Write-up software remains a key tool in producing revenue.
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by Barry Knaster
Spending time this summer evaluating and choosing the appropriate write-up software product for your firm may not be as exciting as reading the latest Harry Potter book or viewing a summer blockbuster action movie, but the impact of this software on firm profitability is certainly no less dramatic.
Many individual and local firms rely on write-up work as their primary profit center, generating more revenue than tax or advisory services. Firms providing write-up services must do so at competitive prices that allow profitable returns. How efficient firms are at providing these services directly relates to the ease of use and flexibility of the software application in place.
In a market where companies can purchase off-the-shelf accounting software capable of performing these same functions for as little as $99, why do clients still pay professionals to prepare periodic financial statements? The answer is simple: convenience and trust. Many businesses prefer to outsource the preparation of general ledgers and balance sheets to their accounting firms simply because they do not want to deal with the hassle and privacy issues of preparing this data in-house. These owners prefer to focus their efforts on selling products and services, off-loading the accountability aspects to their trustworthy accounting advisors. The convenience of sending monthly checkbook registers to their accountants and receiving monthly financial statements far outweighs the cost incurred.
The burden of implementing and updating an in-house accounting system, and the personnel necessary to support it, are eliminated.
Of the many software applications in use at professional accounting firms, write-up software pre-dates them all. Different versions of these products have been available for decades, whether through service bureaus or running on stand-alone PCs.
Their primary function is quite simple-you enter or import client transactional information for the purpose of creating general ledger and financial statements. Many write-up solutions go beyond the basics by also offering bank reconciliation, after-the-fact payroll, budgeting, and fixed-asset depreciation. The objective is to provide your clients an efficient and effective means of compiling source transactions into financial information for the purpose of making meaningful business decisions.
The key focus of write-up software is its ability to adapt to a variety of reporting situations. This depends on its ease of set-up and its reporting flexibility. Most firms providing write-up services have clients in many different industries, with specific charts of accounts and financial statement requirements. This necessitates a flexible and customizable account structure and report writer, capable of accommodating these many situations, including accounting for multiple locations, departments, and profit centers.
Despite the stability of write-up as a profit center, the universe of write-up software vendors has been in flux. In the last three years, Creative Solutions has almost single-handedly consolidated the market, buying Microtique’s Class, ATB Write-up, Professional Design System, ProTym, Franklen, and WinCabs. Other packages in this list have also changed hands. CPASoftware and its Visual Write-up became part of Best Software last year, while EasyAcct was owned by the former Tax and Accounting Software, acquired by Intuit two years ago. The intriguing thing is that with Thomson’s CSI, Best, and Intuit in the write-up market, the only major player in the CPA market without a write-up entry is CCH.
The write-up applications reviewed are easy to learn and simple to use, requiring minimal upfront training. With the availability of on-line manuals, sample data, and training tutorials, installation and implementation become a breeze. Many of the products reviewed provide pre-defined industry-specific accounts and financial statements. Transaction entry is quick and efficient, utilizing recurring and standardized entries. Many of the products reviewed provide industry-specific charts of accounts and financial statements, as well as custom reporting and graphing.
The differences among the products mainly reflect the degree to which data entry screens can be customized for quick data entry, and the ability to produce tailored reports. Set-up options also vary considerably, with respect to the size and format of the general ledger account numbers and the ability to copy charts of accounts and financial statements between similar clients.
Consider choosing a write-up product compatible with your other in-office applications. Eliminating the necessity for redundant data entry is a cost-effective measure for improving overall office efficiency. Most write-up software programs provide import and export capability to numerous other accounting and tax software products.
The products reviewed below offer some kind of trial or demo software for testing prior to buying. This allows the set-up of sample information, ensuring that the specific needs of your clients are addressed by the various software features. Pay close attention to the set-up and reporting features; these will most likely influence which product is the best fit for your firm.
After several generations of updates and new releases, write-up software has evolved into a very mature and fairly predictable software solution. But even though the formula is tried and true, just like any new Harry Potter book, each new release is bound to have a few surprises in store.
The EasyAcct Professional Write-up system is something of an old friend come home. It was marketed for several years by the former Tax and Accounting Software, purchased two years ago by Intuit, but has been off the market for more than a year as Intuit tinkered with it and also contemplated the possibility of fielding QuickBooks Write-up.
|EasyAcct Professional Series|
This program provides simple yet effective navigation through the various transaction entry and reporting screens, containing numerous built-in features for facilitating data entry. Among these are pop-up displays for quick access to information and the automatic creation of customized financial statements and graphs. You can automatically create multi-departmental and multi-divisional clients and maintain multiple years of general ledger history.
The data entry screen for transactions provides quick access to the various write-up functions like special journals and check entry. New general ledger accounts can be added during transaction entry. Automatic journal entries provide for monthly recurring entries, while query functions allow you to view posted transactions by date and account number. Keyboard equivalents provide access to common functions. Check printing allows multiple default distribution accounts. Transaction information is easily imported and exported with other accounting and tax software programs.
The reporting capabilities are especially powerful, enabling reports to be edited onscreen. Financial statements utilize both an automatic report design feature (based on account ranges) for standardized reports and a detail layout feature for custom reports. You can also create client letters to include with the financial statements. Repetitive report options are saved for future printing, eliminating the need to re-enter reporting criteria.
A fit for any size firm providing write-up services, this well-written, full-featured product provides simple and standardized navigation. It nicely complements the other products in the EasyAcct Professional Series and is a solid choice among the various client write-up products available.
Visual Client Write-up
Visual Client Write-up, a full-featured, multi-client product, combines general ledger functions with after-the-fact payroll. Along with the other members of the CPASoftware Visual family, it became part of Best Software’s entry into CPA applications.
|Visual Client Write-up|
The check register provides a choice between a summarized single-line entry or a two-line display with a check memo reference field. Previous payee names and account distributions are remembered for entering new transactions. The Day Sheet feature provides a template of general ledger accounts for quick journal entry of daily deposits. Adjusting journal entries record one-time transactions and are automatically reversible in the next accounting period. Recurring journal entries allow either a fixed or variable dollar amount for each account for multiple periods. Budget information is calculated on an annual or period basis for inclusion in financial statements. After-the-fact payroll tracking prints W2s, 1099s, and 941 forms.
Numerous financial statement templates are available for immediate printing of reports. Financial statements can be copied between clients, an especially valuable time-saving feature when you have many clients in the same industry. You can drill down from the displayed summary level balances to the underlying detail account information. Multiple entities can be consolidated into a single financial statement. Other standard reports include trial balances and ratio comparisons. Custom financial statements offer departmental and percentage-basis reporting. The financial statement print queue facilitates the quick review and printing of both financial statements and tailored client letters.