Record breaking temperatures have topped the headlines this summer-unprecedented heat waves continue to occur throughout the country, shattering century-old historical records. One surefire way to "beat the heat" is to head indoors and catch up on the latest developments in the world of write-up software. Every bit as hot as the average temperature is the recent resurgence in popularity of this important category. Forever a mainstay, write-up services have occupied an important, if not somewhat mundane niche within accounting firms, providing a profitable way to perform an oft-requested client service. Write-up software is by far the most mature of the accounting and productivity products in use by many local and regional accounting firms, providing a profit center capable of generating more revenue than either tax or advisory services.
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Now more than ever, the number of choices and improved functionality of write-up solutions provide accounting firms additional incentive to take advantage of the opportunities write-up software provides. These solutions provide the means for performing an important client service, requiring minimal effort, but returning steady cash flow.
The very nature of write-up software is to efficiently regurgitate transactional data provided by clients into meaningful general ledger reports and financial statements. Its market is accounting firms hired by companies who do not want to invest in an in-house financial system, instead preferring that their accountant take responsibility for the accumulation of daily and periodic transaction data. Designed primarily as an after-the-fact tool, write-up excels at easily capturing data and manipulating it into report presentation.
These applications are used by accounting professionals working for a diverse assortment of clients, thereby requiring both flexibility and efficiency in set-up, transaction entry, and report generation. The ease with which new client information and reports are created minimizes set-up time and promotes profitable turnaround. Fortunately, most write-up solutions provide features designed to make it easy for the accountant to service many different clients and entity types. These include numerous charts of accounts templates, routines to copy existing client data, and templates of standard financial statements.
When evaluating write-up packages, examine your client base for unique or industry-specific needs. Restaurant and nonprofit clients, for example, often have standardized or specialized account and reporting structures. Write-up software should provide a means to customize client data for specialized reporting and financial statement presentation. Report writers can manipulate the output of financial data, ratios, and graphs, which makes the end presentation relevant to specific industries and easier for clients to understand. Program flexibility ensures that the unique demands of each client will be met.
No one solution is an island, and write-up software is no exception. Most likely it will be one of several productivity applications in use within the accounting firm-along with tax, fixed asset, time and billing, and practice management software. Seamless integration between write-up and these applications may be the most important selection criteria. Even if the other applications are not from the same vendor, the easy transfer of data between different programs eliminates redundancy, reduces data-entry time, and minimizes errors.
Write-up software typically includes many features beyond basic general ledger functionality. While not reviewed in detail within this article, they do bear mention as these extra features might very well influence your evaluation of the different vendor write-up offerings. The most common of these is after-the-fact payroll, which can provide great benefit when a standalone payroll application is not in use. Features vary considerably among the different vendors, so carefully consider your client requirements if payroll is a requisite element. Other ancillary applications include trial balance and workpaper reports, which overlap, but do not replace, the functionality of trial balance software. The ability to reconcile bank statements is a common feature, less so are depreciation and amortization calculations. Finally, some write-up vendors provide analytic tools to interpret the financial statement data generated.
Don't sweat over making the right choice. The products reviewed below all meet the basic standards any accounting firm would demand. The more deluxe applications will offer flexible report writers and data customization options, along with multiple integration options to communicate with products both within and external to the vendor's application suite. These vendors have been providing quality and capable write-up solutions for many years. Establish your criteria and evaluate accordingly - your final choice ultimately will no doubt be a hot one.
Flexible features, ease of use and seamless integration with the CS Professional Suite make Write-Up CS an excellent and powerful write-up system, one that easily meets the varied needs of your clients. The Creative Solutions suite of applications utilize a common database, making any single change available across all applications and simplifying integration from other CS software products. Write-up CS features general ledger, bank reconciliation, financial reporting, and after-the-fact payroll. Set-up is quick and data entry efficient. Navigation through menus and submenus is straightforward and logical, with many automatic smart features.
Write-Up CS provides several flexible set-up options for creating multiple clients. These include copying of charts of accounts, financial statements, and journals. You can also create an unlimited number of clients and transactions.
User-defined masks allow an account structure of up to 60 alphanumeric characters, with specific account positions for locations, departments, divisions, and jobs.
Non-financial accounts track information in units or dollars. Processing periods include weekly, monthly, 13-period, semi-annual, and annual. Automatic adjustments are available for gross profit calculations, reversing entries, recurring entries, percentage allocations, and provisions for income tax.
Data-entry fields can be rearranged to match the order of source documents. You can store up to 10 years of history for general ledger balances and transactions. Changes are allowed at the transaction level for any year, after which you can reprint general ledgers, transaction listings, financial statements, and trend reports. Temporary journal entries convert a cash-basis client to accrual basis.
Previewing a financial statement on screen allows drill-down to transaction level detail and editing of transactions within the current period. You can sort transactions by date, account number, reference, or order entered for quick review and editing. Reports include chart of accounts, general ledger, journals, transaction listings, trial balances, and financial statements. The report writer lets you design statements and reports, using a spreadsheet-like interface. You can easily add financial notes, comments, and logos. Graphics, including 3-D charts, line graphs, bar graphs, and pie graphs can also be added, rounding out the superb financial statement presentation options.
Price: Starts at $1,400.
QuickBooks Premier Edition 2006
Marketed as a small business accounting package, QuickBooks is nonetheless one of the most popular write-up systems being used by accountants, simply because they are very comfortable and familiar with it. The Premier Edition goes far beyond basic write-up by offering advanced features to track business performance, forecasting, and business planning.
The 2006 Edition features a newly designed home page, and customer, vendor, and employee centers. These facilitate set-up by providing user interactive tutorials that explain basic QuickBooks concepts and features. The home page provides quick navigation to key account balances and offers customization and preference options for user-specific tasks.
QuickBooks' EasyStep interview provides assistance in setting up a new company. You can choose a predefined sample company or enter a new chart of accounts. Accounts are defined as either balance sheet or income/expense. Subaccounts provide for additional account division and analysis.
Transaction entry offers multiple means of entry for all ranges of financial activities. Typically, most transactions and tasks involve just one screen, with layouts in many cases matching the look of the source document. Audit-trail enhancements provide improved tracking and reporting performance. A new reconciliation feature helps interpret journal entries and ease month-end processing. The portable company file option allows company data to be easily emailed to another person or location.
The report center provides access to dozens of reports, which are easily customizable to provide client-specific data. Financial data is easily transferred to and from Microsoft Excel, Word, and Outlook. The QuickBooks Centers provide snapshot analysis of key business performance indicators.
QuickBooks Premier Edition 2006
Mountain View, Calif.
Price: Starts at $399.95.
Drake Client Write-Up
Drake's entry in this category is first and foremost a write-up system; very few additional applications are available. Drake Client Write-Up provides chart of account templates and import capability from its tax program to expedite the entry of initial account and transaction data.
Set-up allows multiple ways to initially create the chart of accounts for a new client. These include creating or importing a new chart or copying an existing template or client. Accounts are assigned levels, which designate their use as either a posting or financial report formatting account. Budget amounts for each account are also tracked. Payroll information can also be collected for after-the-fact payroll processing.