2012 Review of CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business – ProSystem fx Engagement

CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business – ProSystem fx Engagement
800-PFX-9998
www.cchgroup.com

From the Feb. 2012 Review of Engagement Systems.

Best Fit:
Any accounting firm that is currently in or converting to a paperless workflow environment.

Strengths

  • Strong integration with ProSystem fx product lineup
  • Intuitive interface based on Microsoft Windows and Office functionality
  • High level of security from both user and data standpoints

Potential Limitations

  • Limited integration with PPC Practice Aids
  • Currently no SaaS offering

ProSystem fx Engagement is the powerful engagement management tool offering within the ProSystem fx product lineup. ProSystem fx Engagement provides a central location for data and workpapers to be stored and accessed. With heavy reliance on the Microsoft Windows and Office functionality, ProSystem fx Engagement provides a quick learning environment for most staff professionals. ProSystem fx Engagement includes all tools necessary to import and adjust client data as well as assist in the generation of financial statements and tax returns.

BASIC SYSTEM FUNCTIONS (4.75 Stars)

When ProSystem fx Engagement is opened, it has a Microsoft Outlook feel about it. Traditional drop-down menu navigation is located at the top of the screen while a vertical collapsing menu on the left part of the screen houses multiple shortcut icons. Navigation of the engagement itself is accomplished through a folder tree structure similar to Windows Explorer. The engagement screen is incredibly visual and various font weights, icon sets and color schemes are located in the middle of the screen. These visual clues make it easy to determine the current status of a particular document. For instance, a user can quickly tell if a document has not been opened if the document title is bolded. Other visual clues include icons for the document file type, any notes attached to the document and various sign off dates and times.

The interface itself does not allow for much customization. Custom options are reserved for the structure of the engagement itself. Users may start with predetermined templates, which ProSystem fx Engagement refers to as binders, or create their own based on client type and needs. When using or creating templates, all the underlying data is usually mapped and grouped appropriately and will not require much user intervention. This drastically reduces the time necessary to create future engagement projects.

A trial balance module is included within ProSystem fx Engagement and all data is stored in a SQL database. When accessing the database, users will rely on Excel to perform data queries and reports. This is by design and to create a comfort level with users, as most professionals have a reasonable comfort level with Excel. Many trial balance specific tasks may be performed through the add-in menu tab for Excel 2007/2010, a drop-down menu for Excel 2003 and earlier, as well as ribbons for Office 2007 and 2010. A snapshot of the trial balance may be found in ProSystem fx Engagement and this provides a summary of all assets, liability, equity and net income accounts as well as any accounts that may not be grouped for financial or tax return purposes. This snapshot view also provides direct links to journal entries of all types, including adjusting, tax and potential, among others.

ENGAGEMENT MANAGEMENT (4.75 Stars)

ProSystem fx Engagement is controlled through two layers of security. The first being an administrative layer, which controls offers access to functions such as setup of file rooms, staff and firm options, and the second being a workflow layer, which helps control structure and security of each individual engagement. The administrative layer may be installed on a dedicated server and assigned user rights through Active Directory on Windows Server products. This allows user rights to be tightly controlled to prevent intentional or inadvertent alterations. One additional layer of protection is that all documents contained within ProSystem fx Engagement are wholly contained. This prevents documents from being located through desktop search tools.

As previously mentioned, the engagement templates, or binders, are displayed in a folder tree structure. Documents may be added to these binders through a variety of ways. Documents may be imported from most Microsoft Office products, scanned directly into the software, manually added through right click menu options or simply by drag-and-drop functions. Regardless of which method is used to import the documents, users will have the ability to assign a workpaper reference number, document name and appropriate file folder location to each document. Additionally, ProSystem fx Engagement includes 65 preconfigured blank document template files that may be used to create new documents from within the software. The main advantage of creating documents through this mechanism is that all fields are already mapped, so the client name, engagement date and certain numerical data will automatically be generated.

ProSystem fx Engagement defaults all documents to always roll forward, as it is typically easier to delete a document than to regenerate the document year after year. Each document, however, may have specific rollover instructions which allows a document to be rolled over with or without data or as a placeholder for a K-1 or year-end brokerage statement summary, for instance. Prior to a full engagement roll forward, users also have the option to control which documents roll forward and how. All of these functions and implementations are fully dependent upon assigned user access rights.

