Thomson Reuters - Engagement CS
From the August 2011 Review of Engagement & Trial Balance Systems
Best Fit: Firms that utilize PPC Practice Aids should consider this product. The seamless integration with the PPC Practice Aids will allow for increased productivity and quality during the execution of engagement tasks.
Basic System Functions:
Engagement CS is an easy product to navigate, utilizing the familiar Microsoft folder tree user interface. The trial balance allows users to create financial statements in different bases of accounting (cash, accrual, governmental, etc.) with relative ease. When Engagement CS is set up, there is an accounting basis option that allows the user to choose the basis of accounting that fits the engagement being worked on. The product also allows for consolidations of multiple trial balances and funds.
The financial data from the trial balance can be linked to financial statements and footnotes. Financial statements and footnotes are created in Microsoft Office (Word and/or Excel), and dynamic links can be added to these files to automate the creation of these documents. A unique feature to Engagement CS is a Microsoft Office toolbar that allows for easier preparation of financial statements. Additionally, Engagement CS is fully integrated with the PPC Practice Aids and templates.
When a firm purchases the software, the vendor will show the users how to set up template engagement files that will allow for significant engagement efficiency year after year. In addition to setting up templates for each type of engagement, Engagement CS allows for customized financial analytics as well as detail analysis of the progress of each engagement.
Each file is secured with unique user names and passwords, and the engagement manager can limit and restrict access to each engagement file on a granular level. The basic file structure is very similar to the Microsoft Windows folder tree. The system fully integrates with the Thomson Reuters document management products and offers limited integration with most third-party document management systems.
Users and engagement managers can easily manage open items, and create, clear and delete review notes and tickmarks. An individualized view is available for each user to easily manage individual or a team’s workload to monitor the completion of projects. Engagement CS allows access to a budget template, and an automated timer is available that integrates with Practice CS to capture and track time. Users are notified when changes to reviewed workpapers occur as well when lockdown compliance rules are about to take effect.
Workflow & Collaboration:
Engagement CS is designed for multi-user engagements, with three distinct ways to monitor data conflicts: (1) Automatic Sync, an automatic sync that lets the last version of the document prevail; (2) Sync with a local copy, which allows users to check out different sections of the engagement file and the user determines which version is retained (the database file is normally save on a server in this instance); and (3) Online, a hosted solution that allows the user to sync with an online version of the database file. In all of the above instances, the user has the ultimate control to determine which of the conflicting versions of a file is retained.
Users of Engagement CS can use any engagement checklist or practice aid that they prefer, but full integration is limited to Thomson Reuters PPC Practice Aids (see below). Users can simply attach these documents to the engagement file each year. Limited integration with third-party practice aids is also available, but these must be managed manually (no automatic updates). The system employs an easy-to-understand file storage structure.
Thomson Reuters offers a hosted version of this application as part of its Virtual Office CS product. As with most engagement software solutions, this product is primarily for the firm and not for use by clients. If users want to collaborate with clients, this must be done with a client portal. Engagement CS has full integration with the Thomson Reuters client portal, and has limited integration with third-party portal providers.
Full integration is available with the Thomson Reuters suite of products (most importantly PPC Practice Aids and workpapers, PPC SMART Practice Aids, and Checkpoint Tools), with limited integration for third-party workflow tools and collaboration platforms during the engagement. In my opinion, the greatest asset of Engagement CS is the full integration with the PPC workpapers and Practice Aids. When Practice Aids or workpapers are updated, full integration with Engagement CS means these changes are made automatically, not manually. The efficiency of this roll-forward process is impressive.
Engagement CS has many other import/export features, including import of trial balance data from most major accounting packages as well as the major engagement/trial balance packages. Additionally, Engagement CS trial balance can be easily exported to most major tax preparation packages. The export to tax packages can be done multiple times without having to start the tax return over again. In addition to exporting to specific software packages, Engagement CS can export files to Microsoft Excel and CSV formats.
Engagement CS has a built-in support and Help section that is easily navigated, with Help content relevant to the active module. Engagement CS also provides email support, video training, online videos, self-study courses, public courses and on-site training. Additionally, live phone support is available during normal business hours, with extended hours during tax season.
Summary & Pricing
Engagement CS is a full-featured product that offers some robust workflow/integration tools. If your firm is interested in integrating its engagement product with other products in the firm, Engagement CS needs to be researched. The distinguishing feature of this product is the integration with the PPC Practice Aids. For firms using PPC Practice Aids, I recommend a close look at this product.
2011 Overall Rating: