In our third annual installment of recognizing the best new accounting-related products, we found overall that there are more categories and products to recognize than ever - many of which, not surprisingly, have a cloud or mobile theme to them.
As in previous editions, we're recognizing not just brand-new products from the past year, but also older products that have seen significant improvements in the same time period. And, again as in the past, despite the abundance of entries, there are still areas that were notably excluded from the list - not for lack of innovation, but because the products within the categories themselves were relatively on par with one another.
For example, it is apparent that most products in which documents and data are stored, shared or exchanged with clients or within the firm are likely to have a portal component to them. Several new offerings of note would include the Doc. It Client Portal, Office Tools Pro Client Portal and Client Portal Lite, SecureFilePro from Drake Software, UBCC Payroll Portal, and the XCM Portal.
We are particularly proud of this year's list, and feel it represents the direction in which tax and accounting products are moving. We hope you agree.
NetSuite OneWorld 2011
NetSuite's OneWorld product is helping it compete more fiercely as midsized and large enterprises expand globally, work in multiple tax jurisdictions and often run more than one ERP system. The 2011 release boasts increased global financial consolidation capabilities, expanded support for international taxation and audit reporting, and advanced inventory costing capabilities, as well as over 40 formatted tax compliance reports.
An Honorable Mention goes to Sage North America's Sage Peachtree Quantum 2012, which adds rich business intelligence to accounting functions, as well as a tool that monitors product usage and offers suggestions for improved usage, where applicable.
The cloud is being used for more back office and accounting-related functions than ever before, and Bill.com has been at the center of this trend. With its Receivables product, it has added a crucial link in the invoicing and payments chain by allowing users to receive and track all payments online. They can customize invoices, make e-payments, and communicate with vendors regardless of whether or not the vendor uses Bill.com. The product also supports a full range of accounts receivable processes through an invoice creation tool and QuickBooks integration.
Honorable Mentions go to PaySimple and FreshBooks. PaySimple allows accountants and SMBs via Web or mobile device to accept and manage a variety of payment types, and bill according to client preference. FreshBooks, which is geared toward sole proprietors/practitioners and freelancers, has added useful activity notifications and weekly summaries to its SaaS invoicing product.
The audit may be one of the marquee services of the profession, but the tools available to auditors are often restricted to what they can come up with themselves. That's changing, and for all levels of audits, as proven by our Top New Product in this category, CaseWare's Audit International. With forms based on an auditing guide from the International Federation of Accountants, and a host of workflow, risk management and tracking features, it aims to make it as easy to audit a far-flung global business as a local mom-and-pop.
Xero Partner Edition
While the company has been around for several years, Xero only made its foray into the U.S. market in the summer 2011 and officially hired a president of U.S. operations later in the year. Regardless, Xero and its cloud-based bookkeeping/client-and-accountant collaboration product are gaining a foothold here, and its Partner Edition is a valuable weapon in its arsenal. The product allows accountants to control the level of client access and features a practice ledger to help practitioners manage all financial details of their practice. Xero is also free to all of its partners.
An Honorable Mention goes to Outright, a cloud-based tax, accounting and bookkeeping service focused on small businesses.
ProSystem fx Practice Intelligence
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
A business can never accurately gauge its performance unless it's measured against its competitors. Our Top New Product in the Business Intelligence Category, ProSystem fx Practice Intelligence, should help. Providing BI in near real-time and integrating with CCH's ProSystem fx Practice Management solution to provide a true key performance indicator dashboard, Practice Intelligence can serve companies with as few as 20 employees to those with more than 100.
An Honorable Mention in the category goes to Adaptive Planning's corporate performance management solution, which boasts more than 10 new features this year, including report annotations, conditional formatting and product feedback.
CPA.com E-Mail Service
CPA2Biz / AICPA
A Top New Product doesn't need to be complex or complicated; it can be simple - and enormously valuable to thousands of accountants. That's the case with the CPA.com E-Mail Service, which offers members of the American Institute of CPAs the opportunity to instantly brand themselves as professionals. Trust us, sole practitioners and small firms: Changing your e-mail suffix from Gmail, Hotmail or whatever your local Internet service provider offers to "@CPA.com" will boost your image tenfold, at a modest price.
As businesses become more mobile, there is a higher expectation for software and services to move with them. Making expense management and reporting easier and accessible from anywhere is what Concur's Concur Breeze is all about. We're recognizing the Web and mobile-based expense management product for its recent integrations with Concur's TripIt
Pro travel booking service and QuickBooks, as well as the new ability to automatically pay employee expenses. Concur Breeze can also automatically create expense reports from travel itineraries - and the company this year launched an Advisor Program with benefits for accountants.
Arguably, few new product debuts within the accounting profession have been accompanied by more fanfare than that of iShade, the Web-based community exclusively serving accounting and tax professionals. And the 2012 Top New Product in the Online Community Category didn't disappoint, as its membership is now approaching 8,000, along with 1,400 firms and over 90 of the profession's most notable thought leaders. It features a host of tools and resources, discussion groups, blog aggregation, online CPE, a marketplace, and a turnkey firm intranet.
