ACL Officially Changes Name & Spots

It’s official: ACL is changing its name AND its spots.

I’ve claimed several times that ACL has left its first love (analytics) and doesn’t put enough work into their flagship product, ACL Analytics.

Correction: their FORMER flagship product.

At least they are publicly admitting it finally–they NO LONGER are an ANALYTICS company!

Not only is the leopard changing its spots, it is no longer a leopard, but a feral cat.

Here’s ACL’s explanation as to why they purchased Rsam and where they are headed.

Notice the following in the announcement:

  • The reference to President Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” While the removal of the wall is a cry for freedom of those the wall entrapped, it makes me wonder what walls ACL is tearing down. The analytic wall? The input/output wall that keeps ACL from working with big data files?
  • “..times have changed…” Agreed. But why has ACL lagged behind other analytic vendors for so long? Is ACL really going to change its analytics software and fix the problems: speed, user interface, add click and select transformation, etc.? See my previous rants here and here. Or is this just another expansion of their revenue stream?
  • “Galvanize has two meanings…” I agree with the first 2 meanings the article mentions, shock and protective layer. The announcement was indeed a shock, and extra revenue protects the company and (you could argue) its users (from ACL’s demise). I’ve never had a problem with ACL expanding its offerings; it’s just that I believe it has been done at the expense of their analytic software, and ACL has never admitted it before now.
  • “Our long-term plan is to integrate our products to create an end-to-end platform.” The only products from ACL that are NOT in the cloud at this point are the Excel-Add-on (a real bomb) and ACL Analytics. So in this case, ‘integrate” seems to mean cloud, and my earlier assertion that ACL analytics will be available only in the cloud eventually is on target, but it could be much sooner than 5 years away.
  • The ONLY mention of analytics is in reference to ACL’s DISLIKE of being thought of as the “analytics company”. This is the most damning indication that analytics no longer appears to be a focus or perceived strength of this company. ACL provides no assurance (pardon the audit pun) to its customers that it will continue to invest in analytics going forward. We should just ASSUME that everything’s ok? Oh wait, we should attend the seminar in 3 weeks, where all questions will be answered, and we will be sold another pallet of products. Sign me up!

This announcement is especially interesting given that during a discussion in the 2017 ACL Connections Conference town hall session (that ACL management leads), ACL NOTED THAT less than 25% of those attending the conference use GRC. I can’t imagine that number has changed a whole lot. since then as their GRC platform is too cumbersome in my opinion. Most of my peers do not use ACL’s GRC platform, and several of them do NOT use ACL analytics.

Therefore, I also wonder whether existing ACL analytics users are fleeing ACL for other products, and that new users are not replacing those that are leaving at a fast enough rate. In other words, is the reason that ACL is trying to generate new revenue is because ACL sales are not enough to sustain the company?

For some time, I have been testing and using other analytic software. I suggest you consider doing the same.

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8 Comments

Filed under ACL, Data Analytics, Excel, Technology, Written by Skyyler

8 responses to “ACL Officially Changes Name & Spots

  1. John

    I think it is a result of bigger tech companies releasing easier analytics suites.
    Does Arbutus (I may have spelled that wrong) still port ACL scripts? Might be worth a look if you are still on ACL.
    I think ACL made an effort early in the GRC tool but knew they were up against bigger, stronger dev teams chasing Business Intelligence.
    I’ve mentioned previously if you are scripting in ACL you could probably make the leap to Python and the user community is huge.
    That is the part of ACL that would be missed most. There were some insanely excellent individuals that monitored the forums to help people.
    Forum’s ACL “fixed” to their detriment after the move the GRC.

    If you aren’t there yet scripting wise, Power Query and DAX hit a lot of the needs within the MS tool suite.
    Imke Feldman @ https://www.thebiccountant.com/
    Or Ken Puls @ https://www.excelguru.ca/blog/
    Offer great content for the accountant type folks

    I am not affiliated with anyone mentioned, but find their blogs and support on the user forums useful.

