You can teach yourself how to use Audit Command Language (ACL), the data analytics software from www.acl.com. ACL is used by predominantly by internal auditors (and others) to:
- Capture, cleanse, and normalize data to ensure consistency and accurate results
- Identify trends, pinpoint exceptions and highlight potential areas of concern
- Join files based on a key field
- Determine what records or fields in 2 files match (or don’t)
- Locate errors and potential fraud
- Age and analyze financial or any other time-sensitive transactions
- Schedule, script, and automate analyses
For most users, the best way to learn ACL is to take formal classes. However, do not assume that the classes that ACL offers are the only options; other firms provide similar training.
However, your company may not give you the luxury of attending classes, so how do you learn it on your own?
Learning ACL on Your Own
Assuming you own the software and have a support contract, I’d suggest you follow these steps (which I wish someone would told me when I started using ACL). The links will work if you log into the Support Center first (see first link in #1 below).
1. On the ACL website, the Support Center1 has some good, FREE self-paced courses in ACL Academy. that walks you through basic and advanced concepts. Start with the ACL Analytics Foundations Online (this course used to be called ACL005 ACL Fundamentals: A Command Overview) which takes about 5-10 hours. Trust me, it will be a good investment of your time.
If you’re looking for the original ACL005 course material, you may still be able to download it as a zip file, directly from ACL here2. The file contains the instructions and files you need to do the training. I’d recommend using the new ACL Academy course mentioned above, but if you want the original, it’s still available for a limited time.
2. Run some of the same exercises from the training in step 1 or 2 against your company data (make sure you follow all related IT and security policies for obtaining, storing, and using the data).
3. When you get stuck, do one or all of the following:
- Check the ACL v11 Help file (much more helpful once you understand ACL a bit, but still good for beginners).
- Search the ACL Knowledge Base2 for articles and forum posts regarding the issue.
- Look for a related ACL webinar.
Review the Quick Steps2 to see if step-by-step instructions (including examples) are available for the task you’re trying to accomplish.Not sure what happened to this link, but I’m sure it’s not gone forever.
- Post a question in the ACL Forum.2 CAATS (David G. Coderre) and porter are the most knowledgeable (and patient) members of the forum, but there’s many other helpful members.
- Check out the free training highlighted below (see the FREE ACL Training topic).
- Check out some of the ACL User Group websites such as the St. Louis ACL UG. Many of these sites include tips, tricks, and their own forums. For the official ACL UG list, search the ACL site (they keep moving the list).
- Call ACL technical support1,. When you click this link, look in the upper right corner of the page for the tech support phone number and links to open a support ticket or check the status of an existing support ticket. Or if you log onto their website, chat with an ACL technician. Keep in mind that everything in your chat will be captured in an ACL ticket, so chatter beware!
Some auditors speak highly of the support they’ve received; others, like me, have had several unpleasant experiences (and yes, I have been vocal in my feedback). Regardless, you paid for it, so call and form your own opinion. The word on the street is that PREMIUM support is much better and worth the extra dollars.
I also recommend Coderre’s book, The Fraud Toolkit for ACL. Especially if you’re interested in scripting.
Don’t have ACL Software?
If you don’t have ACL software, you can get it (usually an education version, which is not the same as the full version) when you purchase certain books. Try this Google search. This is a suggestion, not an endorsement…
FREE ACL Training
See my posts regarding Free ACL Bootcamp Training and ACL Tutorials on YouTube (read the comments on this post for extra info). At this point, this is separate from ACL Academy, which is the new self-paced training course.
The virtual classroom training that ACL launched in March 2010 was discontinued (see Nav’s comment about this). ACL charged about $135 per training session, but they must not have received enough bites. I leave this note here in case someone is still looking for it.
My Older Notes
If you’re looking for materials that you can use for practice with test project files (which you can download for free, without an ACL support contract–more on that later), see below. I don’t recommend using this because it’s getting out of date based on new functions and user interface changes, but I kept the original info as noted below.
A PDF called ACL91 In Practice and the associated sample project files provide step-by-step instructions to work on a practice project. It walks you through a project that’s already set up and then describes how to set up and work on a new project (with all the data provided).
By following instructions in the PDF, you’ll learn how to import text and Excel files, analyze the files, and then export the results out of ACL. Plan on spending another 5 hours on this piece. Again, a good investment.
However, this PDF was discontinued, which is why you cannot obtain it and the project files from ACL anymore. ACL has graciously provided these files to me, and has given me permission to put them on my site for download (see Nav’s comment about this). To download them, go to the Free Downloads page.
After downloading the PDF and the sample files, just follow the instructions in the PDF. Before using these files, please note the following: 1) You have to have ACL software to use these files, and for best results, it should be at least version 9.1 (I think it will work for earlier and later versions, but be aware some terms and menu options may have changed), 2) only a English version is available, and 3) You cannot call ACL for help on them.
Other ACL posts:
Get FREE Audit Work Plans at AuditNet (if you have ACL support agreement)
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