Top 3 Most Impactful Changes to Account Reconciliations in 2020

Published February 9 2021
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2020 was…different to say the least. With a (forced) accelerated shift to working from home, onsite implementation projects were brought online, conferences were held completely remotely, and I now have an under-desk elliptical. Dramatic changes, to be sure.

But with *that* year in the rearview mirror, it’s worth taking a glance back to appreciate the changes that took place for Oracle’s Account Reconciliation Cloud – what they were, what they mean, and where I think the product is going. I had quite a list to choose from, as there was certainly no shortage of improvements to the Cloud application last year; but, three key updates stood above the rest. As a quick caveat, these are not necessarily my favorite changes - but they are my top three picks for what I believe are the Most Impactful differentiators for customers in 2021 and beyond:

3.  Alerts (Patch 2009)

No need to re-invent the wheel! The “new” Alerts functionality released September 2020 clinches the #3 spot on this list, edging out the Honorable Mentions (listed at the end). Alerts borrow from the tried-and-true formula that already existed in Financial Close & Consolidation’s (FCCS) Task Manager. While it was no surprise to see this crossover happen given that the on-premises predecessors of both solutions (i.e., Account Reconciliation Manager [ARM] and Financial Close Manager [FCM]) shared a similar setup and aesthetic - albeit with different business process focuses – it was still a welcome addition to Account Reconciliation’s toolbelt.

Alerts are primarily used to, well, raise the proverbial red flag. They serve to create an actionable warning where there is cause for concern. This could be on a specific adjustment, a reconciliation as a whole, or even on other alerts.

Now, creating this type of warning system within Account Reconciliations is not a new idea. Clients historically had various Commentary threads, Action Plans, and Custom Attributes available to them to put an escalation process in place, in addition to the standard Reviewer role available. But beyond simply being a cleaner, more consolidated way to capture this information (which Alerts very much are), this new configurable artifact puts the power in the hands of the end-users – something I am typically a fan of when it comes to reconciliations – with it’s flexible Assignee designation (i.e. assigning someone within Oracle Cloud who may not typically be assigned to the reconciliation) and determining the impact on the process (i.e. preventing or not preventing the reconciliation from moving forward depending on the issue). In short, Alerts provide out-of-the-box functionality that previously required a fully customized approach to achieve the same results, earning it the third-place finish.

2.  Enhanced Search (Patch 2011 & 2012)

For those of you who may not love building BI Publisher reports – rejoice! Oracle has heard your plea. The runner-up spot on this list is the highly anticipated Enhanced Search functionality released in November 2020. This addition is a game changer in gaining visibility to the granularity within the Transaction Matching feature set, without the overhead of customized reporting. It takes the familiar look-and-feel of filtering and sorting within the Reconciliations and Profiles cards and applies it to the lowest level of detail that can exist within Account Reconciliations – individual transactions within a Match Type’s Data Source.

While this functionality already existed for Unmatched Transactions – albeit only when within a specific Match Type - this new feature’s big win is bringing Confirmed and Suggested matches into the familiar interface. For clients who lie awake at night pondering how many items make up your suspense clearing account balance, well, (1) go to bed because (2) that answer is now a lot easier to find [side note: the maximum number of transactions that can be displayed as of this writing is 5000].

Patch 2012 puts the icing on the cake by providing the ability to export to Excel. Now you do not have to ponder these questions alone – you can share with auditors outside the system…and save on EPM Cloud licenses (wait, can I say that?!).

Now I have to admit that when I set out to pull together this list, I thought Enhanced Search would handily take the #1 spot. But even though I ❤️ this functionality, I have to give the winner of Most Impactful Change of 2020 in Account Reconciliations to…

1. Data Exchange (Patch 2005)

Let me get the caveat out of the way: this is a controversial pick. “But Nick, Data Exchange doesn’t provide new reconciliation functionality! Nor is it even exclusive to Account Reconciliations!”, I hear you rioting in the Comment section (…or in your heads, as you lot seem to be a quiet bunch). And these are good points. However, considering the importance of the data integration build - especially for Account Reconciliation – this patch change indicates a shift in Oracle’s focus and lays the groundwork for better accessibility to a previously specialized expertise.

Data Exchange is Oracle’s vision for Cloud Data Management (CDM). Imagine if CDM was no longer a separate browser window floating in the abyss of your laptop’s real estate but an actual integrated solution – with its own card and eye-catching interface. Well, as of May 2020, you do not have to imagine – it’s sitting out there waiting for you to play around in the sandbox.

According to Oracle Product Management, all the new stuff for data integrations is coming through Data Exchange – not CDM. And, thus far, Oracle has stuck to it with enhancements to the other applications in the EPM Cloud buffet (i.e. CDM instances in Close & Consolidation, Planning & Budgeting, etc.). Now, not to hand the mob their pitchforks, but a criticism for Data Exchange showing up on this particular list - which is focused on Account Reconciliations - is that none of the new stuff released in 2020 directly applied to how data is loaded to and engaged within our favorite reconciliation platform. And to you, I say…a fair point.

BUT! As I’ve talked about in the past – notably in Key Concepts to ARCS Application Design and Modularity in ARCS Series: New Scope - data integrations constitute a substantial proportional project cost relative to other EPM Cloud implementations, up to 50% of your project budget in some cases. That’s a lot! Furthermore, with larger and larger data volumes pumping in through Account Reconciliations – be it for daily sign-offs, allocation reconciliations, intercompany matching, ground-to-cloud validations, or operational activities – all eyes are on Data Exchange to see how Oracle will answer the challenge, granting its introduction the #1 spot as the Most Impactful change in 2020 to Account Reconciliations.

Honorable Mentions

There was other great functionality that came out in 2020; some, frankly, that I personally liked/appreciated more than the ones on the list. But even though I do not think these made the Top 3, the Honorable Mentions below certainly opened up new options for customers and deserve some love. So, in no particular order, the following were my contenders for the top spots:

  • Improvements to Periods (Patch 2007)
  • Improvements to Handling of TM supporting detail (Patch 2008)
  • Split an Unmatched Transaction (Patch 2006)
  • Pull Closing Statement Balances from BAI (Patch 2003)

Final Thoughts

Well, that wraps-up my 2020 look-back. Thanks for reading this far! I had a lot of fun putting this list together and reminiscing about how different the Account Reconciliation application was a year ago. It’s surprisingly difficult to remember not having these great changes, so I found this to be a helpful exercise in appreciation.

Agree or disagree with my picks?  Let us know!

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