Part 4: Audit Trails – Why You Need Metadata

Meta What? Metadata is What

Audit Trails – Why You Need Metadata

What exactly is metadata?

Metadata is simply some data that acts as a means of describing some other data.

Is this important in the context of building an audit trail?

Why Metadata is Important

Metadata is extremely important when it comes to building an audit trail; let me explain by way of an example…

We have an audit requirement to capture change for all supplier bank accounts. We use our audit tool to define an audit policy that captures inserts, updates, and deletes on the table in the database that stores supplier bank accounts. Now, whenever a supplier bank account is created, changed or removed, we have a record of it in our audit trail.

Great! We are done, right?

Not quite.

Data Referencing Data

Oracle EBS is a very large and complex suite of enterprise applications with 10’s of thousands of underlying tables where the data is stored. As with all well designed relational databases, Oracle EBS has been extensively normalized to reduce data redundancy and improve data integrity.

What this means is that much of the data in a given table is simply a reference to some data in another table.

For example, on our supplier bank account table, there is no supplier name or bank name but instead, there are just some internal ID’s that reference this information elsewhere.

Here is a simple example of a supplier bank account row (this is not how the supplier bank account table looks in EBS)…

ColumnDescription
Bank Account IDA unique ID given to each supplier bank account row
Bank Account NumberThe bank account number
Supplier IDThe internal ID of the supplier
Bank IDThe internal ID of the bank

If a bank account was created for supplier ACME Corp at Big Bucks Bank then we might have a row inserted into the supplier bank account table that looks like this…

ColumnDescription
Bank Account ID56546
Bank Account Number12345678
Supplier ID15010
Bank ID2396

Now imagine you are looking back at the above data in the audit trail, sure you can see that a new account was created but it shows the supplier as 15010 and the bank as 2396; not very helpful; in fact, close to useless really.

Metadata to the Rescue

What is needed here is metadata.

In our example, instead of seeing the internal ID’s for supplier and bank what we really need to see if the supplier name and bank name. This is achieved by looking on the supplier and bank tables to pull in this information when needed.

So here is how our example might look once we bring the metadata into the picture…

ColumnDescription
Bank Account ID56546
Bank Account Number12345678
Supplier NameACME Corp
Bank NameBig Bucks Bank

Much better!

Capture Metadata at the Right Time

Some audit solutions will pull in this information at the time you “report on the audit trail” and whilst this will, for the most part, be good enough, it is not the best approach to take because between the time the change was captured in the audit trail and the time you report on the audit trail, something may have changed, i.e. the supplier or bank name may have changed.

So, the best solution is to ensure that the appropriate metadata is pulled into the audit trail at the time that the audit trail entry is stored.

Can your audit solution do this?

Ours can.

Want to know how we can help you build an effective, fine-grained, metadata-driven audit trail for Oracle EBS? Get in touch today and ask us about CS*Audit.

Next Time & Early Access

The final article in this series is “Audit Trails – Its all in the reporting“.

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CaoSys
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2 Comments
  • Oana Luerean
    Posted at 13:13h, 22 August Reply

    Can this be used to track any type of change? Like changes on a specific Profile Option for a specific Responsibility?

    • CaoSys
      Posted at 20:15h, 23 August Reply

      Yes, you can track pretty much any change you want (as it relates to “data” changes within the Oracle EBS database); tracking things like Profile Options and Responsibilities is something that most users of our solutions do.

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