About Nick Boronski

Product Manager - Financial Close & Consolidations Follow the Product Team on Twitter @RanzalProduct or my personal handle @PocketAce_NB.

Automation in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): At Its Finest

In the previous post, Redesign in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): From the Ground Up, I showed you how to rebuild ARCS down to the Profile Segments to speed things up. This time we’re slowing everything down…

So grab a glass a wine of wine and throw on your Marvin Gaye vinyl because we’re getting it on with ~~automation~~. Oh yeahhh…

The sexiest topic of account reconciliations (didn’t think you’d ever see that sentence, did ya?) consistently revolves around automation. Yes, ARCS provides a central repository. Yes, ARCS is auditable. YES, ARCS shows a traceable workflow throughout the reconciliation cycle. All of these features are highly useful and absolutely a prerequisite to an enterprise worthy solution, but if you want to really grab people’s attention in a design session, start talking about the things they won’t have to do. ARCS provides both out-of-the-box functionality as well as customizable tools that help preparers  focus on high-importance reconciliations rather than spending time on low value-add or monotonous items.

Automation occurs in two areas: outside of ARCS (e.g. data feeds) and within ARCS (e.g. auto reconciliations and rules). Setting up the former enhances the latter. Either Cloud Data Management (CDM) or Financial Data Quality Management Enterprise Edition (FDMEE) can be used to load data to ARCS, albeit in different manners, but how this is accomplished is beyond the scope of this post. This data can be sourced from a variety of general ledgers and sub ledgers/subsystems including Financials Cloud, E-Business Suite (EBS), PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and even *gasp* Excel (…if we have to…). By automating these data feeds directly from the source, management can be confident in the validity of the data (e.g. accuracy, no manual intervention or “massaging,” live, etc.) and, with scheduling, administrators have one or more fewer task(s) to worry about. The latest application data is up-to-date by the time the office doors open. Additionally, data refreshes can occur multiple times throughout the reconciliation cycle without concern for loss of work. ARCS will only update reconciliations with differences from the last data load and will change the workflow status if data has been modified and needs to be looked at again.

Within ARCS, the “bread and butter” for gaining efficiencies in the reconciliation cycle is through utilizing the out-of-the-box auto reconciliation method property on the Profiles. This will set the conditions under which the reconciliation will automatically change the workflow status to “closed,” allowing preparers to focus on the remaining “open” reconciliations that require attention. Which conditions are available for selection depends on the Format type. Furthermore, this field can be easily updated after-the-fact. Using the Actions pane, this property can be updated to a mass of Profiles based on custom filtering.

Automation in ARCS 1

[Screenshot 10a: The “Set Attribute…” functionality from the Actions pane is a powerful tool that can be used to make mass updates from the user interface.]

 

Automation in ARCS 2

[Screenshot 10b: In this example, the “Set Attribute…” functionality can be used to make updates to the Auto Reconciliation Method property for all Profiles, selected Profiles, or Profiles that fit customized criteria.]

The “Set Attribute” functionality is a powerful tool for making changes across multiple Profiles within the ARCS user interface. In many instances, this is a preferable alternative to extracting the Profiles to a text file to modify offline. Screenshots 10a – 10b show how it can be used to update the Auto Reconciliation Method attribute specifically, but there are a plethora of other attributes that can be updated in this manner.

The last puzzle piece to the trinity of automation is customized rules. Similar to custom attributes, rules can be added in a variety of places within your reconciliations to further enhance and streamline the process for both end-users and application administrators. Attributes, formats, profiles, and even specific transaction types (ex. on Subsystem Adjustments, but not on Source System Adjustments) can contain separate sets of rules.

Automation in ARCS 3

[Screenshot 11a: Rules can be added at a Format level.]

 

Automation in ARCS 4

[Screenshot 11b: Different Rule resolutions will be available depending on where the rule is created. This screenshot, for example, shows the options for rules created at a Format level.]

