The 2020 Top New Products

This year’s top products were selected for their contact with innovation, whether it’s in actual technology — injecting artificial intelligence, say, or harnessing blockchain for emerging uses — or in areas of accounting that have in the past been sidelined. This year’s roster of products represents innovation from all directions.

Changing standards, business models and client needs mean accountants sometimes are left with software platforms that don’t cover new requirements, which means software providers have to step up, and fast. That kind of need- meeting is the essence of how technology drives the accounting profession forward, enabling professionals to widen their services provided. Technology allows accountants to serve their clients better, but also to live better lives, and in this sometimes high-stress profession, that’s invaluable.

Here are the products that helped accountants do all that in the past year.

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Advisory tools: Paychex Solo (Paychex)
One of the key ingredients in the accounting profession’s move from a focus on compliance services to a broader focus on advisory services will be offerings like Paychex Solo, which packages together incorporation services, payroll and a 401(k) plan for high-earning, owner-only businesses so they and their advisors can manage the growing complexities of getting paid and meeting their tax obligations while maximizing their tax position.

With a single, efficient solution for taking care of those headaches, accountants can move on to focus on higher-
value-added advice.
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Crypto tools: LukkaTax for Professionals and Lukka Prime (Lukka Inc.)
Lukka deserves to be on this list for being at the forefront of blockchain technology for accountants, which is still a confusing area, the promise of which remains unclear. Nonetheless, firms across the country are opening blockchain and cryptocurrency service divisions, and this tax season, for the first time, taxpayers will have to disclose on their federal tax returns whether they invested in cryptocurrency.

LukkaTax for Professionals is a virtual currency tax prep platform that accountants can use for clients who are invested in crypto, which is taxed as property. Lukka Prime is a valuation tool for crypto assets built around GAAP and IFRS guidelines, and is designed to help accountants identify the principal market and determine fair market value of digital assets within the rapidly changing crypto ecosystem.

Together, the tools are a good starting point for firms looking to start serving crypto-invested clients, a service area that is only going to grow in the coming years.
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Training tools: The jvBD Academy (Kuesel Consulting)
Business development training continues to evolve as technology improves and employee preferences demand it, but often these innovations are featured in more advanced programs meant for firm leaders. With jvBD Academy, Kuesel Consulting has developed a video-based training program designed for associates with no prior business development experience, which makes its on-demand format even more desirable, as these participants can move at their own pace, advancing through content modules that range in duration from 12 to 55 minutes.

At the same time, accountability exists in the fact that participants are given assignments and coached by a facilitator at their own firm — a format that’s proven engaging for the dozen firms that have participated in jvBD’s pilot program and the nearly 100 currently active participants.
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Smart research tools: Checkpoint Edge (Thomson Reuters)
It’s becoming de rigeur these days for software vendors to say their products leverage artificial intelligence, but the details of how, exactly, they leverage it are often left to the imagination. What made Checkpoint Edge a Top New Product for our editors was that it very explicitly employs AI and machine learning in two specific ways: to allow users to do tax and accounting research using natural-
language queries (the way one does in a Google search, for instance) and to continually improve its ability to understand those queries and to serve up more and more relevant results based on analysis of the millions and millions of queries it receives, so that the system becomes smarter and more useful the more it’s used.

Based on tools developed by Thomson Reuters’ Center for AI and Cognitive Computing for the company’s legal research services, it aims to be so intuitive and so smart that even relatively inexperienced staff can find the answers they need, quickly and easily.
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Accounting tools: LeaseGuru (LeaseQuery)
There have been a number of solutions aimed at helping businesses and their advisors with the new lease accounting standards over the past couple of years, but what set LeaseGuru apart for our editors is the fact that it’s aimed at businesses with relatively small lease portfolios of nine or fewer leases. Many of these are precisely the small private companies that the Financial Accounting Standards Board had in mind when it recently postponed implementation of the standard — and they are also the businesses most in need of reasonably priced help. That said, LeaseGuru doesn’t skimp on the features, including detailed amortization schedules, ledger-agnostic journal entries and tested calculations, and the ability to run disclosure reports at any stage of implementation of the standard.
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AI tools: Bill.com Intelligent Virtual Assistant (Bill.com)
Showcasing one of the fundamental advantages of artificial intelligence for accountants, the IVA’s greatest feature is speed. Built directly into Bill.com, the tool quickly scans and captures invoice data and starts the bill creation process as soon as an invoice is delivered into the system. And its AI capabilities are intuitive, with IVA learning and adapting to users’ processes and preferences, while also quickly identifying mistakes like duplicate invoices.

When users log into Bill.com, IVA provides a side-by-side comparison of the original invoice and the extracted data, so accountants can quickly review and move on to the next steps in providing valuable insight into the data, having saved crucial time in those early stages.
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AI tools: FloQast AutoRec (FloQast)
The month-end close for businesses is an accounting area that can seem not as urgent to address with cutting-edge technology. FloQast is a young company, but has grown very quickly since its founding in 2013, attracting almost $73 million in funding to date. Its use of artificial intelligence in the reconciliation process, through AutoRec, enables progressive reconciliation throughout the period, rather than waiting until month’s end to start the process.

AutoRec automatically finds how transactions agree with one another based on the amount, date and reference fields, whether it’s one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many, which enables it to effectively “reconcile anything.” To get started, the controller only needs to upload an Excel or CSV file — the software does the rest.
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AI tools: BQE Core Intelligence (BQE Software)
This dashboard-based platform for managing professional services firms is specifically geared toward accountants. Last year, BQE Software debuted Core Intelligence, which transformed Core into a voice-enabled platform. But it’s more than just an Alexa-like party trick: Core Intelligence can answer complex questions about a user’s financials, and learns what types of information the speaker wants to know about as they speak. The software asks questions in return, which also helps it learn.

Core Intelligence can be connected to a firm’s phone system, so clients can, for instance, call into the firm and ask questions about their business — all without requiring an accountant to get on the line. Overall, Core Intelligence is a prime example of what artificial intelligence can do for the profession, freeing up time in a meaningful way, while not sacrificing client satisfaction. And not only that — because of its sophistication, the platform also has implications for visually impaired professionals who could benefit from oral/aural-based practice management options.
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Integration tools: XCMapi (XCM)
With the plethora of best-in-class and specialized technology available today, most software systems are only as good as their ability to play well with others. XCM offers this with its group of application programming interfaces, XCMapi, enabling users to integrate XCMworkflow and XCMscheduler with other systems such as practice management software and analytics tools.

These connections are in real time, with XCMapi pushing and pulling data — including client, entity, task, employee and time — in and out of other software in an effort to streamline workflow and improve productivity. XCMapi also includes a software developer’s kit to take full advantage of the nearly 50 APIs XCM currently offers.
Honorable Mentions
It’s always worth noting that our Top New Products for each year include products that are not, strictly speaking new — they may, instead, be previously existing products that have undergone significant upgrades or been bolstered with major additions.

On those lines, we’re awarding Honorable Mention recognition to products from two companies that have significantly improved or expanded previously existing platforms. To start, Wolters Kluwer continues to bolster its Axcess line (which has been named to the Top New Products in previous years) with three solutions: CCH Axcess IQ, which alerts tax pros when new tax legislation or other tax events may impact a client; CCH Axcess Client Collaboration, a unified, secure collaboration hub for clients and accountants that aims to be the next generation of client portal; and CCH Axcess Knowledge Coach, a cloud-based solution for planning and managing audit engagements.

We’re also giving an Honorable Mention to ADP’s Accountant Connect — a platform of resources and practice management tools that has been named a Top New Product more than once, as the company continues to add ever-more capabilities to it. This year they’ve beefed up its analysis tools, integration with QuickBooks, and its library of tax forms, among other things.

Finally, an Honorable Mention shout-out to Kruze Consulting, an accounting and consulting firm in California, which released its own Startup Tax Deadlines integration for Google Calendar, to help its startup clients and others keep track of a wide range of critical compliance dates. Expect to see more and more firms offering these kinds of helpful tools in the future.