Practice management is a critical function in any accounting firm. Without good management, clients are poorly served, receipts suffer, and profitability plummets. But exactly what constitutes practice management depends on who is doing the definition, and what the particular requirements are in your practice. Not every practice needs the full spectrum of practice management tools, though every firm needs at least one of them.

To help you figure out whether your practice management system needs a tune-up or possibly a replacement, we asked the major providers of these applications to detail the features of their offerings. The results are tallied in our comparison guide.

We also asked that the vendors fill us in on the changes, improvements, and new features they implemented during 2017, and to give a peek at what’s in the works for the upcoming year.

CCH Axcess: Customers with CCH Axcess Practice and CCH Axcess Portal will be able to provide the option to pay electronically via CCH Client Axcess. CCH Axcess customers have a new way of accessing the data in their systems with Data Axcess, a series of APIs that enable users to programmatically retrieve data within Axcess. For project management and workflow, CCH Axcess Workstream will offer IntelliConnect Tax Calendar Integration.

CCH ProSystem fx Practice Management: The Mobile Time app has been beta-tested and is almost ready for wide release. Beyond entering and posting time and expenses, staff will be able to search for client contact information. Other recent updates include reporting and other improvements; a new tab for firm reports, with separate security privileges; a new listing of standard paragraphs to be used by bill managers on the client tab of the standard reports folder; and new contact management filters have been added to filter billable, nonbillable and unposted work in progress.

CCH iFirm Practice Manager: Much of 2017 was focused around improvements to platform usability and refinements to the user experience.

Canopy: Canopy added a client engagement letter generator with e-signature, document management, a bulk file upload tool, and a third-party data upload tool. They also added a client communications platform. Workflow capabilities were enhanced and two-factor authentication was added.

OfficeTools: OfficeTools was acquired by AbacusNext, and so focused on cloud-enabling the OfficeTools desktop app in 2017 so it’s optimized for maximum performance in the cloud. They also added several new integrations, starting with the VoIP phone provider Crexendo for click-to-call, automatic call logging and other time-saving features. They also added native document capture with integration with Canon scanners, and document markup and expanded document management tools through an integration with FileCenter by Lucion Technologies.

Sage: During 2017, updates included the ability to create jobs from a contract proposal, send a contract proposal to the client, convert a contract proposal into a sales contract, and create multiple jobs against a contract. There’s a new proposal template transaction type, and the ability to sync Sage Live tasks to Outlook. In 2017, they also added payment improvements, a ledger account statement, improved e-mail actions for transactions, a default page size in list view, and list view column sorting.

Thomson Reuters Practice CS: During 2017, they updated the log-in security in Practice CS to comply with Internal Revenue Service standards, allowed for single sign-on access across the CS Professional Suite, and added multi-factor authentication.

Thomson Reuters Onvio: In 2017, they introduced Onvio Time and Billing, and during the year, they had several major releases adding additional reporting, invoice customization features and improved timer capabilities.

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