Something similar is happening in workflow, where among the "best of breed" and "award-winning" designations it is easy to overlook the basic things a workflow manager should do well. Here's a brief list of must-have attributes:
• It must be cloud-based. Sure, there is a legacy market for PC-based software, but not much of one. The best software advances the state of the art, not the status quo.
• The workflow manager must integrate with the widest range of accounting, audit and business applications. This should include not only the manufacturer's own software but Microsoft Office as well.
• Collaboration tools. This includes not only collaboration within the accounting firm, but a secure client communication system or portal as well.
• A complete multi-workflow dashboard. This must include a status indicator for each task, staff assignments, next steps in the flow, and the ability to re-assign resources and staff on the fly. It also must be capable of managing multiple work streams for each project or client.
• A robust reporting system. A workflow manager is of little value if it cannot be easily and simply reported out to management and the client.
• It must automate as many manual or repetitive processes as possible.
The eight workflow management systems presented for 2015 will help to drain the manual workflow swamp for any accounting or tax firm.
CCH Axcess Workstream
Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting US
Price: Starts at $255 per user, per year.
CCH Axcess Workstream
CCH Axcess Workstream, a module in CCH Axcess platform, is designed to be at the center of a firm in motion and accessible anytime/anywhere in the cloud. It provides a full-featured project management solution that streamlines administrative tasks that include due date tracking, milestones and monitoring of the project status.
Introduced in 2013, Axcess incorporates modules for tax preparation and filing; document management; a secure client portal for collaboration; and a practice management system to handle firm operations, in addition to the Workstream module. The module features a centralized database and common services to enhance firm productivity by eliminating redundant data entry and processes,
Master templates can be tailored to different types of work, so projects and processes can be customized to the needs of each client. A management dashboard provides instant notifications and up-to-date project information as well as powerful, flexible reporting. A new mobile application enables accountants to view client information, contacts, notes, A/R balances, payments and invoices, with plans to add project information for Workstream in the future.
Recent enhancements Workstream include the ability to reorder project "worksteps," the tasks that allow staff members to be assigned in advance to each sub-task. The system can also send notifications of next steps in the project and budget on a more granular level and automatic updates to statuses and milestones. This workstep utility re-orders up to 100 steps at a time for the entire template—useful in cases where a master template changes.
Las Vegas, Nev.
(888) 693-6248 (Ext 1)
Price: Doc.It Suite, which includes Workflow, starts at $35 per month, per user, plus a one-time $150 per user license fee. Required fees for initial and training vary with the size of the firm.
Doc.It Workflow, a module of the Doc-It Suite, tracks the status of any tax or accounting engagement as soon as documents stream into the firm from any source, then continues through the processing of work to the engagement's completion.
A cloud and mobile-enabled application, the suite combines document management with workflow management in a single, integrated system built around Work Binders for each client or engagement. It is available as an on-premises cloud, a hosted cloud, or a hybrid of the two.
The software enables accountants to instantly view the status of all active projects and see the status of all projects for any Work Binder. As tasks are completed, project status is changed to allow professionals to more effectively manage assignments and activities for themselves and their staff.
Doc.It Workflow continues through the completion of a client engagement and the delivery of documents to the client. When an engagement is complete, the suite is used to lock down a dynamic engagement binder and all documents supporting the work by publishing them to PDF and moving this into the Doc.It Archive for storage. The resulting fully-bookmarked, searchable PDF retains its integrity over time, is easily shared, and simple to access independent of the applications used to create the original document. Documents stored in Archive are easily and instantly delivered to a client using Doc.It's integrated Web Portal or by email.
Drake Tax Workflow
Price: Drake Software full package, $1,495.
Drake Document Manager
Drake Software's tax system provides two levels of workflow support for the tax return process. The first, integrated into the tax software, utilizes the capabilities of its Drake Document Manager and Client Status Manager. The second is integration with GruntWorx, the secure, Web-based application that automates the time-consuming tasks of organizing and populating client tax data into tax preparation software. The company says this integration enables tax preparers to save up to 40 percent of the time typically spent in data entry.
DDM, an electronic storage solution for client source documents and returns, enables tax professionals to create, organize and find documents, without needing a paper copy. Modeled after a physical filing system using filing cabinets, drawers and folders to organize documents. A major feature of the DDM is integration with the "Scenario management" capability through the archive feature, allowing preparers to run multiple tax scenarios for a taxpayer, with the original return always available.
Within the Drake Tax software, the Client Status Manager enables a tax office to organize, view and search client files; follow workflow and manage productivity with on-screen tracking and reporting; and track return details from preparer efficiency to billing revenue. Within the software's interactive home window is a Multi-Office Manager that tracks workflow of multiple offices, providing a snapshot of the entire business. Reports and statistics on demographics, return status, return type, bank products, payments, fees and billing information are available.
Price: Starting at $5 per token. See complete pricing details at www.gruntworx.com/products/pricing/.
GruntWorx is a secure, web-based application that automates the tasks of organizing and typing a client's tax data into the applicable tax preparation software, managing the tax workflow process from initial data entry to tax return archiving.
GruntWorx Organize identifies, organizes, and labels the scanned tax forms into a PDF file—no longer requiring time to sort paper, make copies for a file or search for a document. This integration enables tax preparers to save up to 40 percent of the time typically spent in sorting, organizing and locating source documents, and in data entry. Each file is bookmarked with the document issuer's name and file type—eliminating the time-consuming task of manually identifying and sorting client documents before scanning.
GruntWorx Populate extracts data from the bookmarked documents and imports the data into many leading tax preparation software packages, enabling preparers to spend more time reviewing the return rather than on data entry. Working in conjunction with Organize or Populate, GruntWorx Trades converts trade details on scanned 1099 Consolidated Brokerage Statements into a standard Excel spreadsheet file for easy manipulation and import of trade details.
Intuit Tax Online
Price: Individual returns (everything included), less than $9 each when purchasing 100 returns. Business returns, less than $22 each when purchasing 25 to 49 returns.
Intuit Tax Online
Intuit says Intuit Tax Online is designed to help tax professionals prepare and e-file returns up to 25 percent faster with its innovative data entry and review processes. Tax professionals benefit from reduced IT costs and the application's Mac compatibility.
The software has a robust tax engine that supports over 5,600 forms and advanced comprehensive diagnostics. Key timesaving features include Intuit Link, a portal that saves tax professionals 30 percent of their time collecting data by simplifying and speeding up client collaboration (Based on standard tax season and cumulative time savings achievable with Intuit Link's electronic data and document collection versus manual tax checklist; Intuit Tax Online 2014 data); mobile access to client data and e-File status (available on both iOS and Android); W-2 import; customizable dashboards; Schedule D import; and eSignature support for Form 8879.
GoFileRoom with Firmflow
Price: Starts at $3,950 per year.
GoFileRoom with Firmflow
GoFileRoom was created as a world-class, highly integrated online application that reduces turnaround times and allows administrative employees to perform more tasks. It standardizes any business process through automated routing functionality, real-time tracking, custom reporting features, and more. Advanced workflow management features the ability to apply optimal staff and resources to a project, and to adjust workloads as needed. Firmflow enables accountants to monitor activity from start to finish and experience lower operating costs, improved efficiency, and enhanced client service.
Firmflow's paperless digital processing manages business engagements that include tax, audit, consulting, financial services and litigation support, among others. Under Firmflow, each engagement is assigned a unique workflow, and a virtual folder maintains review notes, routing history, engagement checklists and direct access to all documents used or created in the process.
Major features include productivity increases through elimination of physical movement of work and documents; enhanced staff and client collaboration using categorized notes; the ability to filer the list of workflows to show future steps and routing assignments; integration with an existing client database, as well as GoFileRoom and Microsoft Office, to digitally manage documents and client files; and the ability to create custom reports for each user.
Price: $425 per user (annual subscription); low fixed fee monthly/quarterly pricing available for small firms
XCM Solutions has released the 2015 version of its flagship workflow automation software and integrated scheduling module. An intuitive, cloud-based application, XCM automates and standardizes processes for completing work throughout the firm and in all departments, including audit, tax, consulting and human resources. The system is the only standalone work-management solution for the entire firm, and was selected by the AICPA as its preferred provider for firm-wide workflow solutions.
The redesigned XCM workflow and scheduling solutions feature a streamlined interface that puts the most critical work management tools at the accountants' fingertips. Features like Quick and Advanced Search capabilities, My Reports and interactive dashboards give users instant access to data and insights they rely on most, such as due date summaries, average turn-around time, and yearly comparison reports. Slide menus combined with more comprehensive screen views provide the ability to navigate to exactly the information needed in real-time with one click, saving time and offering the flexibility to digitally store, print or export to Excel all the information related to a job.
In addition to a more intuitive design, the new release delivers more powerful functionality including site-wide capabilities, like in-line editing and drag and drop, to further improve usability. It also delivers greater customization and optimized controls to make managing processes in all departments across the firm easier and more efficient. A new action bar is designed to give users more power in managing processes and manipulating the large volume of tracking, due date, and management data produced by partners and staff moving work through automated processes in the XCM software.
Office Tools WorkSpace
Price: Small office pricing, $600 per year (single concurrent user); mid-size office pricing $2,900 per year (10 concurrent users); large offices, $9,500 per year (40 concurrent users). Includes all software updates, basic online and phone support and online user guides.
Office Tools WorkSpace
Office Tools Workspace is an integrated application for document storage, workflow tracking, practice management, and client appointment management. Its combined capabilities include contact management, calendaring, collaboration and task delegation, expense and billing, and tickle file.
The application integrates with Word, Excel and Outlook, as well as addition to popular mapping programs. Reports can be exported directly to Word, Excel and all common formats. A new Office add-On tool bar saves Office files directly into Practice Management. Firms can also create time cards for payroll or billing inside of Microsoft Office and an Adobe add-in enables printing or saving of any file in PDF format.
New for 2015 is an improved client portal with three new integrated functions: Schedule Availability and Booking; Client Intake/Check-in System; and On-line time entry for staff. Other key features include contact synchronization from virtually any tax or accounting application, and direct synchronization with QuickBooks, Intuit Demandforce, Outlook and Mobile Devices. Recent enhancements include enhanced billing and reporting, faster operations, drag-and-drop document management, and better integration with the system's Client Portal.