    Like

    • skyyleracl

      John,
      Thanks for the input. I’ll check out the blogs. I’ve seen Ken’s before.
      Python doesn’t scare me, but my problem is that I’d rather stay on a platform that ‘old school auditors’ can use, and I work with many of them on a regular basis. With ACL, they are picking up menu-driven auditing finally, and some can evens script.
      But I guarantee you they can’t learn Python. They were scared enough of ACL.
      I don’t want to be in a group where everything is thrown over the wall…

      Like

      • John

        You mention in your other post that you are looking into other tech. Assuming you are considering Python, and are new to it, I would suggest going through Udacity’s free “intro to data analysis”. It covers the primary skills you would want.
        Regardless, I must concede to your point on auditors being scared of programming, python or otherwise.

        That said, I somewhat overstate my excitement of the use of python. Reiterating Williams thoughts, I think it is the other analytics tools, the business is picking up, that has more potential. I think this is the wall you are speaking of. As the business introduces BI into their environment, I would like to build on the same platform so that the skills are transferable, as well as the work. I often get the question “how did you find that / can we do that” from the business. If it is on the same platform it is easier to push the analysis to the business… to build upon, as they will grow it.

        Regardless there is no easy button, ACL or otherwise, my excitement is the ease of sharing with some of the new tools being adopted by the business.
        Anyway, thanks again for this awesome blog.

        Like

        • skyyleracl

          John,
          The wall I spoke off was a dedicated analytics team within internal audit…I don’t want to be in a department where a dedicated team does all the analytics as you can lose the understanding of the business if all you do is analytics, and you don’t rub shoulders with the business staff.

          My other concern is that once you build an analytics team, the other auditors will have less and less to do as more and more audits go the analytics route. As ACL’s Dan Zitting has said, the day of the tick mark is over. I still believe the best work is done by auditors and analytics auditors working together, each adding their expertise.

          Having said that, I also believe all auditors need to be able to do more than vlookups and filtering in Excel. But I’ve written entire posts about that, so I stop there.

          So by throwing work over the wall, I meant regular, old school auditors giving most of the work to the dedicated analytic team members.

          There is no easy button, so true.

          Glad to hear you like the blog. Mack and I do what we can to make it interesting, but it’s reader comments that provide the frosting. So THANK YOU.

          Like

  2. William

    I think the scripting is one of the larger benefits of ACL that would be missed if moving to a different platform; the syntax is close enough to regular words to be approachable and the execution is straightforward, while still being powerful and flexible. And then there is the ease of creating scripts from going back to commands you already ran. I definitely agree there is a segment of users who will pick up, or could grow to a level of comfort with, ACL scripts; but look at Python, etc. and say “nah.”

    My prediction for analytics tools in the assurance industry is we are going to see a swing towards Power BI and somewhat to Python, partly from switching analytics platforms but primarily because of those tools being adopted in other business areas. Then over the course of a few years, there will be increasingly frequent discussions of the difficulties and pain points with using tools not specifically designed for assurance work, and the pendulum will swing back the other way a bit. I would not be surprised if we see tools that wrap around Power BI, etc. to provide a more rigid, assurance-centric experience (something like “Power BI GRC”).

    Like

    • skyyleracl

      William,
      I agree that the script language is simpler than most. But beyond that, some auditors indeed use ACL only in menu mode–running analyses from the menu options apart from scripting. I don’t see that option in Excel or PowerBi or Tableau. ACL is unique in that it allows auditors with different skill levels to use the program at different levels of sophistication. In a sense, ACL grows with you as you get more sophisticated in your analyses and automation.

      I see a different future. I think more tools are going to be ‘select and click’ tools in the way that Excel Power Query/Power BI allow you to transform the data that is loaded. There’s a few other tools like that. I also think wizards are going to be more popular. The trend is people who do analytics are less and less technical, so the tools have to accommodate them and become even easier to use.

      Sure,there will always be scripting and advanced transformation for the power users, and perhaps some assurance-focused features will be added, but I only see this swinging toward ease of use.

      Thanks for your input!

      Like

      • Skyler,
        Excellent point about ACL accommodating different skill levels, being able to interact with it entirely from the user interface is valuable.

        I agree that ‘select and click’ is the direction things are going. By assurance-focused I was more referring to the data being locked-down from direct editing and the increased logging capabilities. For example, you can see what steps were performed in Power Query, but I have not seen many features similar to the log in ACL. Knowing what steps were performed and being able to run them now is good, but also having a record of what the results were at a past point in time is important (record counts, totals, etc.), especially when the source data is updated or changed over time. Recording this information can be done with other tools but you have to actively do it, where ACL does it by default.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Is ACL Analytics Dying? | ITauditSecurity

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