SOFTWARE, HARDWARE & SERVICES
A SURPRISING FIRE
In the past, it would have been hard to imagine sales and use tax figuring on anyone's list of burning issues - and yet right now it's pretty high up there, with revenue-hungry states cracking down and companies scrambling to stay on top of it. Fortunately, a flood of new products have come out recently to help, including the new OneSource Sales & Use Tax Managed Service from the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters. This portal application offers a number of gadgets and functionality to help companies get control of their data and the whole sales and use tax process. Among the current features are data file uploads, data reconciliation and variance reporting, tax liability analysis data, notice management status, and management reports, with more planned.
Tax season may be over, but tax prep goes on! For those who use Adobe Acrobat in their tax workflow, the new NumberTumbler from Acrobatic Accountants could prove to be a very handy tool. It's a toolbar that works within Acrobat to help you streamline and keep track of the whole process, with features like adding role-specific notes that can be locked, to creating permanent notes that roll forward as part of a client file, building links that are easier to create and use, and even digital white-out for last-minute corrections. Perhaps most interesting is the ability to add sign-off check boxes directly to each work paper for the preparer and the reviewer.
PR IN A BOX
There's no such thing as bad publicity, but there is badly done publicity, and expensive publicity. To avoid the last two, consider Understanding Marketing's new PR Toolkit, an e-book designed specifically for accountants and small financial firms that shows you how to get and keep the attention of the media (which is, present company excepted, uninterested in anything about accounting that isn't a scandal), as well as offering free resources for getting press releases into search engines and newswires, and even helping you learn how to use social media for national publicity.
Further developing the merger-as-marriage metaphor: In both cases, you're not just taking on those you've arranged the deal with - your future spouse or the partner group, depending on the case - but also their extended family - the mooching in-laws, the cranky receptionist, the cousins with criminal records and the criminally incompetent staffers. With a firm merger, though, you can at least use a tool like Zapoint Enterprise, a Software as a Service tool that lets you assess your new staffers' skills and qualifications in a simple "talent currency," and judge them with LifeCharts, providing a stock-chart-like guide to the winners and losers of your new family. Real-life families, unfortunately, can still only be judged on their behavior at the wedding.
Even though experts will tell you that the confidential client data on old computer hard drives can still be read, we're not suggesting you consider Security Engineered Machinery's Model 0101 Sledgehammer Hard Driver Crusher for that. Nor are we suggesting you consider it because it's small (less than 22 inches tall), portable, plugs into a standard wall outlet, and delivers 12,000 pounds of hydraulic force through a conical punch to crush hard drives. In fact, we're not even suggesting you consider it. We just think it's cool.
NEW AND IMPROVED!
NetSuite announced SuiteCloud Connect for SalesForce.com, which integrates its business management software with the CRM platform. ... The Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters has added Employee Benefits for Domestic Partners: Design, Taxation and Administration to its CheckPoint research platform. ... Software Technology Inc. released a Credit Card Authorization Module for its Tabs3 time and billing app.
If you have clients who are Federal Housing Authority mortgage lenders, let us first off offer our condolences. Second, let us recommend the new Audit and Assessment Guide from Banker's Advisory, which is an invaluable reference tool for navigating the complex, computerized process of getting or renewing FHA-approved status. The compliance requirements for FHA lenders and the CPA firms that audit them have gotten significantty tighter recently, and the book aims to make sure that lenders and their auditors don't get blindsided by the regulations, as they have been by the housing market.
Banker's Advisory; $150
Those who have had the misfortune to read the New Products section in the past will be aware of our desire to branch out into the exciting world of business fraud, so it will come as no surprise to them how pleased we were to get a copy of both mammoth volumes of the fifth edition of Computer Security Handbook. While these twin doorstops may be a little too exhaustive and comprehensive for smaller firms, those dedicated to preserving (or breaching) the integrity of computer systems will want to find a place for them on their shelves. Almost a third of the chapters are brand-new to this edition, reflecting the rapid evolution of technology (and its enemies), and ensuring that the experts on both sides of the law are completely up to date.
John Wiley & Sons; $210
LOUSY SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE
Even as we here at New Products gloomily peruse the business news and worry about job security, we just know there are clever, talented people out there figuring out how to make their fortunes. We can practically hear them reading books like The Silver Lining, which was written to show companies how to re-invent themselves to emerge transformed from difficult times. It shows already-lean businesses how to prune prudently to free up resources for the best opportunities, how to segment markets strategically, how to master smart experiments in innovation, and much more. And when they're done reading, they're going to go out and make more money than we could ever dream of - and we have big dreams.
Harvard Business Press; $25
PUTTING CUSTOMERS FIRST
On learning that Domino is about enhancing customer experience, accountants may be tempted to leave it to the poor schlubs in retail; CPA firms, after all, don't have mere customers, they have clients. The thing is, they're really the same thing, and Domino isn't about shortening the lines at the cash register. It operates, instead, on a higher level that applies to all kinds of businesses, urging you to focus on how clients feel as they realize that they have a need, learn about you, try you out, buy, and get their problem solved (hopefully by you). Doing this, the book maintains, is the crucial first domino in a long chain that leads to success, enormous growth, skyrocketing profits, a cure for cancer and world peace. All you have to do is mentally replace the word "customer" with the word "client" as you read, and you'll be ready to knock the first one over.
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