The 2018 Top New Products

Published
  • February 05 2018, 11:21am EST
Accounting Today’s editors pick the best new and most improved tools and resources for accountants from the past year.

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Few professions call on the sheer number of tools that accounting does.

In order to provide their incredible range of clients (literally everyone, both as individuals and businesses) with the vast number of services they offer (from the simplest of fill-in-the-blank compliance, to the most complex of forward-looking strategic planning, to the deepest of analytical dives), the average accountant will find themselves using dozens of software programs, apps, research services, databases, educational resources, reference books, and often multiple versions of the same dedicated to different industries.

It should come as no surprise, then, that vendors produce such a wide range of tools for the profession; what is surprising, though, is how often trends emerge in product development, and how often these are reflected in the very best products — those that make Accounting Today’s Top New Products. A few years ago, it seemed as if everyone was rushing to the cloud; a year or so later, it seemed like every other vendor had released a mobile app; more recently, tools that engaged with data were all the rage.

This year’s trend is somewhat different, in that it focuses on a service area, rather than a technology or a type of tool. The last few years have seen an explosion in the number of tools available for auditors, and this year saw more than ever. This matches a growing expectation that this most-traditional of accounting services is on the verge of a revolution — a revolution driven, in no small part, by the new tools available to its practitioners.

AUDIT TOOLS: Ai Auditor (MindBridge Ai)

The Achilles’ heel of auditing has always been sampling — the inability to look at more than a portion of the information available to the auditor. Advances in artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics raise the possibility of incorporating more — and eventually all — of a company’s data into the audit, and for pioneering that, MindBridge Analytics’ Ai Auditor is a Top New Product this year. Users simply drop in a file and the platform checks it, then examines 100 percent of the data to create a comprehensive analysis and prioritize entries for investigation by the auditor, freeing them from countless hours of data manipulation and testing to focus on the areas where their judgment matters most.

Getting an Honorable Mention among audit tools is the TeamMate+ audit management platform from Wolters Kluwer, which brings innovative collaboration and risk assessment tools to internal audit and other assurance professionals.

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TAX TOOLS: Transcript Tool (Canopy Tax)

While audit may be in the spotlight these days, that doesn’t mean there aren’t improvements to be made in the other traditional service areas. This year’s Top Product in tax is the Transcript Tool from Canopy, which empowers the advanced tax practice by letting practitioners easily and quickly pull Internal Revenue Service transcripts for their clients, and then store and manage them in a central location. As accountants look to move beyond basic compliance to more proactive advisory services, they’ll look to tools like these to enable them.

It’s worth remembering that not all the tools accountants use are software applications, and the Honorable Mention in the Tax Category is a good example of that: “Guide to Start and Grow Your Successful Tax Business” is a book by Chuck McCabe of People’s Income Tax and the Income Tax School that offers a comprehensive discussion of everything you need to know to build a practice from scratch — or take an existing one to the next level.

BUSINESS TAX TOOLS: RegroupTAX (RegroupIP LLC)

The first step to making information free is to remove the constraints imposed by the system in which it was first created or recorded: If it can’t be easily shared, it’s significantly less useful. At some point in the future, information will just flow into whatever forms are necessary without any help; for now, it needs the sort of assistance that regroupTAX offers. This cloud-based trial balance and tax workpaper tool, which was created by CPAs, easily imports balance sheet data from any accounting software (with particularly strong integration with QuickBooks and Xero), and makes it easy for users to create tax workpapers and import trial-balance-formatted data to tax prep software. And if you’re not convinced that this is the future, note that regroupTAX was named one of the inaugural members of the Startup Accelerator program created by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and CPA.com to encourage innovation in accounting.

As an Honorable Mention among business tax tools, KBKG’s Partial Disposition Calculator stands out for making it easier to handle the complexities of the tangible property repair regs, and maximize taxpayer benefit.

CLIENT MANAGEMENT TOOLS: Liscio (Liscio)

Many a client relationship loses its shine in the gap between the handshake and the point where the accountant begins to deliver value: in the on-boarding, the signature capture, the information requests and all the back-office transactional work that form the infrastructure of the relationship, but that are a source of friction for the client. Liscio, a client-experience platform developed by industry thought leader Darren Root and his team at Rootworks, is a Top New Product for digitally tackling this tricky period in your client interactions, making it smoother, better organized, and much less of a pain for all involved.

An Honorable Mention among client management tools goes to AgiLink from Datafaction, an accounting solution designed to help accountants manage multiple high-net-worth clients. And another goes to Receipt Bank’s 1tap receipts, which makes it easy for self-employed clients to capture receipts with a single tap, and also lets accountants manage all of their clients (and all of their many, many receipts).

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ADVISORY SERVICES TOOLS: CoreValue Advisor Software (CoreValue)

Even as technology commoditizes many of the core, historically focused services of the accounting profession, it’s also enabling the forward-looking, value-added services that will swell firm revenues in the decades to come. CoreValue Advisor Software is a great example of these next-generation tools: It uses sets of questionnaires to assess a business’ strengths and weaknesses relative to sets of value drivers benchmarked against thousands of similar businesses, and then generates growth plans based on that. Accountants can engage with the questionnaires and the growth plans in a variety of ways, from using them as a simple tool to draw in clients in need of strategic advice, to positioning them as the core of an entirely new advisory service.

As a tool that accountants can use to help clients increase their cash flow, Cash Sage from Sageworks gets an Honorable Mention in this category; it examines the clients’ books to identify and recommend specific strategies for generating more cash.

PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION: Surgent Premier Pass (Surgent CPA Review)

There’s a lot of concern these days that not enough young accountants are taking the CPA Exam, but really, the surprise isn’t that interest in taking the test isn’t keeping up — the surprise is that so many people have taken it in the past. Test prep is exhausting and expensive, many firms don’t offer their entry-level staff enough support in terms of money and time off — and even if an accountant gets past all that, there’s still a very good chance they’ll fail at least one section. That’s why the top professional education product this year is Surgent CPA Exam Review’s Premier Pass, which has an adaptive learning technology to customize exam prep and study plans to the areas in which a candidate most needs help, and pairs that with one-on-one learning and other resources, leading to pass rates as much as twice the national average.

The need to learn doesn’t stop once an accountant passes the CPA Exam, which is where this year’s Honorable Mention in this area, Karbon Academy, comes in: It’s a series of bundled courses on management, growth, technology and strategy created by practice management software provider Karbon.

COMMUNICATION TOOLS: Emerging Tax and Regulation Alerts (Thomson Reuters)

Understanding the latest legislative and regulatory changes is challenge enough; being able to rapidly and clearly communicate them to anxious clients adds a whole other layer of complication. Thomson Reuters’ Emerging Tax and Regulation Alerts are a Top Product for making this much easier: The editors of TR’s Checkpoint Marketing for Firms translate the latest updates into layman’s terms, from short, social media-ready posts and concise notifications that are available within a day of any newly passed law, to more comprehensive analyses and, in some cases, infographics. (Secret benefit: Accountants may sometimes find the “layman’s explanation” handy themselves … .)

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DATA TOOLS: Data Axcess APIs and Data Axcess Utility (Wolters Kluwer)

Another Top Product that recognizes the value of free-flowing data is Data Axcess, a set of APIs and a program that let users easily find and retrieve data from within Wolters Kluwer’s suite of tax workflow solutions, Axcess (itself a Top Product a few years back). The APIs let users retrieve data from across the suite, create custom reports, integrate with third-party report writers and business intelligence programs, or export data to Excel, while the Data Axcess Utility calls all of the data available through the APIs, downloads it, and extracts it for local use.

CYBERSECURITY TOOLS: Cybersecurity Insurance Review (Network Alliance)

Hackers don’t care how big or small a firm is: The client information that accountants have in-house is so valuable that it’s worth it to them to crack any size practice. The first step, obviously, is for firms to conduct a security review and put in place all of the latest measures to lock down data, secure their networks, train their staff in best practices, establish strong cybersecurity policies, and otherwise fortify themselves. After that, though, they might take a look at this Top Product: the Network Alliance’s Cybersecurity Insurance Review. In the end, breaches are inevitable, and firms will face lawsuits, and this review is a great way to find out if their insurance policies are up to that eventuality. (It’s probably not a bad idea for their business clients to look at it, as well.)

HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Top New Products aren’t chosen by category; they’re picked based on their individual merits and then we note their category to make it easier for readers to find the tools that are particularly relevant to them.

Since Accounting Today’s editors don’t go into the process looking to fill particular categories, that means that not every category will have a runner-up to be named an Honorable Mention; it also means that there will often be products that need to be mentioned in categories that don’t have Top New Products in them.

This year, there are two of those products that we want to bring to your attention as Honorable Mentions:

Onvio Trial Balance: Thomson Reuters’ Onvio platform was a Top New Product in 2016, created as a single online base (and a common database) for an ever-expanding range of modules. In 2017, TR added a simple, sleek Trial Balance module that integrates with its UltraTax CS tax prep software.

BQE Core: Managing a firm and the projects that it engages in isn’t getting any easier, and BQE Software’s BQE Core offers a host of integrated tools, from up-to-the-minute dashboards and useful reports, to billing, time & expense tracking, and project management, that can help managers and leaders keep up.