Last week I was meeting with one of our company’s Accounts Payable clerks, who told me she was not concerned about some upcoming General Ledger changes.
2 changes that were submitted by developers on her behalf.
2 changes she didn’t know anything about, so she didn’t consider them her problem.
This post is a Quote of the Weak post. For more info on these types of posts, see the Quote of the Weak topic under About.
This is the third of 3 posts; this post describes how I audited the auditors and my perspective on the whole thing.
Read the first post (background) and the second post (audit results).
Usually, I’m the one doing the auditing, but this time, I (Mack) was the one who was audited.
It was a great experience for me.
Well, sort of. No one likes being audited (ahem). But it gave me a fresh perspective of how others feel when I audit them.
This is the first of 3 posts; this post contains some background info on the project that was audited, and the second one discusses the audit and the results, and in the third post, I describe my perspective on the whole thing, and some takeaways.
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!
Rumors have it that ACL will no longer be available on the desktop (laptop, or other local machine) in 5 years.
That is, according to an ACL user who attended the 2018 ACL Connections conference.
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.”
Here’s the 5 things I’m hoping will change in 2018 regarding ACL.
They are all related to each other and feed off each other…
If you’ve ever wondered what Audit Command Language (ACL) is, here’s a quick way to find out.
ACL has provided a quick, one-page introduction to ACL. And I mean quick.
It doesn’t explain a lot, but it gives you a quick peek at the basic user interface.
You could call it the ACL Overview for Dummies.
If your department doesn’t track metrics on your analytics, you are probably not doing analytics or you are making little progress in analytics.
In either case, its obvious that analytics isn’t very important to your management.
Which is one of the points I made in my post, 10 Signs Mgmt Doesn’t Really Support Analytics.
So far, I have encountered very few audit departments that track meaningful metrics about their analytics.
Counting the number of projects that include analytics isn’t enough.
Previously I wrote Will Robotics (RPA) Replace ACL?
The short answer is no, and I describe the reasons in that post.
But that doesn’t mean someone won’t try.
Shortly after I wrote my original robotics post, I encountered robotics vs. ACL, part 2.
In my last post, I described Why Internal Auditors Should Care about Robotic Process Automation.
In this post, I’ll explore whether RPA can replace analytic packages like ACL, IDEA, R, and Power BI.
That might seem like a strange question, but a few managers and a VP have asked me just that recently. Here’s how I’ve answered it.
If you’re an auditor, you need data analytic skills or you will die.
Or put another way, if you don’t acquire them in the next 1-5 years, you will no longer be an auditor.
Pretty bold statement, isn’t it?
Whether you script your projects or use menu commands, you need to review your ACL log carefully.
Good analysts review their results and the log as they work in ACL, after they think they are done, and have others review their log before the ACL project is relied upon.
(You can’t imagine the dumb mistakes my team and I found that saved us a lot of embarrassment later.)
Running the desktop version of ACL in a virtual machine* (VM) has so many advantages, but I haven’t heard anyone else doing it.
Consider the following advantages, listed in order of importance (to me):
In case you missed it, ACL released the next version of their Acerno product, renamed it ACL Excel Add-in, and made it FREE! 2021 UPDATE – it doesn’t look like it’s free any more; requires ACL subscription.
UPDATE – I’m guessing that since this product never caught on, they only give it away to subscribers – go figure.
So I thought I’d update my review.
For my original review of Acerno, see A Review of ACL Acerno. It still seems that I’m the only one who ever took the time to review the product (versus marketing blurbs, which are all over the ‘net), which appears to be a statement regarding its popularity.
Despite the poor popularity, since they updated it AND made it free, I decided to dive in for another look.
Note: This add-in is not just for auditors! Any one who regularly reviews data should consider using this simple, EASY-to-use software.
Please take the new & improved poll at the bottom of this post (also free).
Recently, I ran an import script to import a delimited file into ACL, but the last 10 fields were not imported. And I didn’t know it right away, because I received no error message.
In addition (or should I say, in subtraction), the log did not indicate anything was wrong. Continue reading
You might be an Audit Command Language (ACL) freak if more than 2 of the following are true:
- At work, you have a second computer (or virtual machine) just for running ACL.
When I ‘m trying to work with text files that are so big I can’t even open them with programs like Excel, Notepad, or PSPad, I reach for the FREE file-splitter program.
In ACL, a conditional computed field (CCF), is basically a regular computed field with some fireworks.
It looks and acts much like a regular computed field, but has some extra parts that do some extra work. Fortunately, the extras are NOT complicated, and after reading this post, you will find that will you use CCFs frequently.
So what’s the difference?
Next time you get the cannot perform export to Excel error in ACL, try one of the 3 solutions described below. The full text of the error is:
Cannot perform the export.
You can export fields with maximum of 254 characters to Excel.
If you’re new to the blog in 2013, you might think that Skyyler is only an ACL gear-head. But he DOES write about non-ACL topics. Occasionally.
Creating scripts (and editing them) is not as hard as many of you believe them to be.
Sure, it takes practice and time to learn the basics, but YOU can do it.
If you don’t learn scripting, you are NOT using ACL to it’s fullest, nor are you making the best use of your time.
Have you been following the “Optimizing Script Performance” series on the ACL Blog? aclkevin has been offering some great tips.
In case you missed them:
If you’ve been wondering how to add a computed field to an existing ACL table, you’re at the right place. I’ll take you through it step-by-step.
In ACL tip: What is a Computed Field?, I defined computed fields and provided 2 examples. I suggest you read that post before you dive into this one.
That post also explains expressions and functions, which you need to understand when creating computed fields. Both that post and this one are long ones, complete with graphics. You might want to print them both out first…
In this post, I’ll show you how to add the c_Region field that is described in the computed field post. It’s not as hard as it looks.
