Contrary to what ACL has been touting as their new ‘robotics’ feature, it is NOT robotics process automation (RPA).
[The ‘robotics’ feature is due out later in 2018. It appears to be ACL’s latest attempt to get you to use their GRC software.]
ACL, via John Verver, defines the term this way in his RPA article: “The idea is a relatively simple one: get computers to perform tasks normally performed by humans, and cut resource and time requirements for many repetitive activities.”
Where’s the robot?
However, in my experience, RPA usually involves using one or more graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to accomplish a task.
In other words, RPA traditionally replicates, via software, a human logging into one or more applications and performing several steps to accomplish a single outcome.
For example, a RPA task could involve logging into an email mailbox, identifying emails about a specific subject or request, downloading the email attachment, opening the attachment, copying specific information from the attachment into another system (which also requires a login), which then creates the final product (e.g., a report, a printed banner, or tickets to an event).
I expand on this what RPA is and describe why RPA is important for auditors in my post, Why Internal Auditors Should Care about Robotic Process Automation. See also: Will Robotics (RPA) Replace ACL? and Robotics to Replace ACL, Part 2
GUIs Need Not Apply
ACL’s ‘robotics’ offering does NOT involve logging into other systems and using the GUI to complete tasks. It involves making scripting a process more graphical, but you still have to write the scripts.
The new feature offers a nice way to schedule the ‘robotic’ process, but you have to do that through ACL’s GRC software, not ACL. Apparently, everyone with an ACL license will get free access to a limited ‘robot’, similar to the free usage of the ACL GRC Results feature.
Also, it may allow non-GRC users to run ACL projects from GRC, and see the improved data visualizations.
Sure, the ‘robotics’ feature is slicker and will make ACL automation easier, agreed. But it won’t include the ability to log into other systems and use the GUI.
So I’m not inclined to call it robotics. It is merely dressing ACL scripts up in formal clothes with a designer label (with a shiny scheduling button).
They should have called it “ACL Automation”, but calling it “Robotics” is a lot sexier, and that term will drive more traffic to their website, even if it is misleading.
I get tired of saying it, but I will say it again: Instead of improving their flagship product, ACL continues to push GRC.
skyyler has ranted about ACL here: 5 Things I Hate about ACL5 Things We Need from ACL in 2018
What’s your opinion on ACL ‘robotics’?
Do you think you’ll use it?
5 responses to “ACL Robotics is NOT Robotics”
Thank you for doing this blog I always enjoy reading it.
I was at CSX last month, there were a lot of black box solve everything tools, with the fine print, after you configure all the right data connects, after you teach it what to look for based on your strong understanding of the data and the business. Auditors tend to be more aware of that requirement so the vendors were pretty quick to get to those config / training requirements. ACL is no different. It’s an advancement but it doesn’t absolve you.
I’ve commented a few times in the past related to moving off ACL. As an update, we have been off ACL for almost 2 years. … Python, delivered via Excel and PowerBI through Power query ie Python churns data on a schedule, producing flat files loaded to workbooks and Power BI via Power query for consumption by users already familiar with the tools used to deliver all the other content they consume.
FYI if you script ACL beware, Python is a life changing drug. So let me be your pusher. Install anaconda and pycharm then do Udacity’s free Intro to Data Analytics course.
Bottom Line with all these products, whether its AI, ML, or Robotics, you still need to learn analytics. So teach yourself.
I’m not sure if it was you or risk3sixty (Matt I think) that told the tale of a junior auditor building some good power query based analytics.
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Thanks for your input. Always good to hear from readers!
I’ve been trying to decide whether to learn python or R. I took an intro course on R last year, and it was tough, so I’m going to go for python. Thanks for your endorsement.
I didn’t mention the power query stuff, so it must have been Matt.
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