Document Management Software Review

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A year ago, the emphasis in document management remained in the core areas of scanning, storing and retrieving documents. But the emphasis has changed in the past year, making it clear that document management alone will give way to integrated workflow solutions in which document management is only one part.

This makes sense, given that the concept of managing documents simply to produce a "paperless office" never really got off the ground. It wasn't that accountants were disinterested in saving trees or eliminating the cost of storing paper documents. Rather, it was the fact that document storage was relatively cheap and the systems used to store and retrieve the documents were already integrated into the practice workflow.

Technology changed that. If eliminating paper was not a strong inducement, the growing use of electronic communications combined with the need to safeguard data and archive it in a secure but accessible outside location have made document management essential and mandated that it be incorporated more easily into the office workflow.

Partner Insights

To be sure, there are document management solutions that stand alone, with no workflow systems enveloping them. But these are generally aimed at smaller offices and single locations, where they fill a need for automation without disrupting established procedures and workflow.

Of the nine packages included in the 2009 roundup of document management solutions, five include workflow management dynamics and three address document management as an independent function. The final entry focuses on workflow exclusively, with document management almost a secondary consideration.

CNG-SAFE 6.0

Cabinet NG's CNG-Safe (Shared Access Filing Environment) is a client-server system designed to automate workflow processes for accounting, tax and financial planning/wealth management.

Built on the .Net and Microsoft SQL platforms, CNG-Safe follows a standard filing-cabinet architecture of drawers, folders, tabs and documents that is consistent with the filing systems used in typical accounting firms. The system is designed for easy customization and interoperability through its Retriever and Synchronizer plug-ins. CNG also offers its CNG-API to organizations with programming resources for more custom integrations.

The company 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.

CNG-Safe 6.0 was released just over a year ago, and the company since then has extended its functionality with a number of Web-based resources. CNG-Web was introduced to enable browser-based access to stored documents, and more recently CNG-Online debuted as a hosted-server SaaS application. In addition, the company has improved the integration with Outlook for filing emails, and has introduced CNG-Books 6.0 as a QuickBooks-specific application. And there is added integration with KOMpliance Secure Worm Hard Disk Data Archiving Solutions and Storage Management software.

CNG-Safe offers an excellent blend of archiving, workflow management and data security features that will be attractive, especially to the small to mid-range accounting firm. Its ability to deploy across every office in the firm, including remote locations, provides excellent flexibility and economy with tangible benefits for the accounting firm.

DOC.IT SUITE 3.0

Doc.It Suite, a workflow management, work-in-progress binder, archiving and client portal application, aims for a combination of usability and effectiveness for firms with as few as five employees but scaling upward to mid-range and larger accounting operations.

The suite includes Doc.It DM, a firm-wide electronic document archiving platform for public accounting practices; Doc.It Workflow, to allow 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.

Doc.It Suite 3.0 includes a PDF Editor, Composer and Printer; Scan and OCR; Advanced Forms Recognition; a Binder (to electronically replicate paper file folder tree structure); and archiving. In September, the company released Suite 3.0, with a progressive consolidated interface and new PDF Editor functioning as a direct replacement for Adobe Acrobat Standard.

The application is straightforward for its ability to capture, convert and archive any paper, fax or electronic document into PDF format. It delivers document management services in a manner that will particularly appeal to smaller firms that have their own workflow management systems and need an economical archiving and retrieval system for their files.

FILECABINET CS

FileCabinet CS is a tightly constructed solution for document management and workflow management built around the concepts of paperless workflow, integration with other accounting applications and Internet access to the archived documents for both professionals and their clients.

The system combines a standalone document management and archiving solution with a strong workflow management engine whose security features make it particularly valuable to firms with engagements in tax, wealth management and other client services where enhanced data security is critical.

 Electronic documents created in Microsoft Office applications convey directly into the workflow system, while other documents and information are integrated into the flow via an OCR Source Document module. Using this module, users can scan source documents and then transmit them to CS servers for identification and capture of relevant tax data. The source data is then returned and flows into the application.

While the system works well as a stand-alone document manager, its real power lies in its ability to seamlessly flow information to and from other applications of the CS Professional Suite. Recent enhancements for 2009 brought the ability to share client notes among the suite's modules, including UltraTax CS, Fixed Assets CS and FileCabinet CS automatically. This builds on previous enhancements to expand Office integration, with an Embed tool bar button and a Print tool bar button within Office applications.

FileCabinet CS offers a strong platform that integrates well with Windows applications, Outlook and Office, and is particularly useful as a scan-and-OCR solution for smaller firms. But for firms making use of other CS applications, and those that require more advanced capabilities for workflow, FileCabinet CS becomes one of the best-of-breed solutions in the marketplace.

GOFILEROOM ES

GoFileRoom ES is the document management and workflow solution for the Enterprise Suite that includes Practice ES, GoSystem Tax ES and Engagement ES. In addition, it provides native support for Office file formats; extensions to Adobe Acrobat; and one-click integration with Outlook and Lotus Notes.

GoFileRoom, with its family of modular workflow solutions, provides a complete document and workflow management system tailored to accounting, wealth management and financial planning. Physical papers such as client input sheets are scanned and stored in PDF format via a ScanFlow program, but virtually any application file format used by the accounting industry can be accommodated including tax, engagement and accounting software.

FirmFlow workflows can be used to standardize business processes and provide real-time reporting. Client and other related documents can be stored in GoFileRoom. Access can be restricted via several levels of security. ClientFlow can provide a secure and convenient way to collaborate with the firm's clients. Additionally, RecordsFlow can ensure that proper document archival and purging occurs in a timely manner for liability purposes.

Recent enhancements include a GoFileRoom Control Panel Add-In, which allows the user to send a single file, multiple files or an entire folder of files to the system by dragging and dropping to a desktop shortcut and set up profiles that minimize the need to manually index documents. GoFileRoom has extended its generic editing feature to include all document types. The GoFileRoom Office Add-In enhancement enables the user to add links to any system documents from within Word and Excel. And in accordance with pending Social Security privacy legislation, GoFileRoom will include an expanded version control for PDFs created in Adobe Acrobat; the ability to select documents for the automatic redaction of Social Security numbers; and a document distribution approval chain that allows the accounting firm to manage content at the document level.

Sporting desktop productivity tools that include GoFileRoom QuickLaunch and Control Panel, ThomsonReuters has put serious muscle behind an already formidable workflow management system. Its ability to work with competitive accounting systems and its modular approach to workflow make GoFileRoom both different from other products and more appealing to today's accounting environment.

LACERTE DMS

Lacerte DMS is a very functional and straightforward document archiving and retrieval system with capabilities for security, search and backup of files.

It offers built-in integration with the Lacerte Tax Software and all Lacerte add-on solutions, including Tax Planner, E-organizer and Trial Balance Utility. Firms can store and retrieve any type of client information electronically: tax returns, source documents, emails and spreadsheets, from virtually any application. In addition, this information can be easily edited, emailed or faxed directly from DMS.

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