ProSystem fx Engagement also includes a set of tickmarks that come in three colors – red, green and blue. These may be used by various staff and management review levels to aid in which specific user actually performed the task. Users also have the option to create their own tickmarks to use in conjunction with the preinstalled tickmarks.

WORKFLOW & COLLABORATION (4.5 Stars)

Perhaps the most critical workflow component contained within ProSystem fx Engagement is Knowledge Coach. Knowledge Coach provides guidance for users as they progress through audit engagements, reviews, compilations and nontraditional engagements. Workpapers may be automatically generated and additional guidance may be provided based on the client type and size that is currently in process. The Knowledge Coach may also prompt users on potential problem areas and when certain areas need no further attention.

As with the trial balance, the engagement binder also has a snapshot view. This view shows all workpapers assigned or any other notes or items demanding attention by the user currently logged on. From this snapshot view, users are provided links to perform specific tasks and to sign off on all documents as completed. Users may sign off on individual documents or through batches of documents. Reviewers may also sign off on documents in a similar manner, but have the ability to lock down documents to prevent further alterations. If a document is changed subsequent to reviewer sign-off, a warning is displayed to the person making the change and a visual warning icon is displayed next to the document on the home screen view.

When an engagement is complete and ready for final processing, ProSystem fx Engagement has a wizard that walks the users through the process. During finalization, ProSystem fx Engagement will look for any errors, such as unsigned documents and any warnings or notes that have not been addressed among other items. After the process is completed, the engagement file is converted to read-only and no further revisions may be made. The engagement file may also be published for peer review or sent to a client. When this process is done, any links specific to ProSystem fx Engagement are removed and the data is converted to the appropriate value as displayed and the document may be forwarded via email or to a portal as appropriate.

INTEGRATION/IMPORT/EXPORT (4.5 Stars)

As part of the ProSystem fx product lineup, ProSystem fx Engagement closely integrates with its fellow products. Data may be dynamically linked and shared among all ProSystem fx products. One feature worth mentioning is the integration with ProSystem fx Tax. As adjustments are made within ProSystem fx Engagement, all data is dynamically changed in ProSystem fx Tax. This reduces the need to re-import tax numbers when only small adjustments are necessary to finalize the financials and/or tax return. The system integrates with ProSystem fx Portals for client collaboration, and Prosystem fx Document for final deliverables, searching and retrieval.

The backbone of ProSystem fx Engagement relies heavily on Microsoft Windows and Office functionality. Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook each receive dedicated add-in menu capabilities that tie directly into ProSystem fx Engagement. This reliance provides for seamless data import and document management capabilities. Integration is also provided for Capital Confirmation and directly imports any outstanding confirmation data for audit clients. In addition to ProSystem fx Tax, tax data import files may be shared with Lacerte and GoSystem Tax RS, though the files must be manually imported with each change. Data may also be imported from Excel or ASCII file types and from a host of third-party trial balance and engagement software including CSA, CaseWare, ATB and GoSystem Audit.

HELP/SUPPORT (5 Stars)

Several help options are built directly into ProSystem fx Engagement. Traditional program help can be found through the help drop down menu. Links are also provided to an extensive Internet knowledge base and frequently asked questions site. Users may also perform live Internet chat sessions with support staff or contact support via phone. All support is included with each annual renewal and is performed by CCH staff trained specifically for ProSystem fx Engagement. Other training options include formal onsite or webinar style courses and are available for additional costs.

SUMMARY & PRICING

ProSystem fx Engagement is an effective engagement solution for accounting practices of all sizes, especially for those currently in a paperless work environment. ProSystem fx Engagement relies heavily on the Microsoft Windows and Office functions, which drastically reduces the learning curve for users. Though typically thought of as an audit workpaper product, ProSystem fx Engagement may easily be adapted for other engagement types, including tax engagements. Pricing is accomplished through named users within the software and not the traditional concurrent user model. A single user license, which includes all noted features, starts at $1,700. A firm requiring ten named users is priced around $8,000, though discounts are typically available. Annual renewal costs for each named user license are typically deeply discounted from original license purchase cost.

2012 Overall Rating:

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