 

Automation in ARCS 5

[Screenshot 11c: Rules can be added at a specific transaction type. In this screenshot, any rules created here would only affect Subsystem Adjustments and would not affect System Adjustments.]

 

Automation in ARCS 6

[Screenshot 11d: Different Rule resolutions will be available depending on where the rule is created. This screenshot, for example, shows the options for rules created at a specific transaction type level.]

Thus, rules can be used for anything from sweeping, application-wide changes down to differences at a transaction-by-transaction basis, as seen in Screenshots 11a – 11d. If ARCS is a suit, then rules are custom tailoring; they are made to fit your company’s specific needs.

The most common rule I see relates to Auto-Submission (as opposed to Auto Reconciliation). The out-of-the-box auto reconciliation methods previously discussed are set on Profiles and can be used to “close” a reconciliation for the period if the criteria is met. However, sometimes a reconciliation still needs reviewing such as if it is considered higher risk or only during certain periods in the fiscal year. Customized rules can dynamically determine which reconciliations can skip the preparer and be assigned directly to the reviewer, and which are clear to be automatically “closed” for the month (e.g. without approval by a preparer or reviewer). Tailoring rules in this manner still helps the preparers reduce their workload while giving management the confidence that the higher priority reconciliations are being reviewed – the best of both worlds!

No Mistakes with Modularity from “Day 1” to “Day 100”
So, there you have it: the four main manifestations of ARCS’ modularity. While nothing will replace proper planning, ARCS does not permanently punish any application decisions you (or your partner) have made in the past. The tool is able to grow with your company and accommodate your needs as they arise. There’s no reason to pick “today” or “tomorrow” – have them both.

Am I right? Am I off my rocker? You tell me! Answer in the comments below if ARCS’ (or ARM! We haven’t forgotten you…) has been able to accommodate the changes with your company’s growth.

If you like what you’ve read, please consider sharing this article through social media. And let me know in the comments what topic(s) you would like to see covered in future posts.

*Screenshots taken from the patch 1806 release.

Redesign in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): From the Ground Up

We talked about adding new scope in New Scope in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): Add-Ons and modifying your application inside (i.e. changing reconciliation methods) and outside of ARCS (i.e. new data feeds) in Modifications in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): Tweaking and Tuning.

Today, we’re going to tear it down and rebuild from the ground up.

Let me start with this:  redesign IS possible. ARCS does not permanently punish any design decisions made on “Day 1,”…but not all changes are equal in complexity, nor can all changes be made without consequence. A successful implementation ensures that the application design is sound for today and that a well laid roadmap is in place for tomorrow. Many “one-off” changes can be made directly to a deployed reconciliation (i.e. only within a single period) or permanently going forward (i.e. to the profile). The “catch” is the key properties set on a profile or reconciliation – the Account ID. The Account ID represents the granularity at which the reconciliation is being performed, such as [Business Unit]-[Account] or [Entity]-[Natural Account]-[Subaccount].

ARCS From the Ground Up 1[Screenshot 6: The Account ID is a unique identifier for the reconciliation.]

The Account ID is fundamental to the reconciliation, as indicated by the asterisks (i.e. “*”) in Screenshot 6. Changing it in any way will break the Prior Reconciliation “link” with previously completed instances of the reconciliation.

But let’s push that idea one step further – what if I want to change the key properties themselves – that is to say – change the actual Profile Segments? The Profile Segments determine the name (ex. from “Company” to “Business Unit”), number (ex. from 2 to 3 segments), and even type of values (ex. setting up the Business Unit segment to always be an integer) that are viable for use when setting up an Account ID. Therefore, if this was set up incorrectly or if the granularity at which reconciliations are performed has changed since the initial implementation, then redesigning the Profile Segments may become a requirement.

ARCS even makes this type of redesign possible, but at a cost. An administrator needs to first delete all Profiles; only then will the application allow a modification to the Profiles Segments in the Configuration card.

ARCS From the Ground Up 2[Screenshot 7a: Unable to modify the Name of Profile Segment 1 which is currently named “Company.” The field appears grayed out. This is because Profiles are currently using these Profile Segments.]

