Review of iChannel - 2011

 

Conarc - iChannel
770-849-0508 x116
www.conarc.com

 

From the June 2011 Review of Document Management Systems

Best Firm Fit:
Although it can be deployed at firms of any size, due to the breadth and depth of functionality, iChannel is best suited for mid-size and large firms. It also has significant flexibility to be configured for many different types of organizations, so firms with niche services will be able to deploy iChannel across the enterprise with different configurations for different work groups.

Core Product Functions/Features:
The primary interface for iChannel is a user configurable dashboard that comprises a series of web parts or panels. Examples include a list of assigned projects, a client list, a contact list and recent clients worked on. The system is very deep in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality and includes the ability to track multiple contacts, discussions, projects, notifications and activity history for each client from a single tabbed window. For prospects, the CRM facilitates pipeline and opportunities management, with an executive dashboard.

The document storage interface includes a folder/sub-folder navigation panel on the left with a toolbar along the top that includes pull-down list boxes for the individual document metadata tags, i.e., category, type, year and date modified. Multiple options are available for uploading documents: users can drag and drop files to designated folders for processing or use an upload wizard.

  Strengths:

  • 100% Browser-enabled
  • Option for hosting, on-premises, or managed server option
  • Integrated portal & workflow functionality
  • Breadth & depth of CRM functionality
  • Single bundle pricing model
  • Integration with Windows Active Directory

  Potential Limitations:

  • Depth of functionality may overwhelm a small practice
  • Not part of a suite of accounting, audit & tax applications
..

The iChannel Desktop Toolbar sits on the Windows desktop to permit dragging and dropping files into iChannel and provides a personalized list assigned clients. In addition to being associated with a client, documents can also be tagged as being associated with specific projects or engagements.

Document Workflow:
iChannel has the capability to be integrated with essentially any application. Direct integrations are provided for CCH’s ProSystem fx Tax, ProSystem fx Practice and ProSystem fx Scan applications, as well as Intuit Lacerte Tax and CaseWare Working Papers. Integration with Microsoft Office includes the ability to drag and drop e-mails and attachments from Outlook directly into the archive. A secure e-mail engine is incorporated into iChannel for sending encrypted zip files or email links to files that use a secure portal solution for delivery. Direct integration with online faxing systems is supported, as is delivery notification. Users can set limitations on how many times the recipient can download the file attachments before they are deleted.

A new workflow module was added in 2010 that allows firms to create customized tax and audit workflows across the enterprise. Routing queues show each individual’s document/project inbox, notes can be attached to documents as they are routed through the workflow, and an audit trail logs the status changes as an item moves from step to step in the process.

Document Control:
Extensive document security features include integration with Windows Active Directory technology to support single sign-on. Firms can also set access rules through the security in Microsoft Windows. PDF documents can be password protected from within Conarc without requiring separate editing and resaving of the document in Adobe Acrobat.

The system provides check-out/check-in functionality to control document editing. Users can also check out files to their local computers for processing when disconnected from the network. Version control is provided to maintain access to previous document versions.

Special Features:
The integrated portal application is quite robust and allows firms to set up templates for different interfaces based on the type of client. Third -party users can be granted access permissions to a client portal site or series of sites. The CRM module tracks who has access to each client’s portal, as well as a history of all of the client activity on the portal. Notifications are sent to/from the client that are tied to portal activity. One-click publishing of documents to the portal is provided, and a Green “P” identifies each document or file that is published to the portal. One of the available search criteria is to show only files which have been published to the portal.

iChannel is 100% browser based and is available in three platforms: hosted, on-premises and “Black Box,” which is a pre-configured, on-premises server that is configured and monitored through a managed service provided by Conarc.

Executive Summary & Pricing
If you are looking for a robust DMS solution that is highly configurable and designed to work across the enterprise, then you should take a close look at iChannel. The CRM functionality that provides the foundation for the system may be worth the price alone, especially for firms who want to get a better handle on managing client and contact information.

All of the iChannel applications are bundled for a single price of $540 per user for up to 30 users; volume discounts are provided after that. The annual maintenance fee is 30% in consecutive years.

2011 Overall Rating:

 

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