You can teach yourself how to use Audit Command Language (ACL), the data analytics software from www.highbond.com. ACL is used 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
FYI: The company no longer defines ACL as Audit Command Language because they don’t want you to think it’s only for auditors (it isn’t). Highbond now refers to ACL as Analytics.
I’d re-define ACL as Automated Command Language.
See this Quick Intro to ACL’s user interface.
Since ACL merged with HighBond, they have changed all their website URLs. Over the years, I have updated this post several times to change all the hyperlinks to keep up with ACL’s changes. I’m tired of doing that, so I removed most of the links. I also now use general terms like Tech Support and ACL Training instead of the what ACL calls them (they keep changing them anyway). I think that’s foolish.
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).
1. ACL has FREE self-paced courses that walk you step-by-step through basic and advanced concepts (ACL account required, which you get when you buy an ACL license). Start with the beginner course and work your way up. Each course takes a few hours and include exercises. Trust me, it will be a good investment of your 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 (those marked with * require an ACL account):
- *Check the ACL help file (much more helpful once you understand ACL a bit, but still good for beginners). You can either go to the Highbond website to find this file, or click the Help link inside ACL itself, which takes you to the same file.
- *Search the ACL Knowledge Base on the Highbond website for articles and questions/answers regarding the issue.
- *Look for a related ACL webinar on the Highbond website.
- *Post a question in the ACL Forum in the Highbond website. 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 support, o log onto their website to chat with an ACL technician. Keep in mind that everything in your chat will be captured in an ACL ticket, so chatter beware!
ACL support used to be pretty poor, but in recent years, it has become excellent, and since you have already paid for it, I’d use it. As of 2020, it is still pretty good.
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… NOTE: I’m not sure this is true anymore, but it won’t hurt to check.
FREE ACL Training
If your company is already invested in ACL (and you actually use it more than just occasionally), then by all means, continue to sharpen your skills. Even if you use ACL heavily, or especially if you don’t, I suggest learning which data analysis tools others in your company use, and learning those also, such as Microsoft’s Power BI, Tableau, SAS, and the like.
I make this suggestion for 3 reasons:
First, analytics software is not the flagship product of the company; the company has been re-inventing itself, and ACL Analytics has suffered accordingly.
Second, ACL can only process a limited number of records well (above 15 million is troublesome), so it cannot handle huge files, so its use is limited.
Third, you don’t want to lock yourself in to any one analysis tool*, especially due to ACL’s limitations and that the fact eventually you’ll need to understand and audit your company’s other analysis tools.
*I go into more background on these items in the following posts:
Other ACL posts:
Get FREE Audit Work Plans at AuditNet (if you have ACL support agreement)
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