KEY CONCEPTS: ACCOUNT RECONCILIATION CLOUD – APPLICATION DESIGN – THE POCKET ACE APPROACHES: FLEXIBILITY & SIMPLICITY
Earlier posts in the series, outlined the four core components to consider when designing Formats in an Account Reconciliation Cloud solution. Each company has unique situations and needs to balance varying application goals. Starting the design discussion with a grounded understanding of what is important for the application setup drives how Formats should be built and provides a sound game plan. In general, though, there are two camps: Camp Flexibility and Camp Simplicity. The quality that each company makes the priority is the deciding factor for the design approach.
In Camp Flexibility, a Format is created for each account type that requires a nuance.
- Want certain Custom Attributes and Rules standardized for only one type of reconciliation? New Format.
- Want Action Plans enabled for reconciling items on specific accounts? New Format.
- Want “Fixed Assets Subledger Balance,” “Inventory Subsystem Balance,” and “Bank Statement Amount” to display differently depending on where the data is sourced? You guessed it – new Format!
By creating a new Format for each unique situation, the Administrator is able to make broad changes to all Profiles utilizing the Format while also maintaining the capability to adjust only the Profiles that should be affected.
I typically recommend that applications set up with ultimate flexibility in mind have Formats created on a per data source basis. Companies with multiple general ledgers and subledgers/subsystems that want to clearly mark these distinctions will create unique Formats to better categorize these differences. Additionally, different types of Summary Profiles may warrant their own Formats as well. With this design, I recommend the “[Method] – [Data Source]” naming convention to provide Administrators with quick, relevant information when reviewing the Formats inventory.
[Screenshot 1a: A common flexibility-centric approach to designing a Formats inventory is to create each data source and Method combination as a unique Format]
There are considerations that must be made when deciding to go this route. Formats are controlled by Administrators only, not by Power Users. Therefore, this type of setup works more effectively for companies that have a centralized system of controls or, alternatively, are comfortable with having multiple Administrators if additional resources are needed to manage the application. Additionally, creating and modifying Formats is currently a manual process within the Oracle Account Reconciliation Cloud user interface (UI), unlike Profiles which can be extracted, modified, and uploaded via a CSV file. Making sweeping changes to the application – such as wanting to add a Custom Attribute to all reconciliations while maintaining a standardized process - can be cumbersome.
Some of these drawbacks can be mitigated - to a degree - with clever design. For example, application-wide Format-level rules can be built using saved Filters which centralizes the maintenance in what otherwise would have been a click-heavy process. In fact, Oracle Account Reconciliation Cloud RULES design probably warrants its own blog – leave a comment below if this is a topic of interest.
Furthermore, there are some noteworthy benefits to Camp Flexibility, primarily to the end-user. There is something very satisfying about opening a reconciliation and immediately knowing where the data is sourced from and, therefore, where to go next if troubleshooting is required. Creating unique Formats allows Administrators to deliver an unrivaled, tailored experience.
[Screenshot 1b: By having unique Formats per data source, the reconciliation experience can be tailored to provide end-users with seemingly seamless integration across the various systems]
[Screenshot 1c: Of note, the generic “Source System” and “Subsystem” labels can be customized on a per Format basis to give end-users a more familiar and approachable application that feels relevant to their specific company]
This benefit compounds when a company has many data integrations across multiple reconciliation types, especially when considering reconciliations beyond the general ledger. Take the example below: a sample from an application proof-of-concept for reconciling data from Oracle Profitability & Cost Management. Imagine if instead of identifying where the data is coming from within the allocation process, this reconciliation read “Source System” and “Subsystem.” It would be nonsensical to the end-user and troublesome to dig into. Focusing on flexibility in Format design creates a more nuanced application. Furthermore, it is practically a requirement when companies begin to fully utilize Account Reconciliation Cloud as a comprehensive reconciliation solution across multiple business processes.
[Screenshot 1d: When a company begins to add reconciliations outside the general ledger to its comprehensive application solution, flexibility in Format design is critical to success]
Sometimes the “KISS” method proves to be the best approach – Keep It Simple…Smartie! In this situation, a Format is only created when necessary. This typically leads to a unique Format for each reconciliation Method – Balance Comparison, Account Analysis, and one for each applicable frequency in Variance Analysis. Any differences in how the reconciliation should be prepared are pushed to the Profile level, notably Custom Attributes and Rules.
[Screenshot 2: Simplifying the Format inventory will, in general, lead to the creation of one Format per reconciliation Method needed in the application]
Both the benefits and drawbacks to this approach have largely been discussed already. The downside is that the display settings and, therefore, the end-user experience needs to be more generic in order to fit a range of reconciliation types. In this situation, using labels like “General Ledger Balance” and “Subsystem/Subledger Balance” are required for the Format to be a one-size-fits-all rather than custom tailored. Additionally, since each Profile is uniquely maintained rather than inheriting properties from the Format-level, standardizing business processes becomes more important to ensure that reconciliations are set up correctly.
The gains, however, are noteworthy. Profile maintenance can be either centralized or decentralized, depending on to what degree a company wants to empower its Power Users. Additionally, this maintenance is more straightforward as Profile updates can be made offline in Excel as opposed to making manual changes to Formats within the UI. Most importantly, this type of setup is generally cheaper from a project standpoint as there are fewer artifacts that require manual setup and go-forward maintenance.
Camp Simplicity is focused on reducing customization and maximizing on out-of-the-box functionality. This is not to say that applications designed in this manner do not have streamlined rules, quality control measures, and provide a sound end-user experience – they certainly can deliver on all three of these. However, the approach requires stricter business processes for maintaining the application rather than creating the “checks” from an application standpoint.
So, really though…WHAT NOW?
I have implemented both of these methodologies with positive, referenceable results – feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more specific information to your situation. The decision should stem from a combination of scope for the current project phase, the budget for implementation and on-going maintenance, and the balance between flexibility and simplicity. Sound Format design already plays a crucial role in successful application setups, and it is reasonable to expect this importance to increase as Oracle continues to stuff this tool with client-requested features. Designing the reconciliation process to be efficient and effective requires an understanding of what is available today and what is possible tomorrow.
So be clever and creative; there’s never been a better time to innovate.
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Product Manager - Financial Close & Consolidations