I haven’t been able to find any reviews of ACL Acerno, so I decided I better get to it.
What is Acerno?
According to ACL’s website, ACL Acerno is a Microsoft Excel Add-in that allows you to efficiently and easily investigate the results generated by ACL software or other sources and share your findings.
For a quick overview, watch this video or check out the quick reference sheet (pdf)—-This info must have been removed when the software was updated.
Acerno is $250 per user.
Even if you don’t read the rest of this, if you’re an auditor, please take the poll at the end of this post.
What I Liked About Acerno
- The Help File is excellent. It was clearer and easier to follow that the ACL Help File. That may be that Acerno is less complicated than ACL, or the team doing the documentation is getting better (or both).
- Acerno was easy to learn. Part of this was due to the Help File, but I was able to use most of the functions just by looking at the quick reference sheet.
- Columns added to an Acerno spreadsheet (like Notes, Status, and computed fields) are colored green so they stand out (hey ACL, do this for computed fields in the ACL tables and table layouts!).
- When you define a computed field in Acerno, the Excel formula automatically copies the formula all the way down the column.
- When you create additional tabs for data, Acerno names the tabs for you (and you can edit them). If your initial data tab is called Loans, when you create a new tab as you Define Data, the new tab is automatically named Loans_Acerno. When you Summarize that tab, it names the tab Loans_Acerno_Summarize, and so on.
- When you click in a column of data, the data is automatically analyzed, and the results are displayed in the Acerno Panel. For date fields, the panel shows the oldest and newest dates, the mode, the date range, and more. For numeric fields, the panel provides the total amount, average amount, number of positive and negative amounts, etc. The number of blank values in the column is always displayed.
- A table history is available for viewing and is inserted automatically at the bottom of each workpaper with basic information such as the source spreadsheet (file name), the number of records you started with, and the records that were output to the workpaper. If you used one or more filters, the filters are documented. But computed field formulas are not included, and ACL needs to add that feature to ACL Analytics.
What I Didn’t Like About Acerno
- I couldn’t find a way to move the Acerno panel; it’s on the far right.
- The Status and Notes columns are added to the first column on the left, but Computed Field columns are added to the last field on the right. Of course you can move the columns, but that’s where they appear when you add them.
- Although you can customize the list of comments in the Status field, you have to remove the Status column and re-add it before your changes are available. If you’re halfway through your review, you’ll lose all the comments you’re previously entered.
- Acerno isn’t available for non-English versions of Excel, but that should be addressed in the future.
What I Didn’t Understand
- How does this fit into ACL’s acquisition of the workpaper business? Where are they going with Acerno?
- What’s the deal with Acerno-izing a spreadsheet so that it’s read-only? I’ve never had that come up in an audit review. Does that mean that the rest of the world’s spreadsheets are not trustworthy? When you create a workpaper in Acerno, the result is not read-only. Audit departments are clamoring for this feature worldwide? Sure, it prevents you from accidentally overtyping data, but I’d add a button to turn this off.
Suggestions for ACL
- As you did with Acerno, make computed fields in ACL a different color from imported fields (mentioned previously).
- Offer Acerno training as part of the boot camp training series. That should tell you pretty quickly how fast it’s going to take off.
- When workpaper tabs are created, a footer with page numbers (Page 1) is automatically defined. Why not add the number of pages too (Page 1 of 22)?
- When you use the Excel “Wrap text” command to format a column, that column wrap should carry over to the workpaper when you create it. It currently doesn’t, so you have to format the column in the Acerno tab and in the resulting workpaper.
- In the table history in ACL Analytics, add the formula for each computed field (mentioned previously).
Acerno is aimed at helping users understand results created in ACL; Acerno also seems to cater to non-ACL users that don’t want to spend the time and money using ACL, but still want a few cool features.
For ACL users, the only features that I saw that Acerno had that ACL doesn’t are the Notes and Status columns. Everything else you can do in ACL. So what’s the point? Is it aimed more at managers and reviewers who don’t know ACL?
For non-ACL users, I don’t see how Acerno provides enough functionality. I don’t see it as a way to upsell clients to ACL.
I won’t be recommending it for purchase; how about you?
What do You Think?
Please take the poll and leave me a comment to let me and others know what you think about Acerno.