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REVIEW: Engagement Software 2015

Engagement software is no longer only for those that perform audits. And firms are demanding that our software tools work the way we work versus to the publishers want to build software. We are all looking for work flow management not a piece of software that is to be used alone. We need software companies to make pieces of software that not only work well with their pieces but also work well with other software.

Workflow is huge for our industry. Each accounting firm is different. We may offer similar services but maybe we serve a particular industry or niche. Engagement software is now part of the workflow, not just an audit program. As this is the case, we only reviewed two programs from two major players that looked at the software from a different perspective. Each company has a long history of providing excellent software to CPAs and accountants. The difference is going to be in your personal preferences.

Typically technology is a big part of the software reviews. The big talk in most articles is about the latest and greatest technology and how working in the cloud is the best for all firms. And typically I would agree.

However, there are limitations and frustrations that go along with technology. For example, with engagement software, you are more likely to be using the software at a client's office. If your staff are going out to a client's office they will need to access the internet. Do you ask to your client to allow you to access their internet connection or do you try to use a secure MIFI option? These are real issues we face. And now for the review of the following products: Workpapers CS from Thomson Reuters and ProSystem fx Engagement from Wolters Kluwer, CCH.


Workpapers CS
Thomson Reuters
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968-8900
http://cs.thomson reuters.com
Price: Starts at $1,500 for a bundle of four seats

Workpapers CS
With Workpapers CS, Thomson decided to provide a program that was more tax-based than audit-based. Besides offering tools needed to conduct the audit, Thomson focused on output. Once the audit is done, you are more likely to then move to preparing taxes and the software does this seamlessly.

The application can import account balances from other general ledger programs. Unlike Working Papers, there are not as many specific general ledger links; there is a QuickBooks import or a general import or a spreadsheet import. If you have been using Accounting CS you will have the balances in the program.

Among other notable features is the ability to process all types of live workpapers and link balances to the trial balance and to share workpapers, comments and instructions with staff in real time. The system also accommodates a variety of document types including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Adobe Acrobat

Workpapers CS simplifies organization, assignment and routing of workpapers with a simple, sophisticated binder system. It manages workpapers easily with a convenient tree structure that offers dynamic folder, subfolders, signoff notations, review notes and a recycle bin.

Users can get real-time, dynamically updated work status and information with active dashboard portlets and can simultaneously view balances and workpapers, reports, because of the support for multiple monitors. Word and Microsoft can be linked to the trial balance to provide real-time, dynamic balance updates for spreadsheets and financial statements. Engagements can also be expedited through rollforward (proforma) of prior-year workpapers with automated retrieval of current-year balances. You can add multiple workpapers simultaneously via the Workpaper Wizard and create a bookmarked PDF of an engagement binder and send it to FileCabinet CS or to a location on a local computer

One of the biggest features that Thomson touts is the ability to use its Source Document Processing, an optional, fee-based service that makes it easy to integrate paper source documents into an automated tax workflow. It automatically organizes and labels scanned source documents, and can even transmit data from those documents into UltraTax CS. This service offers firms a workflow strategy that can save significant time, money and staff resources, and substantially reduce 1040 tax preparation time and costs.

The nice thing about using Workpapers CS is that if you are already using Accounting CS you can export data to Excel and make adjustments there. Moreover, you can save changes and continue to use them.

This is a very robust product that has many features that make your life easier. One downside is that while you can complete your engagement binder and then save to FileCabinet Solutions, you have to download your current documents from FCS and upload in the binder to get the documents you have already added to FCS.

However, workpapers is the easiest product in the Thomson suite to use and get up and running. Further, once you have completed the binder the information can flow right into Ultra Tax. If you don't use Ultra Tax, you can export information to most tax programs.

This product is worth taking a look at it especially if you already use other Thomson Reuters products. Even if you don't, there are many features that help increase your productivity and make it worth the time to investigate.


ProSystem fx Engagement and Trial Balance
Wolters Kluwer, CCH
Riverwoods, Ill.
(800) 739-9998
Price: Initial purchase of Engagement starting $2,025 (one license);

CCH ProSystem fx Engagement
Wolters Kluwer CCH has an extremely extensive and robust program with ProSystem fx Engagement. One of my favorite featured is its ability to integrate it with the company's Knowledge Coach, designed to help with processes and procedures, making sure you do not miss anything in an audit.

Engagement has the look of a Microsoft application, which makes it very easy to learn. In addition, the software has real-time analytics and comes with a stethoscope icon that can be utilized to access diagnostics.

Combined with other CCH ProSystem products, Engagement is part of a total solution that streamlines workflow in ways you never thought possible. ProSystem fx Tax and Engagement work together to share financial data, which updates automatically when changes are made in either program.

Using Knowledge Coach with Engagement assures guidance throughout your entire audit from planning to completion, driving dramatic improvements in efficiency, accuracy and compliance. Adding in CCH Accounting Research Manager and IntelliConnect provides quick and direct answers to your research questions when you need them; Integrating Document lets you send files back and forth with Engagement; and setting up CCH Axcess Portal means you can share Engagement workpaper files with your clients from your website.

Among the newest features is the ability to use the program for government and non-profit audits. The company done a great job to allow firms the ability to use the product versus having to learn a new program for fund accounting clients.

ProSystem fx Engagement provides smaller firms the tools they need to compete with large firms. It enables firms to gather, synchronize and store all client information in a central location for easy access.

With its links to Tax and Portal, Engagement streamlines the return preparation process while ensuring highly-competent work. For example, when a new client comes to the firm, their data is scanned and a designated electronic binder is created, which serves as the repository for all backup, work, correspondence and billing records. Using dual monitors, the firm runs Engagement on one screen and Tax on the other, enabling faster and more accurate data entry.

In addition, the application takes advantage of Engagement's QuickBooks and Microsoft Excel integration, enabling the firm to import data and make the necessary adjustments directly from the client's financial records, saving time and ensuring consistency. In addition, the roll-forward feature saves firms data-entry time and enables preparers to compare different years quickly and easily.

Once the client's data is imported or entered in engagement, the firm completes client returns in ProSystem fx Tax, which provides the industry's most comprehensive tax preparation and diagnostic solution. ProSystem fx Tax verifies work and tests for omissions and inconsistencies. The firm then electronically files completed returns for clients and pushes the work back into Engagement, where it is immediately placed in the appropriate online Engagement binder. From there, the completed return is uploaded to ProSystem fx Portal, where clients can access it safely and securely for signatures and approvals.

And all billing is automatically pushed through ProSystem fx Practice and the firm uploads all invoices to Portal as well, accelerating the billing and payment process.

This is a great solution for small and large firms alike. The product is solid and well thought out. It is worth taking a look at this product to see if it would meet your needs. You won't be disappointed!

Julie Lepper, EA

Julie S. Lepper, EA, MBA is the Principal of Julie S. Lepper, Accounting & Tax Service, LLC, a small local accounting firm in Pinckney, MI. She earned her Master's of Business from Eastern Michigan University and her Bachelor's of Accountancy from Walsh College in Michigan. Julie has over 16 years in consulting with client not only accounting and tax issues , but also on software and sales engagements. She specializes in focusing on start-up businesses and small to medium client needs.

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