No one can deny the importance of good accounting software, and the next wave of innovative and cost-effective solutions is, and will be, 100-percent cloud-based. For what most small to midsized businesses and accounting firms need to do, Intacct's Accountant's Edition and recent offerings from NetSuite are our winners in the Accounting/ERP Category. Cloud accounting may be a relatively new concept, but these companies have been building their brand and services for over a decade. Their products have matured, and their newest offerings are among the most user-friendly and effective accounting solutions in the space.
What's more, unlike on-premise technologies, these Web-based offerings are essentially version-less - updated a couple of times a year. Both have clear differences in their approach to accounting, but the depth and breadth of their offerings are what makes them the top products in this field.
For Intacct's part, the company's main focus is on core accounting - for anything outside of that, it has a network of over 30 accounting-related service providers. The Intacct Accountant Edition is a set of cloud-based financial management and accounting applications that is currently in use by hundreds of accounting firms to support thousands of business clients. The company's endorsement by the American Institute of CPAs' marketing arm, CPA2Biz, via the Trusted Business Advisor Solutions program, has also helped its reach into the accounting community.
NetSuite's overall service offerings have matured since its days as the Oracle-born application service provider NetLedger. It currently has a partner network of over 200 ISVs, traditional VARs, and a growing number of accounting firms. Through one of the company's latest additions, NetSuite OneWorld, it can serve the needs of multinational businesses, while its newest offering, SuiteFlow, allows for customizable workflow management, allowing companies to go far beyond basic accounting.
There were also several products that we felt were worthy of honorable mention, whether for improvements to their features, or because they are representative of where accounting software and services are going. These include: FinancialForce.com (FinancialForce); Sage Peachtree Quantum (Sage North America); Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 (Microsoft Corp.); Outright.com (Outright); SaaS for Professional Suite (Thompson Reuters); and Power Practice System (AccountantsWorld).
ProSystem FX Knowledge Coach
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
Once viewed as one of the basic foundations of an accountant's services, audit and audit management have come under intense scrutiny over the past several years, courtesy of mega-billion-dollar frauds and the specter of increased government regulation. As a result, audit software has assumed a higher level of expectation and demand for functionality - factors that have earned ProSystem fx Knowledge Coach our nod as Top New Product in audit software.
Knowledge Coach wears a lot of audit-related hats - it's a planning tool, workpaper generator, audit workflow management app and risk overseer as it guides the auditor through each step - from the planning stage to its completion. Knowledge Coach associates specific program steps with each risk encountered. The results in each workpaper are flowed automatically to all of the impacted workpapers, and can then be rolled forward for the following year.
Adaptive Planning Inc.
With the availability of lower-cost offerings, and a user base more educated about what business intelligence is and can do for them, BI is becoming an understandable, usable and affordable initiative for small and midsized businesses and CPA firms. Our Top New Product choice in this category also represents where BI software is going. Adaptive Planning's Version 6.5 features on-demand budgeting, forecasting, reporting and "what-if" analysis. It represents an alternative to both manual, Excel-based processes and costly, complex enterprise software. Like all true cloud-based offerings, it does not require any new hardware, software, or IT support, and deploys quickly, averaging just two weeks of consulting for implementation.
Adaptive Planning 6.5 introduces numerous features that improve usability, including enhancements to data presentation, data access, and administrative roles and permissions. Additionally, its "Cell Explorer" feature allows users to thoroughly analyze any cell within their financial model by drilling down into the sequence of values and formulas used to calculate the final result, and is now available within the reports module. It also extends its integration with NetSuite's on-demand business management suite.
Honorable mentions in this category go to Cougar Dtails (Cougar Mountain Software) and Indicee (Indicee Inc.). Cougar Dtails is a new financial dashboard that provides an at-a-glance visual representation of a company's financial performance. It is tied to the general ledger so users can easily view their profit and loss, cash flow, and key financial indicators. It is also built into the company's Denali 2.9 accounting system, and its CMS Professional nonprofit software.
Indicee is a true SaaS app from the makers of CrystalReports - the reporting backbone of many of today's ERP systems. Indicee's offering is simple: It sits on top of existing ERP and CRM solutions and extracts specific reports for specific people within a company or organization.
Calculators have evolved light years since accountants and other financial professionals rushed to purchase such long-defunct electronic handhelds as the Bowmar Brain in the early 1970s. An example of that quantum leap in functionality is Judy's Tenkey, the Windows-based calculator used by many of the top-tier accounting firms, as well as users in 45 countries, and our unanimous selection as the Top New Product in the Calculators Category.
The newest version of Judy's Tenkey showcases such features as an editable tape that automatically recalculates changes, a multi-level undo function, better PDF integration, a zero-install option, optional sounds and the ability to use numbers in other Windows applications, or paste results into a report.
