By itself, the fact that Best Software dropped its CPATax Manager tax package to let its users get access to CCH ProSystem fx was not big news. CPATaxManager, renamed from the original Visual Tax, was a package with few users, acquired when Best purchased CPASoftware.
But other statements in the press release announcing the decision to let the Best tax users integrate their other CPAS packages with CCH ProSystem fx should make the industry take notice. The move was described as “a first step” in an alliance designed to provide complementary products to each other’s customers.
Nearly two years ago, this column pointed out that no company has “The Complete Package,” that is, products for both accounting software resellers and public accounting firms. The purchase of CPAS was designed to move Best in that direction. At the time of the acquisition, Best CEO Ron Verni noted that Best’s parent Sage plays in both markets in the United Kingdom.
It’s hard to predict how far the alliance can go, but it brings together two companies that have little product overlap. True, both Best, through its CPAPractice Manager (the former CPAS Visual Practice Management) and CCH, with ProSystem fx Practice, have strong entries in the practice management area. But that’s about it.
CCH doesn’t have a write-up/accounting package. Best does with CPAAccounting Manager. CCH has trial balance/working paper software. Best does not. The big hole in Best’s line for serving public accounting is tax research. CCH is one of two major players in this area. CCH, of course, does not have a general accounting package, while Best offers a perhaps too-diverse line. Nevertheless, it offers accounting applications from retail, with its Peachtree products, on to the top of the mid-market with MAS 500. No other accounting software vendor offers that.
Intuit has a strong low end, but only an incipient line in the mid-market. Microsoft has strong mid-market offerings, but has failed repeatedly on the low end, although it is reportedly ready to try again. Thomson, strong in CPA offerings that include write-up, tax research, and tax preparation, doesn’t play in the general accounting software market.
What could result from this alliance? The almost certain emergence of new products has already been mentioned. Certainly CCH and Best could engage in active cross-selling to each other’s customer bases.
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