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CCH, a Wolters Kluwer Business — ProSystem fx Engagement

the August 2007 Review of Engagement & Trial Balance Systems

ProSystem fx Engagement is part of CCH’s ProSystem fx
Office suite of products. Engagement provides a complete workpaper solution
for preparing business tax returns, financial statements and other types of
services. It shares information with the tax preparation, research, document
management, time and billing, and professional guidance software tools in the
ProSystem fx Office suite.

EASE OF USE — 4 Stars
ProSystem fx Engagement stores data in a central file room located
on a network server. Documents cannot be accessed directly from the central
file room but are “assigned” to the team members who are responsible
for their completion and must first be “checked out” to the user’s
“local file room.” Work-in-process documents are synchronized back
to the central file room to provide backup protection. An Engagement Synchronization
Queue reduces the effort needed to synchronize changes between a user’s
local file room and the central file room to a single click of the mouse.

This central/local file room approach with required checkout provides a high
level of security and data integrity. For engagements in process, this approach
is straightforward and efficient. For engagements that have been completed and
removed from a user’s local file room, the need to checkout to the local
file room adds extra time to the process.

Engagement uses an intuitive, tree-structured directory interface, similar
to Windows Explorer, for accessing information. Users can drilldown to progressively
more detailed information to get to specific documents. Information about a
document such as status, signoffs, instructions, preparer comments, reviewer
notes, etc. are presented on the Engagement document index without having to
open the document. Selecting a document opens it in its “native’
application (Word, Excel, Adobe, etc.).

Engagement has extensive security and document tracking tools. Preparers and
reviewers can sign off in a “secure sign-off” environment. Rights
to access, edit or delete documents can be controlled in order to prevent unintentional
or intentional changes. Staff groups can be customized to provide both general
and specific user security levels.

CCH offers many consulting and training options to help firms get up to speed.
Since many of the concepts and features of this type of workpaper tool are new
to firms, these optional services can greatly reduce the effort spent getting
up and running and increase engagement efficiency sooner.

Because CCH offers a full suite of products, users have the distinct advantage
of integration between the different applications within the suite. For example,
users who use both ProSystem fx Tax and Engagement can save a PDF of
the tax return directly in the applicable Engagement binder. Information can
also be exported to CCH’s financial analysis tool, Profit Driver.

Upon the engagement’s completion, the archived binder can be stored
in ProSystem fx Document. This provides easy access, compliance with
the firm’s document retention policies and enhanced data access security.
For research, Engagement also integrates with the Miller Series of professional
guidance tools, Accounting Research Manager and CCH@Hand.

Another notable feature is ProSystem fx Engagement’s integration
with the vendor’s Knowledge Tools, which provides an audit methodology
for implementing the new AICPA Risk Assessment Standards. Knowledge Tools use
a knowledge-based audit methodology that provides a series of dynamic procedures
where the results of one procedure become the input for the next.

Engagement uses Microsoft Excel to create trial balances, which promotes the
efficient linking of general ledger account and other information using Excel’s
copy-and-paste capability to group information in lead schedules, tax lines,
workpapers and other types of documents. It also allows users to automatically
update linked workpaper information during the roll forward process. Engagement
supports adjusting, reclassifying, federal tax, state tax, and potential journal
entries. Transactional data can be summarized using transactions journals that
integrate with the trial balance.

A Trial Balance Snapshot view provides concise information about any “problem”
aspect of the trial balance such as ungrouped accounts, out-of-balance journal
entries, as well as summary account type information, which is helpful in ascertaining
the completeness and correctness of the trial balance setup.

The use of Microsoft Word and Excel allows firms to link trial balance information
to the financial statements. This approach provides a tremendous amount of flexibility
in building financial statements and other reports. The downside is that the
wide open designing and formatting tools make it harder to ensure the completeness
of the reports without extensive review (the same problem that exists with any
document produced with Word or Excel). Use of standardized financial statements
and documents will speed the setup process.

ProSystem fx Engagement promotes an efficient workflow by allowing
for easy organization and presentment of electronic documents. This promotes
increased collaboration among the members of the engagement team and greatly
increases the speed with which a user can move through workpapers. Tick marks
and workpaper references can be inserted into Word, Excel and Adobe files, which
allows users to quickly “jump” from one document to another with
a click of the mouse. Issues can be documented and accessed for additional comments
and resolution. Because the program is optimized for dual monitors, multiple
documents can be viewed simultaneously, which aids in editing and review.

Users can scan directly into an engagement binder, and documents can be “printed”
directly into the appropriate binder from any application using Engagement’s
built-in PDF printing tools. Another feature that promotes engagement efficiency
is the template functionality. For a new engagement, a binder can be created
from master templates. These templates control the organizational structure
of the binder and can pre-build engagement workpapers and documents. This promotes
standardization of workpapers and significantly reduces the setup time.

Only firm members that are assigned to an engagement can check out the Engagement
binder, add or modify documents, and perform other functions. Engagement has
capabilities to efficiently manage security levels and roles, as well as a team
feature that eliminates the need to add individual staff to the project. Upon
completion of the service, the Engagement binder can be finalized to securely
lock down the working papers to meet professional requirements.

Engagement also provides several digital dashboard tools for providing an
overall picture. Engagement Today displays user-specific information about multiple
Engagement Binders. The Binder Snapshot and the Trial Balance Snapshot offer
drilldown to statistical information, outstanding issues, and other diagnostic
information about specific binders.

ProSystem fx Engagement provides a paperless workflow environment for
financial statements, business tax return preparation, and other types of services
that require trial balance, collaboration and shared documents. Its Microsoft
Excel and Word base provides formatting flexibility and ease-of-use. And its
inclusion in the CCH ProSystem fx Office suite offers many benefits
for efficiency improvement. ProSystem fx Engagement starts at $1,275
(less any applicable discounts).

2007 Overall Rating: 4.5 Stars