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.
Did you know that you can create a script to import a file into ACL? That you can automate loading a table?
I’m talking about the File > New > Table command in ACL, also known as the Data Definition Wizard. Yes, you can create such a script, and I’m going to teach you how!
The good news is that it’s so much easier than you think. The bad news is that it doesn’t APPEAR easy, but it really is, because ACL does the heavy lifting for you. I promise that if you hang in there, you’ll so be a pro. Just try it once, and you’ll be hooked!
On occasion, I have received the following ACL error: The working directory does not have write access permission (see below).
Simply said, it means: the working directory is not working; something is not write. :)
Seriously, the working directory is the directory in which the application wants to start, which is why it is also called the starting directory. This is the directory to which ACL expects you to save your ACL projects. That’s why ACL needs write access to that directory.
When you’re trying to load a new file into an ACL table, you’ll sometimes get this error:: “Application error. ACL Desktop cannot complete this function…contact ACL Technical Support…” (see below).
Here’s the situations in which I’ve encountered this error, and how I’ve fixed it (most common and easiest to fix situations are first).
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.
A computed field is a field in an ACL table that you create using expressions.
An ACL expression is similar to a Microsoft Excel formula [e.g., =SUM(A1:A2)] in that it contains at least one function [like SUM]. Excel formulas operate on cells (like A1 and A2), but computed fields operate on fields.
Free ACL tutorials are available on YouTube, along with a lot of videos with talking heads. The tutorials walk you through how to do a couple tests, but I found the video resolution to be rather poor. Maybe it’s my equipment, maybe it’s the result of a company trying to adapt some tutorials they already have to another delivery method.
ACL is offering FREE training as part of their bootcamp series, which started in September 2011. The training consists of a video presentation that includes ACL demos. The best part is that you do NOT have to be a current ACL customer or even have a copy of ACL.
The purpose of the series, according to ACL, is to teach basic skills and deal with common problems that ACL users encounter. Each session lasts about 30-40 minutes, followed by a Q&A session. The bootcamp is led by Shane Grimm (see his blog comment here).
If you’re looking for FREE audit work plans, AuditNet.org is probably your best bet.
You can get a free account that allows you to access a limited number of work plans, usually basic ones. A premium account gives you access to all content . See their Subscription Plans for more info, and note that they call work plans ‘audit templates’.
If you have an ACL support agreement, you may be able to access AuditNet for FREE!
Last time I looked, over 100 work plans were free, and a total of 2600 were available.
If you’re an ACL user, I sure hope you read your ACL project logs and approach the JOIN command carefully. I recently received a good reminder. For an explanation of ACL, see this post.
Occasionally when using ACL, the application appears to freeze when I open a dialog box. So I restart ACL and it works fine until I repeat the action that “froze” it in the first place. For me, it always happens when I open the Edit Layout dialog box to create a computed field. Never any other window.
Or in ACL terms, also known as “What happened to the Edit Layout screen?”
Note to non-ACL users: This problem isn’t particular to ACL, so you might want to read the “Finding the Cause” topic below before you blow off this post entirely.
I’ve noticed that this only occurs after I last used ACL on a 2-monitor system. The setup I normally use is my laptop screen plus an additional monitor. But when I’m at home or on the road and only have my laptop, fire up ACL, and go to Edit, Layout, the problem occurs: apparent ACL freeze with every other application working.
Rerunning an ACL join command is much easier than most people realize. And everyone using ACL screws up joining two tables more often than he’ll admit.
It goes like this: You painfully select the primary keys, the secondary keys, the primary fields, and the secondary fields, enter the output table name, and run the join. The join ran successfully, but you forgot to add one primary field or to adjust the options on the More tab. Now you have to do it all again. Or do you?
ACL.com just launched virtual classroom training in North America. Check it out at www.acl.com/virtual_classroom (if that doesn’t work, try here, as they keep changing the URLs).
Sorry, but the virtual classroom was discontinued, according to ACL. See Nav’s comment about this.
Free training does still exist, so see my posts regarding Free ACL Bootcamp Training and ACL Tutorials on YouTube. Also check out the most popular post on this blog, Teach Yourself ACL.
Mike Vilimek from ACL.com discovered my History of Data Analytics (a la Coderre) post that lists links to articles written by David Coderre. These older articles (one is from 1993) describe how data analytics was used and viewed in the past.
I found a website where a group from the Business School of the University of Colorado Denver is offering free online training for ACL running Benford’s Law analysis on data.
This training was offerred for a limited time and has been discontinued. Free training does still exist (but not on Benford), so see my posts regarding Free ACL Bootcamp Training and ACL Tutorials on YouTube. Also check out the most popular post on this blog, Teach Yourself ACL.
You have to have a copy of ACL (for more info, see Teach Yourself ACL), but otherwise it’s free. The group is doing a study (learning techniques?) and are offering the training for a limited time (at least until the end of February 2010).
I was rummaging around and found some old articles by David G. Coderre, one of the gurus of data analytics (I mentioned him in my Teach Yourself ACL post). Even though this articles are old, I found some rich history, interesting facts, and some audit ideas.
I was reviewing my blog stats and noticed that posts regarding employment and interviewing were my all-time most popular posts. At first, this surprised me, but as I thought about the economy and how many people (including myself) were laid off, it made sense. Here’s my most popular posts to-date:
A couple of us were arguing about the differences between random, haphazard, and judgmental sampling. One person said that picking samples here and there manually was random sampling. I argued the method described was actually haphazard sampling. Another said that haphazard sampling was not appropriate and that “audit judgment” was valued, not haphazard sampling.