Company IQ SEC Comment Letters Solution
When you think of comparability in public company financial reporting, it's usually from the perspective of the statement user. But those doing the reporting can benefit from comparability, too, if it helps them figure out how other companies have reported things before. Our Top New Product in financial reporting, LogixData's Company IQ SEC Comment Letters Solution, helps develop that kind of comparability for filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. They've taken SEC staff comment letters and broken them down into a database of over a million individual comments, which they've matched with registrant responses and made searchable by word, phrase, accounting literature, form type, and over 20 other variables. Search responses include links to the full comment letter, company response, the actual filing in question, and more, and comments can be traced through multiple rounds of correspondence. It's an excellent way to profit from other companies' successes - and mistakes.
One of the critical components to charting a successful career path in the accounting profession is completing the required hours of CPE. In a large firm, the difficult and time-consuming logistics of ensuring that your staff members are meeting their mandated CPE requires a sophisticated tracking platform like our Top New Product in the Learning Category: Checkpoint Learning.
Checkpoint Learning consolidates Thomson Reuters' other CPE and CPE-tracking platforms - MicroMash, PASS Online, Reqwired and Checkpoint - into one central learning management repository. It includes the CPE requirements for all 50 states, as well as 15 specialty affiliations, and features a personalized dashboard and allows firm administrators to select and design individual CPE curricula. Checkpoint Learning's interactive courses include video and audio clips, animated graphics, and case studies.
Earning honorable mention in the category was Whetstone Growth Academy (The Whetstone Group Inc.), an online sales training and leadership program tailored for all levels of a CPA firm's hierarchy, from the first-year employee to the managing partner or shareholder, to help them develop a common marketing and sales approach.
Sage Fundraising Online
Sage North America
Much like its for-profit counterpart, the nonprofit world is moving towards cloud-based solutions, and the winner in this category is representative of how the move can benefit government and other nonprofit organizations - in this case, in the area of fundraising. Sage's Sage Fundraising Online is a SaaS-based application that allows nonprofits to create multiple giving forms with marketing messaging to better reach new and existing donors. Multiple giving forms can help organizations boost results for event-based fundraisers, rapid response campaigns, and annual appeals. Sage Fundraising Online integrates with the on-premise Sage Fundraising 50 Version 8.2, and is expected to be able to do so with future Sage products. The service also integrates with Salesforce.com, and maps to a number of other customer relationship management products in the nonprofit software market.
Making payments easy from anywhere, anytime, including from mobile devices, is what makes Intuit's GoPayment the winner in the Payment Tools Category. The application lets small-business owners process credit card payments via their mobile phone and an Intuit GoPayment merchant account. QuickBooks is not needed to process with GoPayment, but transactions can be downloaded into QuickBooks Pro or Premier 2009 and later, ensuring that accounting professionals are reviewing accurate data.
Honorable mentions in this category go to two SaaS applications, Bill.com ePayments (Bill.com) and Sage Exchange (Sage North America). The ePayments service allows businesses and their accountants to pay any vendor, employee or individual electronically via direct deposit, rather than through paper checks. The direct deposits can go to utility companies, credit card providers and other vendors. The service will work with any U.S. bank, as well as with QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online and Intacct. Sage Exchange is a secure, cloud-based Payment Card Industry-certified payments system that allows small and midsized businesses and organizations to accept all forms and methods of payment.
NetClient CS Virtual Client Office
While the use of portals is not quite ubiquitous in the accounting industry, a growing number of firms are embracing their advantages for secure and convenient file exchange - regardless of size - as well as collaboration for data and information within the firm and with their clients. NetClient CS Virtual Client Office from Thompson Reuters, our Top New Product in this arena, builds on its previous document-transfer capabilities by enabling the accountant to deliver hosted software to business clients with options for client accounting, document management, and Microsoft Office applications. This puts the CPA in the role of trusted technology partner, improves client retention, and is designed to enable CPA firms to provide better service at a low price point.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
One of the big frustrations in a CPA firm or any business is having a question or problem but not knowing the right person to ask.
KnowledgeConnect, our Top New Product in the Practice Management Category, helps solve that long-standing problem. Billed as a knowledge management system, it encompasses the collective experience and knowledge of a firm's leaders and presents it in a centrally indexed and re-usable system to ease and manage the question-asking process. As a result, a firm is able to make faster decisions, avoid redundancies and reduce cycle times for projects.
Its "Ask Question" feature allows users to pose their own questions to specific knowledge leaders, or to an entire community, providing collaboration across the organization - even if it conducts business in multiple locations or has remote employees. KnowledgeConnect arranges firmwide knowledge logically and encourages sharing among team members with blogs, wikis, best practices and FAQS.