ARCS From the Ground Up 3[Screenshot 7b: After removing the Profiles, Profile Segment 1 is now able to be modified. In the example, Profile Segment is renamed to “Business Unit.”]

While Screenshots 7a & 7b show that this is possible, there are repercussions. Similar to changing the Account IDs, this change will break any links to previously completed reconciliations. Additionally, any existing mappings within outside Integration solutions such as Cloud Data Manager or FDMEE, or references to Profile Segments in customized attributes or rules may be affected. This type of redesign should only be done after carefully considering all options.

Other common questions relate to redesigning an attribute, typically the system attributes such as Process or Account Type. This is a straightforward change as it relates to updating the property on the Profiles; however, it is important to note that any reference to any existing artifact (i.e. an artifact can be a format, a custom attribute, an attribute member, etc.) within ARCS will prevent the deletion of said artifact. As an example, if the Account Type structure requires redesigning, but there is a reference to any of the members (such as in a historical period), then these members cannot be deleted without first removing the references. This can be tedious when there are multiple years of reconciliations to consider.

ARCS From the Ground Up 4

[Screenshot 8: When trying to remove the Custom Attribute named “PLACE CUSTOM ATTRIBUTE HERE,” ARCS prevents this deletion and cites which artifact is using the Custom Attribute. In this example, the Bank Reconciliation format is using this Custom Attribute – thus, it cannot be deleted.]

Unlike many system messages, ARCS actually provides useful troubleshooting information as seen in Screenshot 8. However, it still may not be worth it to you to retroactively make this change. A recommendation is to “archive” artifacts that will not be used going forward by renaming them with “Old” or “Hist,” then create a separate artifact to use going forward.

ARCS From the Ground Up 5[Screenshot 9: A work-around to deleting previously used artifacts is to rename them and then use a new artifact going forward. In this example, the suffix “- Old” is added to this Custom Attribute to indicate that it is no longer in use.]

Previous uses of the artifact such as in completed reconciliations will update to reflect the name change. In the example provided in Screenshot 9, this custom attribute for historical periods will be updated with the “– Old” suffix to indicate to ARCS administrators that it is no longer in use but was used historically.

ARCS is a flexible application solution that allows for nearly any change to be made, though the effort and complexity will vary. While sound design can prevent many issues, it should be a comfort to know that there is “wiggle room” if the requirements change in the future.

Join me in the last post of the ARCS modularity series – a real crowd pleaser: Automation in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): At Its Finest

*Screenshots taken from the patch 1806 release.

Modifications in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): Tweaking and Tuning

In the last post, New Scope in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): Add-Ons, we discussed how ARCS sets you up to easily add on additional scope to your existing application and scale your solution. However, not all changes are brand new. Clients are often concerned with being pigeonholed based on their “Day 1” decisions. A common question I am asked during a design session is “Can I manually enter this reconciliation today, but create new feeds to automatically load the data tomorrow?” The answer is a resounding YES, and it provides clear added value to the next phase of any ARCS (or ARM) project. It can be a viable project strategy to set up reconciliations using an Account Analysis format on “Day 1” and change to a Balance Comparison format when automated data loads are built on “Day 100.”

Modifications in ARCS 1

[Screenshot 5a: Reconciliation 100-1000 is setup with a Balance Comparison format in Sep 2017.*]

Modifications in ARCS 2

[Screenshot 5b: The previous period’s reconciliation can be viewed in the Prior Reconciliations tab.*]

Modifications in ARCS 3

[Screenshot 5c: Reconciliation 100-1000 was previously setup with an Account Analysis format in Aug 2017. The format of a profile can be changed while maintaining the Prior Reconciliations link.*]

Depending on how this change is made, it is even possible to keep the modified reconciliation “linked” to the previously completed reconciliations even though the Format has changed, such as in Screenshots 5a – 5c. The ease with which ARCS allows you to change Reconciliation Methods (via Formats) gives you the flexibility to not bite off more than you can chew in the beginning of a project.

