Guardrails (INSIGHT v16.166)
posted 2018.02.24 by Clark Wilkins, Simplexable

Inspired by the season of tax preparation, we've just released a set of new tools and analytics we call the “Guardrails” project. The idea is to help INSIGHT users avoid a variety of data issues that arise when users set up expenses incorrectly. The areas we focused on are:

Account code types

What types of posting accounts make sense for this type of expense? Do we want to avoid ever posting expenses of type X into account Y? For example, you might institute an expense type “Office Supplies”. It's improbable that this would ever be used on a job, so we could install a guardrail rule that it should post only post to overhead accounts. Conversely, you might have a rule that says while “Meals” could flow into several different account types, it would never be allowed to post into an Inventory/Other Assets account.

Specific account restrictions

While the first set specifically includes or excludes groups of accounts (by type), we added a second filter that excludes a specific account such as Overhead. This is particularly useful when combined with job required (below), so you can say “Job Supplies” must always be on a job and never post to your overhead account.

Job required (yes/no)

Some expense types are improbable in the context of a job — “Office Supplies” for example. You can set a guardrail up to avoid this error.

Amount limits

Where desired, you can flag expenses where the amount exceeds an allowable range.

Edge cases and overrides

Some rules shouldn't be absolutes, so we allow for the exceptions. When setting up a rule, you can allow overrides. Where this is deployed, the user can override the rule, but they're required to say why, and the override is shown in the expense detail view. There are many rules where you can declare an absolute, but if there's room for exceptions, allow for it. This is a flexible system.

Reporting and analysis

The expense testing module now checks all expenses in a selected year against these rules. We did this because, while you can institute a guardrail, it's not retroactive. This analytic was expanded to help you locate and correct previously created expenses which violate your corporate norms or standard accounting practices.

If you find a guardrail rule is throwing a lot of flags in this analytic, you may want to reconsider the rule. It's possible that the rule is overly restrictive, but, on the other hand, you may have revealed a deeper misunderstanding that needs to be remedied through user training.