Software & HardwareSNAP TO IT!

Where punching an intercom button and barking out an order to distant underlings was once the sole province of 1950s business moguls, now it's within reach of everyone thanks to the Snap Communicator, a USB device that gives users an instant voice connection over the Internet. Looking like a cross between a cell phone and a TV remote control, the Snap also offers easy four-way conferencing, free voicemails that can be received as e-mails, and a "Snap-To" feature that will forward your Snap calls to your snappee's home or cell phone when they're not at their computer, so you can bark orders 24-7. The only problem is that now others can bark at you round the clock, too.


Intuit has enhanced its Intuit Online Payroll service so that it now integrates with current versions of the company's QuickBooks Pro, Premier and Enterprise Solutions, so users can make sure they're up to date and accurate, and share payroll information with their accountants. The payroll solution also now offers a new E-Pay service, which allows users to pay federal and certain state taxes.


With states hungry for revenue, many of your clients would be wise to get an idea of their sales tax compliance risk. Sales tax automation vendor Speed Tax is offering a free online risk assessment tool for companies to see how vulnerable they are in this area. Whether they're safe or at risk, or somewhere in between, it's something companies need to be aware of - so recommend it to your clients as a useful tool.


All clients everywhere are annoying, but the ones who throw a shoebox full of receipts and records and cocktail napkins at you during tax time are among the worst. For those with rental properties, consider recommending, a free online tool for tracking rental income and expenses, and attaching supporting documents, so everything you and they need is in one place.


While the growing consciousness of good design has made the world prettier, it also means that people expect everything to be well-designed - even your marketing materials and business Web site. If you can't hire a design firm, consider software developer Serif's PagePlus X2 and WebPlus X2. At less than $100 each, the software packages can help you create logos, ads, business cards, stationery, collateral materials and more, as well as Web sites, that won't leave your firm looking design-challenged.


PricewaterhouseCoopers' The IFRS Manual of Accounting is now available as an add-on module of CCH's Accounting

Research Manager. ... Thomson Reuters has added the OneSource Entity Manager to its OneSource Tax platform. ... Whitebirch Software has released Version 7.5 of its Whitebirch Planning financial modeling application. ... CyberShift has added expense report approval functionality to its Necho Expense Mobile Edition. ... has released its SmartDraw 2009 business graphics application.



Given our background in hip hop and rap, we assumed that audit sampling was picking your favorite parts of a "classic" audit and remixing them to create a new audit, but it turns out that's pretty much illegal. The American Institute of CPAs' recently updated Audit Sampling set us straight, with detailed guidance and case studies on this critical part of the auditor's armory.

The institute also recently released the second edition of its Audit Committee Toolkit, which can help set committee members straight on their fiduciary responsibilities. With a variety of matrices, questionnaires, sample forms and checklists, the Toolkit will prepare them to deal with internal auditors, external auditors, fraud, risk and much more.

AICPA; www.cpa2biz or (888) 777-7077


While it's a truism that it takes money to make money, it's less well-understood that money costs money, and that how much you pay for your money is critical for a business. The mammoth Cost of Capital, by valuation experts Shannon Pratt and Roger Grabowski, is a comprehensive guide and reference to the fiendishly complicated business of estimating how much return the markets expect for the use of their money. Now in its third edition, it has a number of new chapters, including material on cost of capital for transfer pricing and companies in developing countries, as well as extensive examples using different methods and models.

John Wiley & Sons; $150


Centralizing a business function can be a great way to streamline it and deliver the related services efficiently and effectively. It can also be a cultural and procedural nightmare. Shared Services - the latest in the Manager's Journey series - uses a fictional story to detail the promise and pitfalls of creating such a business-within-a-business, and in the process delivers useful advice on doing it yourself.

John Wiley & Sons; $45


It's surprising how little thought is devoted to thinking - and yet it can be the most important thing you do in your business (to say nothing of your life). Developing different methods of thinking can make a significant difference in your performance, and a good manager should seek them out. One place to start is Analysis Without Paralysis: 10 Tools for Managers, which offers a plain-English primer on a variety of ways to think more clearly and make better decisions about your business plans and strategies. Just something to think about ... .

FT Press; $24.99


At 41, Tom Bloch quit his job as chief executive of tax prep giant H&R Block and became an inner-city math teacher - a change that brought him enormous fulfillment and the central theme of Stand for the Best. While the book focuses on his experiences as a teacher and founder of a charter school, as well as the education issues facing the country, Bloch also wants to help us all find more fulfilling ways to live, so he offers sound advice on how to figure out what you really want to do in life, and how to pursue it. The first step, obviously, is to become CEO of a major U.S. corporation.

Jossey-Bass (Wiley); $24.95


OK - now we're terrified. We know that Threat! Managing Risk in a Hostile World offers all kinds of methodologies for identifying and dealing with the myriad risks facing companies these days, and that executives can use the book (and the Enterprise Threat Index CD-ROM that comes with it) to make their organizations safer. But since we're not in a position to implement any of that, all we can do is worry helplessly over the dangers the book vividly describes from terrorists, corporate espionage, disasters, hackers, identity thieves and just about everyone and everything else in the world. We'll be having nightmares tonight.

IIA Research Foundation; members - $65, non-members - $79

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