An Honorable Mention goes to Thomson Reuters' ARNE Mobile App, which offers users anywhere-anytime access to the Accountants' Resource Network, the 50,000-member tax and accounting community.
The more we think about the Top New Product in the Portable Tools Category, the more elegant and useful we think it is: The iTwin essentially breaks a thumb drive in half, with half residing in your office computer, and the other half plugging into any other computer, granting you secure and easy access to your office computer. It's a neat, simple solution to a wide variety of access and security issues.
An Honorable Mention goes to Fujitsu's nearly ubiquitous ScanSnap S1100, a portable scanner that seems to get lighter and more powerful every year.
We bet that more than one merger has run into this problem: You bring on board a whole load of new staff, only to find they can't practice in half the states where your firm is active. Our Top New Product in Practice Management is CPAMobility.org, a Web site jointly created by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the American Institute of CPAs that in four simple clicks can tell you where a CPA can practice, and what else they need to do to become fully mobile.
Interactive Decision Tools
The Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters
The point is rapidly approaching at which everything you could possibly want to look up will be available on some research platform or another, so our Top New Product among Research Tools is one that goes beyond merely providing answers: Thomson Reuters' Interactive Decision Tools help make sure you get the right answer by walking you through a decision-making process to make sure you've considered all the issues relevant to your topic, in the right order.
And an Honorable Mention goes to the AICPA's eXacct, which takes the institute's venerable Accounting Trends & Techniques and makes it an online, interactive guide to financial reporting.
The business world is getting turned on to tablets in a big way, and while the competition is fierce, the new face of this trend is clearly the iPad2. Accountants are taking notice of the product's ease of use and, despite earlier reports of it being almost strictly a consumption device, are finding new and unique ways to use the mobile product. More important, there is a clear trend of business applications being designed for the iOS platform more than any other mobile operating system.
W-2 & Manager App for iPhone
As states increasingly look for ways to boost revenue shortfalls, 1099 reporting has come under increasing scrutiny. Add to that myriad regulatory changes and additions to reporting requirements, and that invariably adds up to an overworked AP department looking for ways to ease the burden. Never fear, as our Top New Product in this category goes to the W-2 and Manager App for iPhone from Greatland, a mobile solution to help rein in year-end employee and contractor reporting. The product allows users to file 1099-MISC forms to the IRS and have them mailed to recipients all via their smartphones.
An Honorable Mention goes to AvaTax 1099 from Avalara, an online application that automates the annual 1099 print, mail and electronic filing process.
BNA Income Tax Planner Web
When you're engaged in tax planning, you'd better get it right, or you'll face a cadre of unhappy clients. That's why the Top New Product in this category for 2012 is the Income Tax Planner Web from Bloomberg BNA, which not only helps clients ascertain their tax status via analysis and comparison for federal and resident states, as well as more than 30 non-resident states, but its Web-based platform helps reduce IT and tech infrastructure costs. And inevitable security concerns are reduced since all sensitive client information is hosted on audited SSAE16 facilities.
Honorable Mention in the category goes to the Small Business Tax Credit Calculator from Tax Credits LLC, which helps employers take full advantage of the Small Business Tax Credit by computing calculations through algorithms based on more than 20 variables per employee.
New River Innovation
Clients rely on you to handle their problems with the IRS - and you can rely on the Top New Product in the Tax Workflow Category, New River Innovation's Beyond415. It'll help you streamline and improve how you deal with your clients' IRS issues, with expert guidance on finding the right response, and tools to automate the process and pre-populate the appropriate IRS forms, cover letters and worksheets.
More Honorable Mentions
Accountants are constantly expanding their areas of practice, and so the universe of tools available to them is also expanding. Here are a number of Honorable Mentions we thought worth bringing to your attention.
For those looking for help in the Corporate Tax Category, CCH makes handling sales taxes easier with its new cloud-based CorpSystems Sales Tax SaaS, while Thomson Reuters' ONESOURCE Audit Manager helps corporate tax staff manage the increasing number of tax audits coming their way.
For the security-conscious, Large Software's docLock lets you encrypt and password-protect individual files, without having to create or install a whole elaborate security system. On the other side of security, forensic accountants will appreciate Red Flag Reporting, a turnkey ethics hotline program that teaches employees how to recognize fraud and gives them a tool to report it.
Government accountants, meanwhile, will find a use for CaseWare's GASB Financials, which easily and automatically creates CAFR- and GASB-compliant statements.
Finally, we'll note two products that can benefit your business clients: First, in the Small Business Software Category, there's inDinero, a cloud-based financial management solution that gives businesses more control and more insight into their financials. And second, in Payroll, there's the latest version of ADP's Run Powered by ADP Payroll for Accountants, which now offers all sorts of integration with the payroll giant's retirement services and human resources offerings.
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