There isn’t going to be such a thing as a “paperless” accounting office in our lifetimes. Still, the move to the electronic handling and storage of documents has clearly demonstrated economic value in reducing the costs of workflow and archiving. And that means document management went from a sleepy little niche to the white-hot, must-have application of 2007. As more firms adopted the software, it became apparent that what was needed were fewer new features and more integration—integration with the way accounting firms manage their workflow; integration with existing applications, with more diverse accounting suites and with Microsoft Office applications.
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So the emphasis this year is on integration, collaboration and Web access. Nearly all of the systems featured in this year’s roundup now have a Web portal, and some are even venturing into the more difficult environments such as access via mobile phones.
The bottom line is that any accounting firm that hopes to stay competitive from this point forward will need to have a strong, effective and integrated document management system. For those firms that yet do not, or those seeking a system better suited to their needs, this is the place to start.
Acct1st EDRMS (Electronic Document Records Management System), an accounting-centric suite for imaging, document management, tax workflow and client portal management, files documents in their native language or PDF format.
It uses no proprietary software or services, works with a wide range of accounting and business applications, and can function as either an internal or hosted service.
Four applications comprise the suite: Acct1st DMS, a virtual file room that can be used to store client and firm administrative documents with an audit log for document tracking; Acct1st Tax Work Flow to manage the process of converting client documents into electronic form and transfer them into Adobe PDF files for review; Acct1st Client Portal for the efficient exchange of electronic files between accountant and client via a password-secure system; and Acct1st Tax Scan to convert paper tax source documents into electronic PDF images that are organized, bookmarked and full-text searchable.
Recent enhancements include improved integration, including specific integrations with QuickBooks, all major tax applications and most time and billing and engagement packages, including CaseWare, VPM Practice Management and MAS 90/200. Further integration with CRM and practice management software is under way, and the firm has formed strategic relationships with the Intuit Developer Network and Sage Software (for the Peachtree, Timberline, MAS and Accpac product lines).
Acct1st is notable for its administrative and accounting-specific modules that provide out-of-office support for staff members, formalization of tax workflow processes and compliance auditing of client records. Developed through a partnership between a software development company and a CPA firm, Acct1st EDRMS began by targeting smaller firms of 10 professionals or less. But it has found a solid footing in mid-range firms as well due to its economy, flexibility and scalability.
Acct1st Technology Group
Price: Hosted system, $1 per day per user. User-premise systems, $365 per person plus $1,000 server license; 25 percent annual maintenance fee.
Cabinet NG CNG-Safe 6.0
Cabinet NG’s CNG-Safe (Shared Access Filing Environment), a client-server system, helps small-to-medium-sized accounting firms efficiently manage expense reports, tax documents, invoices, purchase orders, balance sheets, income statements, standard forms, contracts, phone messages and email communications.
The product follows a standard filing-cabinet architecture of drawers, folders, tabs and documents that is consistent with the filing systems used in typical accounting, audit and tax engagements. The system allows for direct management and archiving of Microsoft Outlook and Office files, linkages to Act and QuickBooks, and can be programmed with APIs and .CSV text converters to link directly to major accounting and engagement applications.
Cabinet NG has made a concerted effort to target accounting and financial services firms, enhancing workflow capabilities to more nimbly handle the ad-hoc workflow schedules of a busy tax season and other accounting engagements. In addition, documents are stored in their native file format, so that they may be more easily accessed after storage.
Released in January, version 6.0 features enhanced security for better data protection and compliance-readiness including a Trace function for tracking history at the folder and individual document levels. The user interface provides greater flexibility by allowing individual users to display documents and other system information based on their custom layout. Navigation is simplified by allowing users to open multiple documents from multiple folders and multiple cabinets simultaneously. It also integrates with major software applications through a proprietary Retriever application that enables integration with virtually any Windows-based database.
CNG-Safe is aimed at the small-to-mediumsized accounting firm, where its integration with common office applications can offer a simplified learning curve. With enhanced navigation and an ability to handle a wide range of business functions and forms, it is well suited for firms with diverse workflow requirements and a need for strong security features.
Cabinet NG CNG-SAFE 6.0
Price: $995 per user or $1,395 per concurrent, or $495 per viewer license.
Maintenance, about 20 percent per year.
It is always a pleasure to watch a product line mature and transform itself into the next evolutionary stage, as CCH has done in extending its robust document management system into Document ASP.
Featuring all of the detailed indexing, versioning, history and workflow management of the PC-based product, ASP is already a powerful and interesting application that offers Web-based functionality to its already capable document management system.
Document ASP provides secure document transfer and storage through the Internet. A customizable homepage interface reflects individual preferences and job requirements, including recently accessed documents, tax returns, engagement binders and full search capabilities.
It facilitates compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley and internal control procedures by managing retention periods, and by maintaining an audit trail and version documents automatically. Incorporating a high level of security for document sharing, the system fosters collaborative workflow and gives clients secure, immediate access to documents via a Client Portal.
Tightly integrated with ProSystem fx Scan, Tax, Global fx and Engagement, this application enables the user to create a search that launches directly into the Accounting Research Manager, centralizing and simplifying research. Users can also manage applications like ProSystem fx Fixed Assets and QuickBooks without the concern of broken links due to versioning issues.
CCH has done an excellent job of melding workflow, document storage, compliance and communications capabilities into a workable system within its suite. Extending these capabilities with an ASP portal and enhanced collaboration may be an obvious next step, but the first-rate implementation of Document ASP makes it a must-have addition for firms using ProSystem fx.
Price: Document base price, $3,000; additional users $500 each. Portal ASP base price, $2,000 with additional users $50 each.
Doc.It is a workflow management, work-in-progress binder, archiving and client portal solution created specifically for accounting firms of five to 500 employees. Version 2.7 was introduced in November, enhancing the binder, viewer, annotation agent, email management and workflow manager tools. A new two-way Web portal feature has also been added.
The suite includes Doc.It DM, a firm-wide electronic document archiving platform for public accounting practices; Doc.It Workflow, which allows firms to track and manage any type of project and provides “load balancing” for tax engagements; Doc.It Work-in-Progress Binder, to provide the ability to share and process the active “unpublished” documents within the security of the Doc.It DM environment; and a Client Web Portal for folder-based views of client documents.
Also included is an Advanced Forms Recognition module to automatically organize a majority of routine documents, like personal tax source slips, through optical character recognition and a database. AFR comes with all IRS tax form definitions but can quickly add new forms into its library. A Bookmark Editor allows documents to be rolled into a single bookmark PDF with an extensive feature set for editing and creating additional bookmarks. A Batch Print module allows documents to be rolled into a single bookmarked PDF with bookmark details for every combined section. And an Email Converter for Outlook helps to handle archiving and managing of emails, a critically important tool given recent judicial rulings with respect to emails.
Doc.It will appeal to accounting offices for its ability to capture, OCR, convert and archive any paper, fax or electronic document into PDF format. Developed by accountants to handle accounting and engagement tasks, it also is one of the most cost-effective solutions.
(888) MYDOCIT (693-6248)
Price: Preliminary license fee. Monthly subscriptions range from $25 to $35 per user per month; paid quarterly.