IDEA and ACL are computer-aided auditing solutions designed for data extraction and analysis. IDEA, short for Interactive Data Extraction and Analysis, is a product of CaseWare. ACL, which stands for Audit Command Language, is a product of ACL Services Ltd. Though they are designed with similar functionality and target markets in mind, features vary slightly between IDEA and ACL.
ACL and IDEA differ very little in terms of overall functional features. Both scan and profile data, allowing you to analyze, summarize and compare things like financial and business transactions in an attempt to identify and reduce risk. ACL and IDEA also both allow you to archive and retain financial transactions, establish relational tables, set up continuous controls monitoring, edit equations for data collection and analysis and detect fraud.
Both companies offer a variety of different packages tailored for specific tasks. ACL AuditExchange is a business-assurance platform tailored for managing data security, for example. IDEA has a similar product called Examiner.
Because of its prevalence in the spreadsheet-software market, compatibility with Microsoft’s Excel software is important when comparing the features of computer-aided auditing solutions like IDEA and ACL. Prior to 2009, IDEA had closer integration with Excel, with superior exporting and importing capabilities. Recent versions of ACL have closed that gap, however. ACL now has its own set of add-ons that allow closer integration with Excel, including products like ACL Acerno, which lets you use Excel itself to examine ACL analytics results.
ACL is far more commonly used that IDEA. As a result, it has a broader community knowledge and support base. According to a 2009 article published in “Internal Audit,” ACL is the most commonly employed data-extraction and fraud-detection solution among auditing professionals. It is used by 89 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 98 of the 100 members of the Fortune 100, as of February 2012. ACL also has a more than 14,500 local user groups in 150 countries around the world, a feature that allows both for better networking among audit professionals and for more in-depth and personal training.
Both companies allow you to download and test trial versions of their products. Pricing for full licensing varies from product to product. Neither company lists current pricing online, as packages vary depending on desired features and scale of implementation. In general, ACL is slightly more expensive than IDEA.