OneSource Transfer Pricing Documenter
Sales tax is hot these days, and not just because every government - from local to national - is desperate for revenue. It's also an area of tremendous complexity that's ripe for improvement through technology. We chose the new Transfer Pricing Documenter from Thomson Reuters' OneSource corporate tax platform as our Top New Product in this area because it neatly applies a Web-based solution to a particularly thorny issue. It starts with expert knowledge of transfer-pricing regs worldwide, adds a searchable database of comparable taxpayers, and then lets users analyze and document their transfer-pricing decisions in collaboration with colleagues around the world, significantly streamlining compliance in an area where tax authorities are getting harder and harder to please.
Honorable mentions go to the CorpSystem Sales Tax Office (CCH, http://cchgroup.com/sales-tax-data), which has a new Exemption Management Module to make handling exempt customers easier, and to the Anybill Sales, Use and Property Tax Documentation and Payment Suite (Anybill Inc., www.anybill.com), which streamlines the whole SUPT remittance process.
Information wants to be free, but the last thing you want to tell clients is that you were responsible for letting their confidential data escape, particularly since the vast majority of states now have strict laws about information security. That's why we've chosen Lenovo's ThinkPad T410s as one of our Top New Products. This laptop takes security seriously: If it is lost or stolen, you can disable it with a simple text message and prevent unauthorized access, while its Hardware Password Manager makes it easier to adopt full-disk encryption, and Lenovo Lost & Found provides a simple process for identifying and returning lost T410s. Plus, it has an integrated fingerprint reader that lets authorized users power on or wake up the laptop with a single swipe.
Of course, hardware isn't the only way data can go astray, which is why we've given honorable mentions to two other products: CPA Safemail (cPaperless LLC, www.cpasafemail.com), a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook that lets you encrypt and password-protect e-mails and attachments; and Jungle Disk (Rackspace, www.jungledisk.com), a cloud-based backup and storage service that uses high-level encryption to protect valuable data offsite, while at the same time making it accessible to authorized users wherever they may be.
Spreadsheets are one of accountants' core tools, and there has been a quiet trend recently to improve their functionality in all sorts of ways. As an online spreadsheet application, SpreadsheetLive lives at the intersection of that trend with the much more high-profile move to the cloud, giving users much of the functionality they've learned to expect from Excel, but in a browser-based environment that lets them build spreadsheets from scratch online, or upload existing spreadsheets for sharing. More important, it lets multiple users simultaneously edit a spreadsheet for deeper collaboration, greater efficiency, and fewer problems with having multiple versions floating around.
An honorable mention goes to Prodiance Audit & Control Manager (Prodiance, www.prodiance.com), which automates the internal controls over spreadsheets needed to better manage risk in finance and reporting functions.
TAX PLANNING (CORPORATE)
Section 382 aNOLyzer
Section 382 Solutions
The ramifications and tax guidelines around a Section 382 study and net operating losses often confuse even seasoned tax experts. But our Top New Product in corporate tax planning - Section 382 aNOLyzer - can help with that often-complex procedure.
Section 382 aNOLyzer is a PDF-based application that handles all aspects of a Section 382 study - from identifying and tracking a loss company's 5 percent shareholders, to calculating their lowest percentage ownership on a testing date. All calculations are performed automatically, which saves the user time, eliminates spreadsheets, and dramatically increases accuracy.
The software can handle an unlimited number of transactions and shareholders per testing date, and provides calculations for the small issuance, cash issuance, and the three-year testing period of each testing date. Using a spreadsheet-type interface, the software guides users through the process of setting up new companies and adding 5 percent shareholders, as well as testing dates and transactions. If Section 382 is triggered, the user is informed, and prompted to input certain data for the Section 382 limitation.
TaxWise Central Office Manager
CCH Small Firm Services
In many respects, computerized tax preparation is a mature technology. With workflow and digital-population tools well in progress (if not necessarily employed by all tax preparers), it can seem as if all vendors have to do is adjust their technology for whatever last-minute weirdness comes out of Congress. We chose the TaxWise Central Office Manager as our Top New Product in tax prep, however, because it addresses an important point of practice management: uniformity and control across a firm. The Web-based multi-office management tool makes it easy to set up all of a firm's offices to transmit returns to CCH SFS for e-filing, to control each office's pricing structure and tax program settings, and to support the offices through e-mail, resetting passwords, managing updates and more.
Taking control of your firm's workflow offers tremendous opportunities for gains in efficiency and quality. XCM is one of the leaders in improving firms' workflows through technology, with its earliest iterations focused on strong process control for tax preparation. We've chosen the latest version as a Top New Product because it allows users to expand this process control to all of their activities across the firm, with custom checklists and custom sign-off capabilities, so they can manage audits, bookkeeping and everything else the same way they do tax returns.
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