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Software Technology, Inc. — PracticeMaster Premier

From the October 2005 Review of Mid-Range
Accounting Software

PracticeMaster and Tabs3 combine to provide a financial and practice management
solution best for firms with one to 100 timekeepers. Integration is provided
for QuickBooks, MS Outlook/Exchange, WORLDOX, iManage and CompuLaw, making for
a complete timekeeping, research and file management solution.

The firm of Degnan & Shlafer, CPAs (,
chose PracticeMaster based on the reputation of the company and its software,
the large and diverse user base, its open architecture, and the ability to customize
to the firm’s needs. The firm is located in Jacksonville, Fla., and offers
a full range of professional services with an emphasis in consulting on complex
business and tax matters, computer system consulting and computer software installation,
training and support. As well, the firm’s law firm consulting practice
has become regional in scope, covering many of the southeastern states. “PracticeMaster
provides a uniform, integrated system that addresses many of the needs of our
business, such as calendaring, contact management, task list management and
document assembly,” said Jim Degnan, CPA, a partner with the firm. “The
fact that it seamlessly integrates with Tabs3 time and billing software as well
as the accounting modules is extremely beneficial as is its integration with
WORLDOX Document Management software.”

Ease of Use/Flexibility — 4.5 Stars
PracticeMaster Version 12 provides an intuitive interface that most users will
find easy to navigate. Some may call it eye candy, but for firms with higher
turnovers or fears of changing software packages, this can mean easier training
and easier transitioning. A wealth of information can be tracked for each client
and project, with separate tracking available for legal services. An endless
list of task codes can be created.

Data is updated in real-time, though users may find the need to refresh reports
and views. All clients and work codes can be grouped, and reports can be generated
for groups or individuals. Timers for phone calls, research and other tasks
can be set up, and you can enter time and charge it to the referenced client.
As the program is entirely client-work driven, the organization of time-entry
is by assigned fees and costs per client. A timesheet feature is available as
the “fee sheet,” and timekeepers can also enter time by going to
each client record and entering it as a fee item. When considered with the integration
with calendars, timers and many firms’ desire to know their WIP status
instantly, PracticeMaster has provided an excellent solution.

Calendars, tasks and alarms are easy to use, and management has the ability
to review multiple schedules simultaneously. All data-entry forms are well designed.
Getting up and running is not difficult, and a very thorough System Configuration
manual is included.

Scalability/Stability — 4.5 Stars
Up to 999 timekeepers (active and inactive) can be recorded in the system, the
number active being limited to the license purchased. Small firms with big projects
will gain the most from the client-driven interface, though midsize organizations
will likely be in a better position to take advantage of the integration features.
In only a matter of hours, small firms can be up and running, managing their
schedules and tracking projects. Further features can be explored as necessary,
though work codes, clients and timekeepers should be set up as soon as possible.

Productivity Tools/Features — 5 Stars
The sample data that is included with the installation is adaptable to both
law and accounting firms, and many of the tracking features for clients are
best suited for firms that provide legal services. For instance, Client management
includes tabs for details about pending or upcoming court cases and specific
court issues (such as jurisdiction, judge and opposing counsel). Firms that
have clients spread out across large areas will appreciate the integration with
Palm and BlackBerry devices, and a great feature for client meetings is the
map and weather buttons that bring up Yahoo! weather and maps for the specific
client’s location.

Another impressive feature is an inclusive web browser for storing and billing
research. Stored research can be later shared with clients. A complete tasks
section is devoted to calendaring, with the option of setting alarms; viewing
daily, weekly and monthly calendars (by individual or group, with the opportunity
to set up group events); and setting up Holiday Venues, which is important if
you need to track state or international holidays.

Phone and e-mail notes can be created in the Client Journal feature, as can
research notes and the time spent on each task. Hyperlinking is available from
entered URLs and e-mail addresses, and firms with network-based phone systems
may also make use of phone dialing features.
Document management allows for documents to be associated with clients, MS Word
and WordPerfect documents to be assembled. The Briefcase feature provides a
check-in/check-out function for practically everything except documents. A special
DropBox tool has been added that acts as a local repository for reports that
are output as *.PDF files. Users can also place other files such as Word and
Excel documents in the DropBox for fast and easy access.

Reporting — 5 Stars
Nearly all reports are customizable, and new reports can be generated with the
report writer. A wide selection of information is available, and Tabs3, the
billing software component, offers numerous reports concerning firm productivity
and WIP, as well as individual timekeeper productivity and status.

Support/Help/Updates — 4 Stars
The vendor’s web site has several tutorials, a knowledgebase and offers
several utility programs for testing networks and converting data files from
other products and accounting firm templates. A very helpful sales and support
staff is available. Updates are not regularly scheduled, though new versions
are generally released every 12 to 16 months. Degnan noted that technical support
is excellent, usually producing immediate to near-immediate contact with a technician
who has support tools at their disposal. “Difficult issues sometime require
consultation with higher-level support personnel or programmers, which is usually
done during the first call,” he said. “And user enhancement requests
are documented and submitted to R&D for consideration.”

Integration — 4.5 Stars
PracticeMaster can integrate with handheld devices for traveling staff, Outlook
for e-mail and calendar items, with WORLDOX for further document management
features, and QuickBooks for bookkeeping purposes. Other software supported
for integration or import/export includes iManage (Word document assembly and
further checking for conflicts-of-interest) and CompuLaw for court calendaring
and reviewing jurisdictional rules. No tax software is presently integrated
for easy timekeeping or task recording.

Relative Value
For pricing our prototype firm, a 19-timekeeper license would be necessary for
the single-user model, with a price breakdown of $1,645 for PracticeMaster Premier
and an additional $1,495 for Tabs3. Multi-user licensing for installation on
a server can be purchased for approximately twice the cost of single-user licensing.
Included with the price is 60 days of support; a one-year maintenance plan can
be purchased for $575 for PracticeMaster and $320 for Tabs3. Maintenance plans
are recommended for growing firms as they entitle you to free updates and to
better pricing for future additional users, in addition to unlimited free telephone
support for the maintenance period. Offers are also available for the Basic
edition of PracticeMaster or if switching from competitive products.

Most small to midsize firms are in a position to take advantage of many of
the features offered by Tabs3 and PracticeMaster. For those firms looking to
better serve their clients’ needs, and where tax software integration
is not as necessary as document management and research tools, look to this
program as a cost-competitive choice.

2005 Overall Rating — 4.5 Stars