Changing Reconciliation Methods is often related to new integrations. Moving from the manual “fat fingering” of data to directly loading general ledger and sub ledger balances through Financial Data Management Enterprise Edition (FDMEE) or Data Management combined with the inbuilt auto-reconciliation tools can bring a “quality of life” change for end users as well as added confidence in the data’s integrity. It is always a best practice to pull data from the source. Creating the integration from the general ledger is typically part of the initial scope. The usual candidates for building additional feeds after the first project phase are the sub ledgers related to fixed assets, accounts receivables, and accounts payables. However, the most “bang for your buck” as it relates to what integrations to build depends on your line of business and specific company requirements.*

*Note that adding multiple general ledger feeds introduces additional complexities beyond the scope of this article. Please consult with your Oracle partner before adding to your application.

In some cases, the greatest efficiencies to your existing reconciliation process are gained in utilizing the power of ARCS Transaction Matching. This module is better suited to handle massive data volumes at a transactional level. As an example, instead of performing just a reconciliation of the balance sheet’s intercompany balances in ARCS Reconciliation Compliance at the end of the month, an enhancement to this process could be to perform the daily matching process in ARCS Transaction Matching to clear up issues in real time as they arise. This simplifies the month end’s reconciliation. ARCS Transaction Matching is a powerful supplement to an existing reconciliation system and continues to receive special attention from Oracle as seen with the major release of new functionality in Patch 1805.

Just as there are many ways your company can change, ARCS can be modified to match your needs even in a live application. However, sometimes changes are more fundamental than a bit of tweaking such as in an acquisition or the introduction of a new, company-wide general ledger. Or, perhaps, you are just not satisfied with the solution design. Join me in the next post as we discuss the dangerous topic of redesign in ARCS – what is possible…and what it costs.

In the next post, Redesign in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): From the Ground Up, learn how redesign IS possible in ARCS.

*Screenshots taken from the patch 1806 release.

New Scope in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): Add-Ons

This post follows last week’s post Modularity in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): No Mistakes from “Day 1” to “Day 100.”

Out-of-the-box, ARCS makes it easy to “oh, and this!” when adding new scope. The obvious example is monthly maintenance. Reconciliation Administrators and Power Users can build new Profiles to deploy for future months (or even the current month) with relative ease. With the “Copy” feature, previously created Profiles can serve as ready-to-use templates and reduce the manual effort involved in building a Profile from scratch.

New Scope in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS) - Add-Ons 1

[Screenshot 1: The Copy function from the Actions drop-down list can be used to duplicate existing Profiles*]

Copying existing Profiles, as seen in Screenshot 1, is intuitive, built-in functionality. This makes ARCS “Quick Starts” a popular project option when tight on a budget – the Partner will be contracted to create a limited subset of Profiles and the Client can then use these as a starting point to build out the rest, saving on the Build Phase effort.

Another common post-project add are Custom Attributes. As companies become more familiar with how their end users utilize the tool, new Custom Attributes can be included for reporting purposes (such as filtering or sorting in dashboards), providing information, or collecting feedback. Beyond the three system attributes of Process, Account Type, and Risk Rating, some typical Custom Attributes include source system names, supplemental detail such as cost center or department, or even more dynamic fields such as auto-populating metadata descriptions. Furthermore, where these are placed within a reconciliation changes the nature of what detail is being provided or collected. Custom Attributes can be placed at a reconciliation’s summary level, on each individual transaction, and even on the specific Action Plans within each transaction. Additionally, these can be inherited from a Format or set for individual Profiles. What information is useful or relevant to end users will change depending on the granularity.

New Scope in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS) - Add-Ons 2[Screenshot 2: Custom Attribute on the Summary tab*]

New Scope in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS) - Add-Ons 3[Screenshot 3: Custom Attribute on a Transaction*]

New Scope in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS) - Add-Ons 4[Screenshot 4: Custom Attribute on an Action Plan*]

The variety of locations within the reconciliation to place these Custom Attributes, as seen in Screenshots 2 – 4, and the ease at which these can be added provides your company with the flexibility to determine ‘what’ and ‘where’ information should be presented.

