From the August 2009 Review of Engagement & Trial Balance Systems
ProSystem fx Engagement is one of the many product offerings in CCH’s ProSystem fx Suite of products. Engagement can be used as a standalone product or integrated with other ProSystem fx products that share trial balance, tax, accounting and auditing research, tax research, document management, time and billing, practice management, and other information.
SET UP & IMPLEMENTATION:
ProSystem fx Engagement is a client/server installed application that can be installed on one machine that acts as both the server and the client, so smaller firms will not need to invest in a separate server. It’s always a good idea to involve the firm’s IT professional/expert to ensure installation is done properly.
Once the product is properly installed, it is fairly easy to set up and use. Someone within the firm will need to set up user rights and import information and data into the product. This should be a fairly straightforward task. The learning curve is quite short, but designating a product champion within your firm who can then teach everyone else how to use the product will likely produce the best results. CCH offers additional training courses aimed at helping your firm use Engagement more effectively as well as an annual Users’ Conference to allow firms to share best practices.
INTEGRATION WITH OTHER TAX & ACCOUNTING PRODUCTS:
As previously mentioned, Engagement is just one of the many ProSystem fx products. All of these products are designed to integrate with one another, and CCH has done this integration quite well. Once information and data is entered into one ProSystem fx product, this information can be integrated and shared with most, if not all, ProSystem fx products. Information sharing is quite simple and easy to do. In addition to integration among ProSystem fx products, trial balance data can be imported from GoSystem Audit and ATB. Outside of the ProSystem fx family, trial balance data can be exported to GoSystem Tax and Lacerte.
Firms can also import trial balance information from most major accounting packages. Simply save the trial balance data from the client’s accounting package in an Excel or CSV file, and the information can be easily imported to the product’s trial balance system.
In addition to sharing accounting data with other applications, Engagement integrates well with CCH’s Accounting Research Manager (accounting and auditing research platform), IntelliConnect (tax and accounting research platform), Knowledge Tools (knowledge sharing platform) and Knowledge-Based Audit (audit methodology platform). Information from practice aids from other vendors can be attached to the Engagement binder, as long as those practice aids are converted to an MS Office or PDF format. These practice aids from other vendors should work well, but some of their intended functionality or collaboration may be lost.
INTEGRATION WITH OFFICE PRODUCTIVITY APPLICATIONS:
CCH has designed all of its products to integrate well with all Microsoft Office applications. They have spent a tremendous amount of time and effort to make sure their products work well with Microsoft Office, and it shows. My favorite feature is the MS Outlook plug-in. It allows users to easily email workpapers or any section of the engagement to anyone (client or firm member). This is a nice feature that saves a ton of time.
You can also attach any MS Office file to the Engagement binder. Once the file is attached to the binder, you simply click on the file and it opens in the appropriate application. Once you have completed any editing, you simply save it back to the Engagement binder.
Another example of CCH’s commitment to MS Office integration is the fact that the trial balance system was built from Microsoft Word and Excel. This allows firms to easily link their trial balance information and data to financial statements and other reports that they want to issue to clients. This process is improved so that there are fewer errors when the trial balance data is changed and the final document needs to be updated.
WORKFLOW & ENGAGEMENT MANAGEMENT:
ProSystem fx Engagement has some nice role management features. You can start working by directly entering the product or utilize the Engagement Today “dashboard” for an overall picture of an engagement. This allows you to monitor the status of each engagement along the way to determine the next step.
Another nice feature is the Shared File Room feature that allows users in
the field to easily collaborate on engagements. In the past, collaboration always
sounded like a good idea, but the actual practice of collaboration was easier
said than done. Now, ProSystem fx Engagement has a process that allows
users in the field to easily collaborate on engagements without having to “sync”
and “check in/out” the binder on a constant basis.
ProSystem fx Engagement has some nice roll-forward options that save time at the end of each engagement. It allows you to determine if you want to overwrite, delete, roll-forward or update items in the binder.
ProSystem fx Engagement is a very effective product that delivers what it promises. Product pricing is dependent on the specific modules selected, number of users and available discounts, but starts at around $1,400. It integrates very well with other ProSystem fx products, and CCH continues to make improvements to the entire product line. With the improvements CCH has made to its audit and accounting practice aids over the last few years, there are great opportunities to leverage the integration of the practice aids and ProSystem fx Engagement.
2009 OVERALL RATING: