SOFTWARE, HARDWARE & SERVICES
ONE HAND CURSING
XCMessential and XCMessential Plus
XCM Solutions LLC
For those who think that small and sole practitioners don't need workflow software, we offer the following Zen koan: "What is the sound of one CPA losing track of a client file at 11:45 on April 14?"
The fact is that wherever there's work, there's workflow, and smaller firms and sole practitioners can benefit just as much as larger firms from organizing it digitally. Recognizing this, XCM Solutions has created XCMessential and XCMessential Plus, streamlined versions of its pioneering online paperless workflow solution designed specifically for the needs (and budgets) of smaller firms. Both offer strong digital workflow capabilities, a personal home page for each user, due-date monitoring and tracking, and more. XCMessential is aimed at firms with up to five users and one practice area, and starts at $95 a month, while Plus goes up to 10 users and two practice areas at $150 a month; both offer an easy upgrade path for growing firms.
Peachtree Premium Accounting 2010, Complete Accounting 2010, Pro Accounting 2010, and First Accounting 2010
Sage North America
Apples may not fall far from the tree, but Sage North America is expanding its Peachtree line far beyond the basics of accounting with a bushelful of new capabilities in areas like customer management and business analysis. The 2010 versions include a new Customer Management Center for viewing all customer data in one place, with customizable dashboard views, enhanced lookups and easy export to Excel or PDF formats, as well as a new Business Analytics feature that uses benchmarking service iLumen to help small businesses compare themselves with others to see how they're doing. Other new features include a single-click transaction history, the ability to have multiple companies open at once, inventory management, and automatic backup. Prices start at $99.99 for Peachtree First Accounting 2010, and range up to $1,199.99 for the Premium Accounting 2010 Multi-User Value Pack.
WEALTH SOME DAY
BNA Wealth Manager
Though it may seem hard to believe in the current economy, we are reliably informed that at some point in the future, there will once again be wealth to manage. CPAs interested in profiting from that distant possibility would do well to consider the new BNA Wealth Manager, a financial planning solution developed by BNA and Scivantage. The software handles the key areas that are the basis of a solid practice, including planning for retirement, trusts, gifts, estates, long-term care, education goals, and more. It's easy to use; offers strong charts, graphs and reporting capabilities to dazzle (and possibly inform) clients; and scales up to handle planning for high-net-worth clients. The tools are there - you just need to find the wealth.
NOT SADDER - WEISER
The Weiser SOX Kit
Those public companies that have been trying to put off complying with the auditor attestation requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act could find themselves depressed on Dec. 15, when the last of many extensions for "non-accelerated filers" (those with a market capitalization of less than $75 million) runs out. Top 100 Firm Weiser LLP is ready to help, however, with its new Weiser SOX Kit, a Web-based collection of all the tools small companies need to become SOX-compliant, including customized internal control templates, risk-based testing, and strong reporting tools.
BELLS, WHISTLES, WIDGETS
Timely Opportunities Widget
There are a lot of pointless, annoying bells and whistles you can use to tart up your Web site - Flash intros, anyone? - and then there are truly useful add-ons, like links to AccountingToday.com, or the new Timely Opportunities Widget. Created by BizActions, a provider of client newsletters for CPAs, the new widget provides original business content you can offer clients through your Web site. There's a free version that just offers the content, and a customized version that will mirror your firm's colors and branding, and then opens clicked-on content in a window branded with your unique masthead and full of links to send readers back to your site. Please note that links to our site, while not customizable, are entirely free, and greatly appreciated.
The American consumer, after a decade or more of reckless spending, has finally been shocked into retrenching and spending less - which is a shame, really, since spending has never been easier. For instance, Intuit's new GoPayment lets small businesses process credit cards wherever they have a mobile phone and an Internet connection, so you can pay them right on the spot, wherever the spot may be. At $19.95 a month, this is understandably appealing to small businesses, as it should also reduce the amount of money they're waiting to get paid. Whether it will make consumers start spending, however, remains an open question.
SETTLE ON A NAME, ALREADY
We've more or less discarded ASPs, hosted apps, and on-demand services, and we're gradually phasing out Software-as-a-Service in favor of "cloud computing," all in the vain hope that the technology industry will settle on a single way to describe delivering software over the Internet. The reason we care is that they keep rolling out new solutions in the "cloud," like Acumatica's new accounting and business management solution, which offers midsized businesses a whole suite of solutions for accounting, ERP, customer relationship management and other business processes, with all the benefits of the cloud computing model - quick set-up and installation, constant access from any Web browser, and easy customization.
POWER GOOD, CORDS BAD
Love electricity, but hate all those cords? Tired of knocking over your coffee every time you move your mouse or keyboard more than an inch? Sick of groping behind your desk for the laptop cord that slipped away? No more! Now there's Bluelounge's CableDrops to keep recalcitrant cables in line, so they don't snag, drop or slither away! No more bending, untangling or cursing! CableDrops are made of space-age Thermoplastic Polyurethane, and stick to both vertical and horizontal surfaces! They come in two different sets of colors! Only $9.95 for a pack of six! Order now!
MindManager CPA Edition
In the Age of Discovery, the prize was control of new continents, and one of the main tools was the parchment map. In the Information Age, the prize is control of knowledge, and one of the main tools is going to be products like Mindjet's MindManager, which helps users visually manage and present vast quantities of information. The company recently released a version specifically for accountants, with templates to help them manage information and communicate clearly with peers and clients in areas like audit plans, due diligence, complex standard implementations and board meetings. With MindManager's "mind maps," accountants can organize, find and update information quickly and efficiently, track processes and changes better, and communicate more effectively. Just think what Columbus could have done with it.
YOU DON'T NEED THIS
Customized soda machines (Yes, customized soda machines)
American Soda Machines
Look, we're not going to kid you - you don't need a customized soda machine. No one does. But that doesn't mean that it wouldn't look fantastic in your break room or staff kitchen, with your logo all over it, or some kind of accounting theme, or pictures of your founding partners. If we here at New Products had any money, we'd be in touch with American Soda Machines to have them customize a soda machine for us pronto. They'll do it to order, and then we'd make a fortune selling cheap sodas at vastly inflated prices to our colleagues, who will feel obliged to buy to prove their loyalty.
NEW AND IMPROVED!
NetSuite Inc. has added a Financial Planning module for businesses with "what-if" modeling capabilities to its online accounting and business management solutions. ... CCH has added Multistate Oil and Gas Smart Charts and an Oil and Gas Compliance Developments tool to its Oil and Gas Taxation Library on the IntelliConnect and TRN platforms. ... AME Software Products Inc. has released the Professional Edition of its AME Payroll, aimed at tax professionals and small and midsized businesses. ... Open Systems Inc. has released Traverse Flex-Pack Version 10.5, an accounting solution designed specifically for the flexible packaging industry. ... Abak Softwares has launched Version 7.0 of its time, billing and project management software, with a new dashboard, a Resource Planning module, e-invoicing and more. ... Basware has launched Basware Connectivity, a set of enabling services to increase the adoption of electronic document exchange between suppliers and buyers. ... Fiserv Inc. has released Version 2.4 of its TradeFlow multi-asset post-trade processing solution.
ASSETS AND LIABILITIES
The Differentiated Workforce
Harvard Business Press; $35
Most accounting firms have now come around to the idea that people are their most valuable asset. The Differentiated Workforce suggests going further, and thinking of people as your most valuable assets - and you don't treat all your assets the same, do you? The problem, the book maintains, is that most companies don't view their workforce strategically, in terms of what each position and the person who fills it contribute to its success. Rather, they focus on broad measures like becoming an "employer of choice." The book suggests that it's better to be a choosy employer, and with plenty of real-world examples and detailed strategies, it makes a compelling case for making more of an effort to engage and reward superior performers, while ditching the laggards - a strategy, we hasten to say, that is far more applicable to accounting firms than, say, publishing companies.
