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About Stephen

Stephen W Allen

Born June 1951, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. Educated Clark's College, Finchley, London (1962-1967), Hendon County Grammar School, London (1967-1970), University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1970-72), Polytechnic of the South Bank (1984-86).

Career

  • MAFF (Policy administration and Internal Audit) - now re-constituted and re-named as DEFRA
  • Home Office (Internal Audit)
  • HMSO (Internal Audit and Systems/Business Development) - now privatised as The Stationery Office
  • ACBA (UK) LTD (Contract audit, consultancy and MS Excel systems development)

In 1995, I took 'early retirement' from HMSO and spent 3 years as an HGV 1 driver. This led directly to the development of the ACBA Traffic Diary and, subsequently, its sister program the ACBA Accounting Daybook in Excel. These 2 packages were built to customer specifications and were successful in their own right. In fact the ACBA Accounting Daybook continues as the accounting/financial control package employed by ACBA (UK) LTD.

However, although Excel is hugely flexible and can cope with this kind of package development, the new generation of databases were undoubtedly more suited to systems where control of user input and protection of data integrity are of paramount importance. The company redirected its focus on the development of products for use in audit and analytical business enterprises.

The first ACBA audit package (Random Sampling) was developed to meet a gap in the market. Whereas it was easy to take random samples of transaction lists held in electronic form, there was nothing that aided the random selection of samples from lists held on paper. The conventional practice of selecting every nth transaction on every nth page does not meet the requirements of a truly random sample and can be too easily manipulated by the person undertaking the selection. ACBA Random Sampling both records details of the basic sources of your transaction data and creates an entirely random selection - reporting the items selected and their position in the transaction data source. It is protected from any allegation of bias.

The subsequent development of ACBA Electronic Working Papers (ACBA-EWP) was expected initially to be the primary preserve of small to medium audit functions as a work recording and reporting tool. However, the emphasis on indexing, generating effective control over templates and creating linkages between large numbers of worksheets in an Excel workbook has lead, potentially, to a completely revised approach to the control and design of spreadsheet systems.

The analysis of data and data modelling represent the core functionality of spreadsheets. Mostly Excel provides excellent tools for working with such data, but it is not so good a recording a clear pathway of either the method of development of a model or the range and logic of analyses undertaken on a particular set of data. ACBA Tool's primary function is to automatically generate audit trails for model development or data analysis within Excel. The package additionally contains an excellent range of worksheet functions for extracting numbers from and comparing numbers within text strings. ACBA Tools has been shown to be particularly effective for the identification of rogue transactions across systems interfaces.

While computer and communications engineering continues to develop at an extraordinary pace, many enterprises in Great Britain (particularly local authorities) still use software packages based (in computing terms) on old technology. These packages are often relatively cheap but retain powerful user interfaces. Their drawback is often gaining access to the behind the scenes database in a form that allows the user to extract useful information. Over recent years the company has directed much effort to the import of data from various sources (PDF files, word processing documents, raw systems output, report writer output, large text files and HTML files) and its conversion into analysable form within Excel. In line with its developmental ethos ACBA (UK) LTD provides a number of tools have been created to help these conversion processes.

Hobbies and Interests

Last updated 10 October 2016

 

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