Two of the qualities that make for a Top 100 Product are longevity and the sort of patient accrual of incremental improvements that go with it. But most of our Top 100 started as brash innovations - and the past few years have seen the rise of a wealth of exciting new products that, while not yet established enough to join the Top 100, are definitely worth your attention. We call them the Ones to Watch, and this year we're watching more products than ever, in almost every conceivable practice area and specialty.
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AUDIT & ACCOUNTING
We don't usually highlight many auditing tools, for the simple reason that there aren't many available. Many firms develop their own tools in-house, but recent years have seen a number of new tools released by vendors, and older tools gain greater prominence.
RSM McGladrey is one firm that developed its own programs, including the McGladrey Audit Performance System, which it now makes available through AdvanceCPA. HKMP Technologies' amelio application lets firms create and manage dynamic audit programs and checklists following their own audit methodology. And while CCH's TeamMate audit management system has been popular with internal auditors for some time, its new ProSystem fx Knowledge Tools is designed to provide external auditors with a metholodogy for implementing the latest risk-assessment standards.
On the accounting side, NetBooks is due to launch the beta of Version 2 of its eponymous SaaS entry-level accounting software in January 2009. Further up-market, Sage has launched Sage MAS 90 and 200 Extended Enterprise Suite, which adds Sage fixed assets and CRM software and a host of other capabilities to the MAS 90/200 accounting apps. CCH Small Firm Services has added Client Write-Up packages for its ATX and TaxWise tax products.
Finally, we'll mention a number of recent products that should be of interest to your clients, particularly in their back-office operations. There's been a great deal of excitement around Bill.com, an online accounts payable solution that streamlines the whole AP process and integrates with the top accounting packages. BlackLine Systems' Financial Close Suite, meanwhile, automates the entire financial close process in companies of all sizes.
On the governance front, Oversight Systems' Oversight Continuous Transaction Monitoring Software inspects the integrity of each financial transaction, identifying fraud, misuse and errors in real-time. And on the regulatory front, CaseWare's CaseWare IFRS Financials combines with its Working Papers to let users automatically create IFRS-compliant financial statements.
Businesses have slowly come to realize the importance of sales and use tax management, but now that they have, they have a few solutions to choose from. Besides pioneer Avalara's product, they can now use SpeedTax's SaaS SpeedTax Manager, or the new Sales Tax Service from payroll giant ADP.
Worth noting alongside the established players in tax prep are New America Software's MultiTax, focusing on multi-year preparation for Spanish-speaking clients; the online ProTaxPro.com from e-filing provider FileYourTaxes.com; and Red Gear Software's 1040Works, a speed-entry tax prep program for preparers with large volumes of returns.
Getting more specific are Research Credit Group's CrediTrak, which identifies, tracks and documents all of a company's expenses that qualify for the research and development credit; and Red Moon Solutions' Like-Kind Exchange Matching, for managing corporate Sec. 1031 exchanges, and its Fixed Assets Manager program (which was initially designed to support Arthur Andersen's internal U.S. tax practice).
Tax professionals can also find plenty of resources to support them, including CFS Tax Software's TaxTools, with federal and state tax planning tools, and tons of forms, worksheets, calculators and flowcharts. And CCH offers a slew of useful tools, including its Practical Tax Professional and Practical Tax Expert, with real-world tax advice, sample calculations and more to help tax pros practice better; its TaxScripts TaxPro, which makes it fast and easy to create disclosure authorizations and IRS transcript requests, and receive the results fast; and, for those exposed to international tax issues, its Worldwide Tax Rates and Answers.
DMS AND WORKFLOW
Tax practices have been among the first to benefit from the synergy between document management and workflow systems, led by products like Copanion's GruntWorx and Intuit's brand-new Intuit Document eSort, both of which automatically sort and organize scanned tax documents to produce an indexed PDF for each client.
DM and workflow systems come in a bewildering array of forms, functions and specialties. Besides those listed in the Top 100, products worth a look range from AccountantsWorld's CyberCabinet, a secure Web portal for storing and transferring documents, to SmartVault Corp.'s SmartVault and Cabinet NG's CNG-Books, both of which provide document management functionality to QuickBooks users, to full-out DM systems like eFileCabinet's eponymous offering, and Red Gear Technology's ArkWorks.
Accounting firms that provide financial planning services often rely on their broker/dealers for software, or use one of the few established programs. For those interested in something else, consider Leimberg & Leclair's NumberCruncher, a powerful estate planning and presentation tool that can make a huge number of calculations quickly and easily, or Emerging Information Systems' Profiles Forecaster, which provides basic financial analysis with an interview-style interface that can complete a plan from start to finish in about 20 minutes.
A number of vendors are offering new or expanded payroll programs, many of them aimed squarely at helping accountants serve their clients: CCH Small Firm Services has introduced a Payroll product that works stand-alone or integrated with its ATX and TaxWise lines of tax prep and client write-up software; MPay has rolled out Payentry.com, an online payroll service where accountants can refer clients or offer the service themselves; Thomson Reuters has launched myPay Solutions, a payroll processing service designed for accounting firms; CFS Tax Software has LivePayroll, a full-up payroll solution; and PayChoice now has three levels of payroll processing - its full-featured, full-service Payroll Suite; its HR Suite, which adds expanded reporting and on-demand human resources consulting to the Payroll Suite; and Easy Street, a flat-fee, self-service offering.
Recent years have seen a boom in products that focus on a business as a whole - or even on a large number of businesses, like iLumen's Financial Information Network, which collects client information from CPA firms' systems and uses it to create a vast database for benchmarking and analysis services that CPAs can then offer to their clients.
Individual businesses can benefit from the sort of financial planning and reporting offered by Adaptive Planning, which now has a Recession Survival Kit aimed at helping companies make the crucial decisions they need to make to survive our current economic crisis. For better financial reports, Microsoft's Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Management Reporter can integrate with virtually any general ledger to ensure you use the latest data.
For the specific business of running an accounting firm, you could usefully consider both Office Tools Professional and AccountantsWorld's Practice Relief, both of which offer a range of practice management tools, while Advisor Impact's Client Audit is a customized client feedback program that can help you get more business out of your current client roster.
To round out our Ones to Watch, we'll mention three valuable resources that might not technically count as software products. The first two deal with the fact that too many small and midsized firms don't have Web sites - and those that do have sites often have bad ones. Emochila creates quality firm sites that also allow you to communicate with clients by posting QuickBooks and Peachtree files and archiving tax returns online, while AccountantsWorld's Website Relief offers professional Web sites with lots of useful tools and calculators, as well as a platform for adding client portals and other online solutions.
Last - but definitely not least - we want to draw your attention to Intuit's Accountant Work Exchange, an online resource where firms with too much work on their hands can meet accountants with too much time on theirs.