ARCS provides a plethora of tools to grow the application with your company and add-on to your “Day 1” implementation. But what if you like what you have built, and just want to tweak it?  Perhaps you want to move from “fat fingering” to fully integrating with your ERP source systems? The next post, Modifications in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): Tweaking and Tuning, discusses how ARCS can be modularly modified, keeping what you have…but better.

*Screenshots taken from the patch 1806 release.

Modularity in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): No Mistakes from “Day 1” to “Day 100”

Modularity. My initial experience with this concept was during the build of my first computer. There is a great, omnipresent dread that consumes people who share this hobby – imagine this scenario (or nightmare rather!): you have just invested significant time, energy, and finances to create the perfect machine – only to have it rendered obsolete the next month by changing technology that is incompatible with your swanky new rig! The warring decision of function today versus future proofing for tomorrow is a constant struggle for all tech lovers (or tech survivors, as the case may be). So when a product is able to overcome this dilemma, it’s got my attention.

ARCS Modularity 1a

In my post A Safe Step into the Cloud: The Argument for Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS), I discussed the modular nature of ARCS as one of the key pillars that made the product an easy recommendation as a first step into the Cloud. For new projects, this is a comforting “safety cushion.” For existing applications, it means you are not stuck with what you have. Push your product to evolve with your needs and ensure that you are eking out every drop of value from your investment.

With ever-changing requirements, it is critical to know what tools are at your disposal. Some changes are straightforward; others…not so much. In this upcoming series of blog posts, we will discuss what it means for ARCS to be a modular solution and explore the four main ways in which this manifests:

  1. New scope
  2. Modifications
  3. Redesign
  4. Automation.

Over the next few weeks, we will be tweaking, tuning, tearing down, and putting the application back together to see how there can be no mistakes with modularity.

View the next post in this series:  New Scope in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): Add-Ons

A Safe Step into the Cloud: The Argument for Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS)

Before forecasting models, before fancy dashboards and pretty reports, before a data point is even considered “Actual” comes the age old question…

                “Does this number even look right?”

Bulls*#!

Account reconciliations – the means by which this question is answered – are a fundamental part of the financial close process. Imagine you are trying to build a sandcastle. Now imagine your “sand” is harvested from a cow pasture. You *could* continue to build this “sandcastle,” but you will likely finish with a pile of…bull-sand. In the same way, if your account balances and transactions have an integrity equivalent to “bull-sand,” this will inevitably lead to problems down the line.

sandcastle_collapsing_400px

The shift to the Cloud has complicated the decision-making process when considering new enterprise-wide application tools. The choice of whether to go with a known “on-premise” solution or take a bold step into Cloud solutions is a daunting one, particularly when considering moving high-visibility cycles such as forecasting or financial consolidations into this brave new world.

A Justified Recommendation

Take the measured move instead. If you feel hesitant to go “all-in” on Cloud offerings, here are four reasons why you should consider entering the Cloud through the arch of ARCS…the ARCSway (Get it?…archway…ARCSway…never mind – just keep reading…)

Safe Bet on a Strong Foundation

Oracle introduced Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS) as the “one stop shop” solution for managing and streamlining the reconciliation cycle in the Cloud back in 2016. While it’s not uncommon for some EPM products to lose functionality during their initial transition into the Cloud space, ARCS retains the “good bones” of its on-premise counterpart – Account Reconciliation Manager (ARM). ARCS builds upon the clever functionality and customizability of ARM, released in 2012, yet with the slick look and feel of the Oracle Cloud experience.

Since its release, ARCS has become the “golden child” of the reconciliation product family, receiving not only “first dibs” on refinement of existing capabilities, but also benefiting from the newest components such as Transaction Matching (note: this has separate licensing than the Reconciliation Compliance component of ARCS).  As the product continues to gain steam, this trend is expected to continue. Between utilizing the tried-and-true foundation of the ARM tool and having Oracle’s watchful eye, ARCS is a safe bet.

