Security should not be a significant concern for most accounting firms as staff controls are typically strong. User controls within the engagement solutions generally allow management on the program level all the way down to individual file access rights. This allows firms to tailor each engagement as necessary based on staff requirements.
As hosted solutions, engagement products are still not quite there. Only one product, Engagement CS, is available as a fully hosted product. The other systems reviewed only allow portions of the software (if any) to be hosted, such as the underlying data files. This will evolve over the next couple of years, though, as all major accounting vendors are putting a large amount of resources into developing web-based platforms.
Strong help and support options are provided with each product, with many functions moving online and leaving users more to self-troubleshoot system difficulties. While most online database help systems are adequate, sometimes the time spent searching is more than ideal due to differences in how the user views the problem versus how the vendor views the problem. Although not specific to engagement solutions, this is a trend that unfortunately will not be going away anytime soon.
TRIAL BALANCE SOFTWARE
Trial balance solutions have peaked in their functionality and most practitioners prefer today’s software to provide more functions and integrations, and therefore, the solutions reviewed this year were not rated due to these limitations. Trial balance systems, however, are still a necessary component for small firms and simpler engagements, providing a viable option for accounting firms that have not yet converted to a paperless document management system.
Typically, trial balance solutions are utilized by firms to aid with tax compliance. However, all the trial balance solutions reviewed provide a variety of tools to perform other functions, such as financial statement generation. In many instances, the vendor trial balance stand-alone product is not the same as the native trial balance product included within engagement solution. Some features are reserved for the stand-alone product while others are reserved for the full engagement integration.