Laurie McNicoll: Soaring to New Heights

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Even when so many resellers are concentrating resources on a single back-office product line, Laurie McNicoll prefers to paint with a wider brush. “If you stick with one or two products, you limit yourself,” she explains.

In keeping with that philosophy, Appleton, Wis.-based Schenck Business Solutions partners with Best Software (Peachtree, BusinessWorks, and MAS 90/200/500), Microsoft Business Solutions (Great Plains Edition), Exact Software (Macola-ES), Intuit (QuickBooks), and Syspro. There are also offerings for document management, business intelligence and data warehousing, and e-business development.

“We used to think that having fewer products was better, primarily because of the cost of training on multiple products. However, as the skill level of our consultants has increased, they can now be trained on multiple products” with relative ease, notes McNicoll, leader of the Schenck Technology Solutions business unit.

Partner Insights

Not that Schenck can’t develop a laser focus when the situation calls for it. A case in point: its internally developed Soaring application.

Using Java and IBM’s Websphere platform, Soaring (Smart Online Access to Records IN Government) provides browser-based access to information such as land records and property tax payments. The package is designed to create a “virtual courthouse” of government data, making it more convenient for constituents to locate the information they need.

“There is a big drive in the government area to get information to the public,” says McNicoll. “Soaring can eliminate the need for additional [local governmental] staff,” while permitting existing staff to spend less time on providing fairly routine information and more time on strategic issues, suggests McNicoll.

The Land Records/Real Estate module provides access to real estate and property records, including associated documents such as deeds, mortgages, and land contracts. Users may view any documents online that have been filed, indexed, and imaged. A second module, Property Tax, shows current status information indicating if taxes are due. In addition, customers can even pay their tax online, saving the government added paperwork and time.

With both modules, the government body can decide on the billing structure for the data being provided. Soaring costs approximately $10,000 to $20,000. Schenck currently has four counties in Wisconsin using both modules. Planning & Zoning and Park & Recreation modules are currently under development.

Schenck Technology Solutions is setting its marketing sights nationwide. Meanwhile, the umbrella firm Schenck Business Solutions, continues on its own growth path from a sole proprietorship founded in 1930 to an accounting juggernaut with 57 shareholders, over six hundred employees, and twelve locations throughout Wisonsin.

McNicoll, a graduate of Lakeland College with a degree in accounting and business, has been with Schenck for six years, and leader of the technology practice for two years. She directs a team of more than 40 professionals throughout Wisconsin.

Schenk’s client base encompasses companies in manufacturing, wholesale distribution, construction, real estate, government, and the not for profit area. McNicoll says there are strong synergies between the accounting and technology practices. “We refer business back and forth, and really work together to provide all the components to have a successful client,” she comments.

In the Group T Fold

Schenck Technology Solutions is also a member of the Information Technology Alliance’s Group T, a collective of accounting software resellers and CPA firms who have shown a commitment to the development, delivery, and support of technology solutions for small and medium-sized businesses.

McNicoll decided to get involved after attending a Group T meeting last July. She has since served as co-chair for the consulting track on the Fall Collaborative Committee, and this coming autumn will serve as chair for the Group T Committee. “I find that just getting to know others, you have a tendency to ‘bounce things’ past them [to the point that] you can develop networking relationships,” she says.

Carly Lombardo is Assistant Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at carly.lombardo@amgpubs.com.

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