The profile article of the new ALC CEO, Laura Schultz, indicates a new direction at the company, but I’m not sure what that direction is. Here’s why:
1. ACL tweeted that Schultz is “fiercely determined” (see below), and in the profile, she talks about being “hell-bent” and “extreme” and taking vacations that involve “starving” and “afraid”. This is not your grandmother’s CEO, and maybe that’s the point. Either way, it doesn’t give me any comfort.
2. The new tone at the top wasn’t reflected in the picture that accompanied the article. Or was the picture of Schultz sitting in a chair supposed to balance out the fierce, hell-bentness? Based on the tweet, I was expecting a standing, in-your-face, Larry-Ellison-style pic.
3. I hope the new direction means that ACL will become easier to use, not more fierce. The company should focus on improving its core product, ACL, and not so much on new products or purchases like Acerno and ACL workpapers.
I’ve already done an extensive review of ACL Acerno (I’d pass on it). As for reviewing ACL workpapers, I have a hung jury at this point, but mostly because most of them went out for a smoke, delaying the final vote.
In either case, Acerno and ACL workpapers seem to have taken the focus off of ACL’s core product. I understand that the company wants to diversify the income stream, but you have a great product that still need a lot of work before it really goes mainstream.
If a dress needs a new zipper, why should I buy a matching purse and scarf?
Sure the Fortune 500 and the Big 4 use it, but not really like they should. Everyone knows that. Those who do use it have a small handful of people who do the bulk of the analysis.
ACL could gain wider usage, but the user interface is still clunky, the product is too hard to use, needs better help files, can’t document itself (what manager is going to read through an ACL log?), and takes too much time. If the company is concerned about why more people don’t use ACL, why does it focus so much on other products?
ACL 9.3 brings some improvements, but really, wrap-around scripting, numbered lines, and color-coded commands should have been a fixture years ago. Seriously, ACL is waving these improvements to scripting as their great upgrade banner? See this ACL blog entry, which quotes a happy customer.
That’s like someone trying to sell you a house that just had a new roof installed. Houses are SUPPOSED to have roofs that don’t leak! Or closer to home, that’s like an IT department that has 10 high-risk audit issues throwing a party because they closed 2 of them, trumpeting how much they’ve improved since last year.
Update 2/26/14: ACL 10 is okay, good updates, but I still want usability changes.
4. I’m starting to hear about more people using IDEA. Very interesting.
5. The word on the spreadsheet is that an easier-to-use, state-of-the-art competition for the data analytics crown can now be marketed to auditors (Arbutus). A real competitor who listens to users. And ACL is focusing on other products?
Having said all that, I still love ACL software and still use it. But ACL needs to stop taking so many of us for granted. Not all users have their careers so invested in ACL that they won’t step out the back, Jack.
What’s your take? Is ACL doing enough to make analytics easier? Is it listening to its users? Are you looking at other analytic software?
Update 2/26/14 I am a lot less skeptical about Schultz as she has made a lot of good changes to the organization. I hear she is driven, but personable. Those I know who have met her and attended her town hall session at the 2013 conference really liked her. I just wish she’d address usability, as long as she doesn’t pull a ‘Windows 8’ interface on us.
I still stand by my assertion that ACL marketed her in a strange way.
Here’s a later profile of her, dated Feb. 2014.
2 responses to “New ACL CEO, New Fierce Direction?”
Great post – lots of meat, spiced up with a little bit of snark. ;-) You accurately reflect the frustration being expressed on the ACL User Forums lately — i.e., ACL is taking its ACL Desktop users for granted in favor of other revenue streams like Acerno, AX, and Workpapers. I think the “streams” are more like trickles, though, and they may be coming to the realization that the distractions are not worth it, because some of their core user base are getting ready to jump ship. One of their marketing guys hinted that big improvements are coming to ACL Desktop next year, but I’ll believe that when I see it.
Your insights about the limitations of ACL Desktop and how large corporations use it certainly reflect my company’s situation — we have over 5,000 employees, yet only 2 users of ACL. If it were more user-friendly, we would at least triple that, and possibly deploy it out to many more. I don’t know why ACL doesn’t see that kind of potential — they seems satisfied with the limited penetration they’ve got.
It was a tough post to write–I had to tone it down twice before I could publish it. My goal is to be helpful, not just rant.
I hadn’t looked at the forums, these are my own frustrations and observations. I’ll have to check them out. Funny that ACL is getting that input on the forums and is appearing to ignore the feedback.
I think you are correct that the streams are trickles; that makes ACL’s focus even more sad. It’s one thing to jerk your customers around while making tons of money doing it, but when the product doesn’t take off, BIG oops.
The last time I saw as much excitement about a new product like Acerno, was gosh, Microsoft Bob. That’s going back decades. I just hope ACL learns from this, but in some ways, they’re a lot like Microsoft.
Even if ACL makes huge strides soon (this reminds me of Microsoft’s vaporware promises it makes when competitors loom close), I fear it will could be too late. Too many people are going to give the new guy a hard look when he arrives. If the new company is smart, they’ll offer discounts on their new product if you trade in your ACL licenses.
Thanks for stopping by blair151!