Cold Tree Press; $13.95
F. Scott Fitzgerald originally pointed out that the rich are different from you and me, and demonstrated the consequences, but he left out the most important part - how they got that way in the first place. Fortunately, New Jersey CPA Thomas Corley has filled this frustrating gap with Rich Habits, a detailed examination of the 10 principles that separate us and them. Turns out the rich really are different (and not just in having more money): In the first generation of wealth, at least, they are more disciplined, take better care of themselves, and have far fewer of the bad habits that keep the rest of us poor.
Using the fictional device of a struggling accountant named Jobs, who becomes obsessed with discovering the secrets of financial success after his wife dies because they cannot afford medical care, Rich Habits should help develop "rich" qualities in your clients who don't have them, and reinforce them in those who do. And if you're curious about entering Fitzgerald territory yourself, it's a good place to start.
All for One: 10 Strategies for Building Trusted Client Partnerships
John Wiley & Sons; $25.95
Woody Allen famously observed that romantic relationships are like sharks, in that if they don't move constantly forward, they die. Client relationships are much the same, according to All for One: 10 Strategies for Building Trusted Client Partnerships, which says that it is no longer enough, for instance, to know your clients' industries well, deliver consistent quality, and be a trusted advisor; now you must be an agenda-setter in their industries, delivery quality and a unique experience, and be a trusted partner.
The book's 10 strategies will show you how to mobilize your entire firm to deepen and strengthen your hold on your clients, thus binding you together - at least until the shark slows down again, at which point you will probably need to chum them on a regular basis, and brush their many sharp teeth for them.
MORE ON SHARK CARE
FT Press; $22.99
Much like All for One, Inspire! is all about the constant need to keep clients engaged, excited and, obviously, inspired. It offers a number of strategies to capture their hearts and minds, from simplifying the complex and embracing honesty, to leveraging the enthusiasm of those you've satisfied in the past. And while many of the examples may seem far-removed from the experience of the average accounting firm - what can you learn, after all, from a company that bottles organic tea, or one that teaches parents how to communicate with their infants through sign language? - a little thought reveals that many of them do, in fact, apply. The tea bottler, for instance, made a public commitment to honesty and transparency that cost it money in the short term, but built customer loyalty in the long, which is not a bad lesson for a profession that is rightly proud of its integrity. Perhaps the best lesson is that any company, no matter what it does, can be inspiring if it makes the right commitment.
Business Combinations with SFAS 141R, 157 and 160
John Wiley & Sons; $190
With all the debate over the philosophical usefulness of fair value accounting and its putative role in creating the current economic crisis, it's sometimes forgotten that it still pervades accounting standards. Business Combinations with SFAS 141R, 157 and 160 is a forceful reminder of this, as it offers extremely useful guidance to valuation experts, auditors and financial statement preparers on the new rules for business combination reporting, with a strong focus on the significant role given to fair value. It also includes a variety of flowcharts, checklists and worksheets for applying the different standards.
WHAT NOT TO DO
John Wiley & Sons; $50
Performance Management begins with a description of the best management techniques for ensuring poor corporate performance. Unfortunately, while tongue-in-cheek, it pretty accurately sums up the situation at many companies. Fortunately, the book goes on to explain how to remedy this, with plenty of detail on implementing successful methodologies for gathering, analyzing and acting on all sorts of performance data. It also makes a special point of emphasizing the importance of change and behavior management, and offers a particularly lucid explanation of the difference between performance management and business intelligence.
ALSO IN PRINT
Wiley has released the 2009 supplement to the third edition of its The Tax Law of Charitable Giving, updated to include the latest laws on the subject (John Wiley & Sons; $80)... For those wondering whether honesty really is the best corporate policy, The Integrity Advantage strongly makes the case that it is. But then, so does Bernie Madoff's prison sentence; the difference is that the book shows you how to integrate integrity into your life and business (Gibbs Smith; $18.95). ... For clients struggling with debt and/or spendthrift ways, The Smartest Way to Save offers hundreds of tips on saving and spending less (Straightline; $16.99).
(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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