fx Practice Management from CCH, formerly a CPASoftware product from
Sage, is a recently added toolset to the ProSystem fx suite. Now available
in basic, office and enterprise editions, ProSystem fx Practice Management
delivers a comprehensive package that is affordable and manageable for firms
of all sizes. This is a strong product with roots in the 1990s, and its interface
could use some updating. Still, CCH continues to provide a multitude of updates.
Ease of Use/Flexibility — 3.5 Stars
On a function-by-function basis, users will likely have no problem doing what
needs to be done. Finding information regarding clients is self-contained in
the Contact Management screen. Time entry is fairly easy, and numerous options
are available in billing and invoicing for generating appropriate bills on demand.
My gripe? Each process operates in an independent window, hosted by a unique
application, each with its own resource requirements. Most any modern workstation
can handle the load, but it could be a problem for firms switching to thin-client
and terminal models. I found navigation between tasks and processes to be cumbersome,
and locating the appropriate screen for data entry was occasionally frustrating.
As noted, the software can handle the data and workload of any size accounting
firm. Basic users have reduced functionality, while Enterprise users only gain
a SQL Server database over Office version users.
I was very impressed with the number of ways that information can be found
through presorted lists. For example, if you need the SSN for a particular client,
navigation in the tree view allows you to look at Client Find and Change, then
proceed to General, then EIN/SSN, and finally to 15 different presort methods.
Every client attribute has similar sorting methods. Despite the primary interface,
the extensive capabilities of the software and ease with which stored data can
be retrieved make this a competitive product.
Scalability/Stability — 5 Stars
ProSystem fx Practice Management is a highly scalable product. As previously
noted, firms have the opportunity to select from three versions, with the Office
version providing all available features on the MSDE platform. Project and document
management components are both available, and I’d recommend that a firm
start using these features immediately. No stability problems were noted, though
the separate feature-based applications could cause issues on some workstations
and terminal server setups.
Productivity Tools/Features — 4.5 Stars
ProSystem fx Practice Management – Office Edition supplies the
necessary tools to track projects, set employee schedules, generate invoices
from time and expense entries, and store client invoices. An add-on is available
for Internet-based timekeeping. Scheduling and appointment entry is flexible
with multiple views, and is entirely independent of other scheduling products.
Free/busy availability is given at the employee level, and due-date monitoring
with tasks can be set up for client projects. Outlook synchronization is also
Report writing is simplified through the new custom report builder. Users
have control over layout, sorting and data inclusion. The ability to preview
layout, select an existing report type, and have control over positions makes
the process very easy. More than 50 pre-built reports are available in the report
module, with a particular emphasis on clients, employees and cash flow. Other
useful tools include a comprehensive CPE tracker, numerous bill rates per client,
the client management toolkit, and CRM capabilities for referral/lead/affiliate
tracking. Research tracking tools are not available.
Reporting — 5 Stars
As noted above, reports can be filtered in many different ways, and detail level
can sometimes be selected. Data inclusion (fields, summaries) is at the user’s
discretion. As well, a number of different period-based reports are available
for productivity reviewing. Sort order can also be set based on the options
provided in the tree view and can be up to three layers deep. New to ProSystem
fx Practice Management’s reporting this year is the capability
to span periods when running a report. Unlimited date ranges are now available,
a feature that has been requested for quite some time by users. And as previously
mentioned, complete custom reporting is available.
Support/Help/Updates — 5 Stars
CCH maintains a strong support division. Extended support hours are provided
during tax season, which is an important consideration for firms with high workload
and no downtime available from January to April. Updates are published twice
annually, once in a mid-year release, the second as a “regulatory release”
in December. Any other changes are published in distributed hot fixes as necessary.
Integration — 3.5 Stars
ProSystem fx Practice Management integrates well for most businesses.
ProSystem fx Tax integrates by way of the Tax Client Link, which allows for
basic contact mapping (similar to the client linking for CPAAccounting) and
automatic time tracking. Contact database synchronization to Outlook can be
set up, as well. Integration is just for contacts.
Relative Value — 4 Stars
At a cost of $280 per user, a 10-timekeeper firm could have the fully functional
Office Edition for less than $3,000. Renewal fees are set at 35 percent of the
current year’s fees. Compared to other suites available, this product
is probably best suited to two types of firms: large firms that have the administration
support available to maintain and operate such a product or small firms that
can appreciate the segregation of workflow tasks in the interface. With an emphasis
on providing quality support for write-up and tax-based firms, ProSystem fx
Practice Management can especially serve current ProSystem fx users
2006 Overall Rating: 4.5 Stars