XCM Solutions - XCM Portal
From the January 2012 Review of Client Portals.
Firms using or considering the broader XCM Workflow Management system to provide structured digital management of their engagements, including the ability to securely share files with clients.
- Simple client interface
- No storage or bandwidth/transfer limits
- Customizable firm branding
- Two-way firm/client sharing and collaboration
- Dependable hosting, security and uptime
- Broad support for mobile devices
- Not intended as long-term document storage
- Multiple users at same client can’t have different access rights
XCM Solutions is best known for its workflow management system, which is available in versions for firms of various sizes, and provides an enhanced digital routing sheet that helps firms monitor the processes involved in engagements, including the following: managing tasks, tracking e-filing, monitoring due dates, handling jurisdictional issues and staff, creating firm-wide checklists and maintaining knowledge bases. The vendor’s new portal solution, which XCM debuted in June 2011, is designed to extend the file management functionality of the workflow management system to include secure document sharing with clients and third parties.
Firm User Experience - 4 Stars
Designed by a CPA with more than 20 years of practice experience, XCMportal is an add-on module that’s integrated into the XCM system, offering quick movement between the firm workflow functions and file sharing with clients. It provides tools for quickly setting up customizable portals for clients, either individually or en mass using a quick-create function that sends a registration email, after which clients must log in for their portal to be active.
The portals can be branded to reflect firm logos and contact information, including the creation of client communication templates, which populate emails that can be sent directly from within the program. As a part of the broader workflow solution, the portal system can support the same number of staff users as that solution, and can be used to create and manage any number of client portals, each with multiple users on the client side, but with little access right controls for the client-side users. On the firm side, the program has very specific permission-based access rights based on staff roles. Client groups can also be created.
The XCM system and its portals are hosted on the SAS 70 audited servers of enterprise web hosting and services firm Savvis, which is based in Boston and has servers across the United States. Neither XCM nor Savvis guarantee uptime, but historical uptime over the past year has been more than 99.999 percent, including scheduled maintenance, during which the data is available from mirrored sites. Data is encrypted at all stages, from initial transmission throughout storage, meeting federal regulations and all state laws for protection of client data.
Client User Experience - 4.5 Stars
The client side of the portals offers a similar view as the accountant side, showing files and folders as they’ve been shared by the firm or as the client has uploaded them. Client users can log into the program either from a link embedded on the firm’s website or from email communication sent by the firm.
The two-way sharing of XCMportal enables clients to upload tax files or other documents, while the firm can also upload returns and other files to clients. The system also has built-in communication functions, found on the tabbed interface, that include the ability to quickly ask questions or request documents based on the firm’s needs. The program’s password management functions enable lookup or resetting by the client or by the firm user, with the ability to also manage access rights.
Portal Capabilities - 4 Stars
XCMportal was designed not as a permanent or long-term document storage site, but rather as a secure transfer system that enables sharing and downloading of documents and virtually any other type of file. As such, files are retained on the portal for no longer than 75 days, and are then purged. Files already attached to a client engagement in the workflow system can be instantly pushed to the portal, or firm users can select individual files to upload.
The file management structure is also different than most long-term document management systems, in that the portals display the files currently shared between the client and the firm as a singular spreadsheet list. This list provides options for sorting by upload date, name, engagement, description and other items, but it does not offer foldering or subfoldering options. The system is not designed for multi-person live collaboration, but for sharing finished or in-process files.
From the main documents list, users can easily download the files, which triggers notification to the firm of the activity. Uploads and all histories are maintained by the program. User security options for the firm side enable function-specific access rights, but it does not offer the same depth of permissions for client users, who generally have the same access rights.
Technical Aspects - 4.25 Stars
XCMportal has no maximum storage limit or limits on data transfers, and with the 75-day file expiration setting, users are not likely to accumulate too many documents and files anyway. The broader XCM workflow system is designed as a Windows program and, therefore, is only supported on that platform. However, the client-side portals were developed using Silverlight, which means they can be accessed via any computer or web-enabled device using Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome. The company is also in the process of completing an iPhone app for the system.
The XCM Workflow Management suite, of which XCMportal is a part, integrates with CCH ProSystem fx Practice Management and Document systems for client data import, which also speeds creation of portals for those clients. The system also includes integration with Outlook for directly emailing clients.
Help/Support - 4.5 Stars
The broader XCM system, which is the main firm-side interface, includes several assistive features, such as a traditional Help index, right-click menus and firm knowledge management utilities. The support website provides full documentation, a knowledgebase and tutorials. Live technical support is included with pricing and is available during business hours Eastern Time.
Summary & Pricing
The XCM Workflow Management system offers an impressive technologically streamlined way to manage everyday engagements in a mid-sized or larger practice, offering digital binders that help track all processes, documents, staff and communications within a practice. The XCMportal module is a natural extension of this system, enabling users to securely send and receive engagement-related documents. Pricing is based solely on the number of firm users, starting at $500 annually for up to 15 firm-side users.