Robert Galetzka
Author: Robert Galetzka

ACL Robotics - The king is dead, long live the king!

With the ACL Fall Release 2018 the product portfolio was extended by a new product. The new product combines the previous products consisting of Analytics and the Results Module with a fully automated script management, the so-called robots. It enables the evaluation of data and the automation of tasks, either in the cloud or on-premises. Officially this product belongs to the audit management platform ACL GRC. It allows the control and administration of robots via the web browser in the ACL Launchpad.

In the following I would like to give an overview of the new exciting product ACL Robotics, go into technical details and highlight the difference between the two robot variants.

Robots allows you to automate recurring tasks on the GRC platform using scripts defined in ACL Analytics. The setup of so-called robots is very simple and does not have the complexity of the previous ACL AX Server. This is reflected at both the user and maintenance levels. An installation is, depending on the ACL Robotics subscription, easy to complete or not necessary at all. Like ACL GRC, Robots is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers. Details about the security of your data when using the cloud-based application can be found at https://www.acl.com/trust/.

The core features of robots include script management, such as script versioning, testing, and script provisioning. There is also a logging and notification feature. By distinguishing between a test and a production environment, a change management can be mapped, which allows analyses to be tested before activation for the production system.

User administration allows users to assign individual roles and control their authorizations within the application. By taking over the planning function, which already represents a central function in ACL AX Server, tasks can be scheduled and repeated and automated at certain frequencies.

But how exactly does automation and operation with robots work?

A robot processes analyses as tasks according to a previously created ACL script. For this it is first necessary to create an ACL script for a certain task or to adapt an existing script. In addition, the scripts must be provided with an analysis header which makes the analyses callable within the robot. The analysis head can be used to specify the analysis name, certain instructions and parameters for executing the script.

After the ACL script has been provided with the analysis head and uploaded to the robot, a task can be created. A robot can perform one or more tasks. If an analysis is to be performed, it is defined in the task. When defining the task, parameter values can be specified if parameters have been defined. Finally, a schedule can be used to determine when and how often a task should be executed. Now an agent connected to robots automatically executes the task and the underlying scripts according to the defined schedule.

The robot performs the tasks using the Robots Agent. The agent is a standalone software that communicates with the Robots module in the cloud. The agent not only executes the scripts using the integrated ACL script engine, but extracts the data required for analysis from the specified source systems or associated files and makes the results available in a pre-defined location.

Which Robots Agent is available to you and where the data is processed or stored depends on the ACL Robotics subscription of the organization you belong to. With the Professional Edition you get robots with a Cloud Agent. Starting with the Team Edition an On-Premises Agent, but what difference does it make for you?

The difference can be seen in the underlying technologies and the functionalities that are available with them. In the Professional Edition, Robots is connected to a Cloud Agent that is hosted in the Cloud and does not require installation. This allows the automated processing of flat files that have previously been uploaded or cloud- or web-based data sources such as Salesforce or Twitter. The processing of the data and provision of the results is done in the cloud. The results generated in this way can be downloaded via the web browser and processed locally with ACL for Windows. If you want to process data from local data sources such as SAP, Oracle and SQL databases, this is not possible with this variant.

Starting with the Team Edition, in addition to cloud-based data sources, it is also possible to evaluate data from local data sources using an on-premises agent. This requires a local installation of the On-Premises Agent on a server within the secured company network. During the installation of the agent a registration file is specified, which connects the local agent with the Robots module of the Launchpad organization. This procedure allows the agent to initiate all communication encrypted between the local server and the cloud platform without having to configure incoming ports. The data is evaluated and stored locally with the On-Premises Agent. The results are stored in the same folder. No results or tables are transferred to the Robots module, only metadata about the results, such as table or field names. The Results module provides an ACL project that can be downloaded for successfully completed tasks. The ACL project can be opened with ACL for Windows and contains the generated result tables. The associated data is transferred through a client-server connection over the local network.

As mentioned before, the new product ACL Robotics consists of ACL Analytics and Robots as well as the Results module. This module can be used to upload analysis results from the analyses performed in order to process and document them. It contains tools for workflow automation such as triggers, questionnaires and metrics. For example, with triggers it is possible to send an e-mail to the department if the results meet a certain condition or if unusual bank data changes are recorded. Various visualizations and metrics can be created on this database and presented succinctly in the form of a storyboard and easily shared via a web link.

ACL Robotics is an important and meaningful innovation in the ACL product landscape. Not only does Robots integrate perfectly into the ACL GRC platform, but its slim architecture and ease of use make it an alternative for those who were previously deterred by the complexity and operation of ACL AX Server.

As a service provider in the field of data analysis, we experience for ourselves that more and more recurring tasks arise in everyday life in the form of analyses. In addition, there is the increasing demand from specialist areas for data and evaluations on business management issues such as double payments. ACL Robotics proves its true strength precisely in these scenarios. It combines the powerful functionalities and scripting possibilities of ACL Analytics with the performance aspects of a server. Through the automation options, results can be reliably generated according to plan and Continuous Controls Monitoring (CCM) or Continuous Auditing (CA) projects professionally implemented. Results rounds off the overall solution with the option of processing and settling the analysis results generated in this way.

With ACL Robotics you are well equipped to take data analysis to a new level.

If the topic ACL Robotics sounds exciting for you and your future plans to advance your data analysis into the digital age coincide, do not wait and arrange a presentation at info@dab-gmbh.de.

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