No Mistakes with Modularity

Unlike some applications, ARCS is easy to implement in pieces. While good design will certainly prevent future heartache, there are no decisions made on Day 1 of a project that cannot be modified or enhanced in the future:

  • Want to manually enter data for reconciliations today, but automatically load them from a source system tomorrow? We can do this.
  • Missing fields for additional detail you would like users to include? Can be ready for next period (or the current one even!)
  • Only want to rollout in one country to start? No problem – go ahead and make the other entities jealous!

While some changes are “cleaner” than others (I am looking at you, Profile Segments!), ARCS welcomes you to “test the waters” and see what works in your company without needing to go “all-in.” For example, a current client has a live ARM application that provides a viable solution for its reconciliation process needs given the initial project timeline and budget. Although the client wasn’t able to fully utilize the available functionality at the time, the modularity of the reconciliation tools (both ARM and ARCS) allows the opportunity for enhancements without punishing this design decision – we are now revamping the client’s auto-reconciliation setup to further streamline the process. For Partners, this means additional project phases; for clients, this means not biting off more than you can chew (win-win!).

Want to dive deeper into this topic?  Read the blog posts in the series Modularity in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): No Mistakes from “Day 1” to “Day 100.”

Fast Implementation Cycles and Rapid ROI

Relative to other EPM project lifecycles, ARCS is typically a quick implementation. As with all projects, there are certainly exceptions, but with Ranzal’s “Quick Start” methodology, we have stood up applications in just six weeks! A strong inventory of project “accelerators” – custom tools and scripts that Ranzal has developed based on common requests across multiple clients – allows sophisticated deployments in a timely manner. Couple this with the inherent time saving benefits of Cloud technology (i.e. lack of infrastructure setup, etc.), and ARCS shines as the first step in a Roadmap, producing tangible metrics for evaluation (ex. completion percentages per period, timeliness per Preparer/Reviewer, reconciliation accuracy, etc.) and giving users a taste of the Oracle Cloud experience in a short period of time.

You Don’t Have Anything Today and It’s Costing You

I know that may read like a presumptuous fear tactic, but hear me out:

Account reconciliations ARE being completed in your company – one way or another. Whether that means your CPAs are *click*click* clicking away on their keyboards to manually update Excel spreadsheets or – heaven forbid – actually printing out recons to hand sign, if you cannot name the system that is comprehensively handling your reconciliation cycle, it’s because there isn’t one.

And this is normal. But there are costs associated with this normalcy.

Reconciliation cycles aren’t sexy (well…personal taste…) and often have low visibility to upper management. And yet (!) the reconciliation process is often widespread across the company spanning business entities, departments, and corporate ladders (I see you, Mr/s. Director signing off on recons). ARCS is an attractive option when considering enterprise-wide Cloud solutions to “test run” because everyone can try it. A successful ARCS implementation paves the way for easier adoption of future projects – it gets everybody onboard.

Step Through the “ARCSway” and Ditch the Bulls*#!

The shift to the Cloud is disrupting the traditional market of on-premise EPM solutions. As you look at the new strategic options available to your company’s roadmap, consider ARCS as a “first step.” Of note, it is important to have an accurate understanding of the tool – ARCS is first and foremost a management tool, and although it can provide helpful information in troubleshooting account variances, it does not replace actually performing a reconciliation in an ERP system. Additionally, customizing reports can be difficult (unless you are familiar with BI Publisher), although the out-of-the-box reports and strong dashboarding capabilities largely make up for this limitation. All-in-all, I strongly recommend this product as an introduction to the new Oracle offerings. ARCS’ “low risk, high reward” nature provides real company value quickly while presenting you with a good picture of life in the Cloud. Now is the perfect time to ditch your “bull-sand” reconciliation process and update to a more solid foundation in the Cloud through the ARCSway.

Contact us today for details about a custom Cloud solution for your business needs.

Large Sandcastle