • Card administration: Cards issued, cards canceled, credit limit changes, MCC changes, misc. changes (address, default accounting, name changes), cards reported lost/stolen
  • Concur administration: Employees added/deleted, policy/rule set changes, approver changes, accounting changes, etc. 

Related Resources

Access the metrics section of the website to learn more, including tips for refining or building a metrics plan, how to present numbers/statistics with flair to your management, and more.

More About Karla 

Karla DeSimone has been a Commercial Card professional for nearly 20 years. Most recently a privately held publishing company, headquartered in NYC, recruited Karla to implement and manage the operations for their Commercial Card program.  Prior to that, she managed a large program for a pharmaceutical company in California. Karla has been selected to speak at many card-related conferences over the years and has been recognized by the industry for her outstanding program management. She is currently seeking new employment opportunities in the card arena. Feel free to contact her at

About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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Identify your card program priorities.

With the start of a new calendar year, there is always a looming question of how you can improve the card program. Fix the pain before you pursue more gain. In my list of 16 annual housekeeping tasks for program fitness, #16 is “identify program priorities for the year ahead.” To help you do this, I have developed a simple (and complimentary) spreadsheet. See below to learn more and access the file.

About the Spreadsheet

  • It includes 22 program components for you to rate, using an established rating scale. 
  • Automatic counts for each rating are displayed at the bottom.
  • Components you rate less than “good” represent your biggest opportunities—things to prioritize this year.

As a single page, the spreadsheet offers a quick program snapshot. Consider sharing it with management and developing a related presentation to highlight both program strengths and opportunities. Explain your rationale for each rating and compare your program to best practices.   

Finally, if you are seeking the list of annual P-Card housekeeping tasks referred to above, please click here.


What will you pursue first?

Your card program is waiting

2017 Contributors

I extend a special thank you to those who contributed to the blog last year:

  • Mary Schaeffer, AP Now
  • Nick Babinsky, Billtrust
  • Doug Hindsley, Card Integrity
  • JoAnn DeLuna, The BTN Group / Northstar Travel Group
  • Shanda Goodwin, Heartland Financial USA
  • Michael Campbell, Radiate Presentation Design
  • Theresa Blatner (end-user), Southern Company Gas

Please contact me if you are interested in contributing in the future.

About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

Subscribe to the Blog

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P-Card program management tools

Got money left in your budget? Instead of buying more office supplies that your organization does not need, get two valuable P-Card program management tools: a guide on revitalizing program policies and procedures, and a customizable risk assessment template. A single electronic copy of each totals a mere $119.98. Visit the store at: Need convincing? Following is more information and a sneak peek of both resources.

If you work for a provider organization and want to obtain these resources to give to clients, there is a license option you can purchase for unlimited distribution.

Revitalizing Your P-Card P&P

With 20+ pages of content, the guide ($29.99) includes:

  • a list of topics to include 
  • tips for your P-Card Intranet home page
  • procedure writing best practices
  • examples of procedure formats
  • sample survey to obtain users’ feedback 
  • sample text you can customize
  • checklists to evaluate key sections
  • guidance on content development

Sneak Peek of Procedure Writing Advice

Design matters. I have seen too many P&P manuals comprised of large, unappealing text-heavy paragraphs. To give them new life, the guide recommends separating general information from procedures and making procedures more prominent. Courtesy of a 2016 blog post, here are “before” and “after” examples.

Before a revitalization effort, the steps are buried in the text block and the passive voice adds to the dullness.  

P&P before.png

The revised version reflects a script format to separate the tasks by job role. Each action begins with a verb and speaks to the person responsible.

P&P after.png

Assessing Your P-Card Program Risk

The Excel template ($89.99) includes nine worksheets for a program manager to complete, based on these topics:

  1. Program Overview
  2. Policies and Procedures
  3. Card Issuance
  4. Card Controls
  5. Card Usage and Activity
  6. Card Cancellation
  7. Accounting Processes
  8. Information Security
  9. Program Administrator/Manager

In all, there are more than 100 questions, providing a robust evaluation of P-Card controls.

Sneak Peek of Program Overview Information

To begin a P-Card risk assessment, document general facts about the program, such as:

  • date of the last risk assessment
  • program changes since then
  • year of program implementation
  • department responsible for program management
  • current card issuer
  • current number of cardholders/accounts
  • targeted dollar threshold for P-Card purchases
  • program metrics and benefits (to highlight the value of P-Cards)
  • information about internal card fraud cases (to put fraud into perspective)

This helps everyone who might review the assessment become more familiar with the program.

See also other content related to controls and fraud.

Please visit the store to see more and make a purchase:

About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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