ACL Brings Real-Time Audit to Bear at Siemens
July 15, 2008 Alex Woodie
Siemens, the world’s largest SAP shop, is adopting audit software from ACL Services to analyze its purchase transactions and look for waste and fraud. The implementation, which will span 1,300 subsidiaries and other entities of the German technology giant–including 800 that use SAP and 500 that use some other ERP system–will be the world’s largest purchase-to-pay monitoring project ever undertaken, according to ACL.
If you’re not a big fan of audits and the tools of the auditor’s trade, you may have never heard of ACL Services, a 20-year-old software company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The firm specializes in performing deep analysis of organizations’ transactions in the pursuit of fraud, errors, inefficiency, and anything else that costs money that organizations don’t want to spend.
For a $17.5 million company with 160 employees (according to Hoover’s), ACL has accumulated an impressive customer list over the years, including 95 percent of the Fortune 100 and hundreds of national, state, and local governments. “If you talk to any auditor out there, whether they’re an external auditor with one of the Big Four or an internal auditor with a large company, or a government auditor, they will have likely have heard of ACL and will have likely used us at some point in their career,” says Beth Hardy with ACL’s public relations department.
Last week, ACL added another notch to its belt with the revelation that its auditing software will be implemented by Siemens. Siemens, which had €72.4 billion in revenues ($115 billion at current exchange rates) in 2007 and employs 400,000 people around the world, is installing ACL’s AuditExchange software to analyze the purchasing behavior in each of the company’s 1,300 entities.
According to Terry Noreault, vice president of development with ACL, AuditExchange will be installed on a virtualized Windows Server machine and run against an 11 TB Oracle database containing Siemens’ transaction data.
ACL thrives in such large environments, Noreault says. “One of the distinguishing factors was our proven ability to do the analytics against very large databases,” he says. “We can demonstrate that we can work with files that size, where the other vendors have some of the analysis capabilities, but they can’t show any scale with operating files of that size.”
Just the same, the Siemens job–which will be installed in phases through the rest of the year–is a really big one. “Siemens has really pushed the envelope in terms of how large an activity they want to get into,” Noreault says.
When the ACL implementation is complete, it will pull data from 800 of Siemens’ corporate entities that run off 10 actual SAP implementations, as well as 500 other entities that utilize 200 various ERP systems.
According to Hardy, ACL’s capability to gather data from those other data sources was another big reason why Siemens chose ACL. “We are agnostic technology,” Hardy says. “Regardless of what system your data is on, we pull that data together and allow you to compare it. We can either read it on the system, or pull it down to a server environment and look at it there.”
ACL offers full support for big iron from IBM. While few i5/OS shops have taken advantage of ACL’s software running on the System i’s PASE environment, many of ACL’s customers move data from their i5/OS-based applications into ACL’s software for auditing and analysis.
“We have some customers running on the iSeries, but to be perfectly honest we’ve sort of moved away from that a little bit,” Noreault says. “We still have customers but it hasn’t been a very active market for us.” Most customers today chose to run their ACL software on the Windows Server operating system, he says.
Integration with i OS and z/OS servers was enhanced as the result of a partnership ACL formed in May with Informatica, one of the most respected names in the extract, transform, and load (ETL) tool arena. As part of that agreement, ACL is selling a product called ACL AuditExchange that includes ACL’s auditing technology, as well as a version of Informatica’s flagship ETL tool, called PowerCenter.
PowerCenter’s support for i OS and z/OS data sources was a main reason for the Informatica partnership, Noreault says. “It was one of the attractions, in that those are some relatively hard platforms to get into, and Informatica had such a good reputation,” he says.