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2008 Review of Engagement and Trial Balance Systems

Streamlining Engagement Processes

From the August 2008 Issue

Streamlining Engagement Processes The movement toward greater efficiency is
gaining momentum, and it’s no wonder. Maximizing efficiency can not only
decrease wasted time and thereby increase profitability for a practice, it can
also help firms who have faced staffing challenges, enabling them to offer greater
services to larger client bases without increasing staff.

Just as the “paperless” movement concentrated on changing old
work processes that resulted in inefficient paper storage methods, the coming
changes are focused on streamlining many of the other processes within professional
practices. This still includes paperless document management and control, which
actually was the first step in the ongoing evolution of professional technologies.
The focus now is on enhancing data flow between programs and bettering collaboration
in offices where multiple staff members work together on engagements.

While trial balance is in and of itself an engagement, the process is generally
tied in to engagement management because it represents the culmination of the
workpaper process for other engagements, and it is from the trial balance that
professionals pull key information for building financial statements and preparing
year-end tax compliance.

This review section looks at several programs, some that look toward the overarching
issue of managing all engagements and include trial balance and financial reporting
functions along with extensive collaboration tools, audit and review process
management, and expert guidance. These systems provide centralized storage for
all of a client’s electronic workpapers and provide integration with related

A separate group of programs focuses primarily on trial balance processes,
enabling professionals to quickly look at the trial balance and the journal
entries or workpapers simultaneously, which makes it easy to see the effects
of “what if” scenarios for optimizing general ledger account balances.

The type of system a practice needs is mostly a matter of the complexity of
the firm’s clients and the number of staff working on these engagements.
This is because increasing complexity requires additional scrutiny and the use
of more specialized and seasoned staff. And the more professionals who are involved
in an engagement increases the need for automated review and collaboration tools.

This review section focuses on the following criteria:

Ease of Use
With any program, usability is obviously subjective, but general navigational
components, access to key features, reporting tools, wizards and intuitive workflow
processes greatly aid in the adaptation of a new program and enable users to
more rapidly reach heightened proficiency, which lets them get the real work
done more efficiently.

Data Import/Export/Integration
The ability to pull client data from the financial programs is much more effective
than manually entering data, both in terms of speed and accuracy. Likewise,
output of data to external programs is essential, especially to tax and analysis

Trial Balance Features
Key processes involved in trial balance include creating, grouping, reconciling
and adjusting accounts as well as preparing financial statements and other documents
necessary for compliance.

Financial Statement Preparation
The creation of financial statements that meet the standards and needs of the
client, the entities they report to and the preferences of the firm is a critical,
but often time-consuming process. The ability to generate these products quickly
and with high quality is essential.

Engagement Process Features
Looking at the big picture of how engagement workflow processes affect each
other is like watching rush hour traffic: All it takes is one or two small delays
to create significant bottlenecks in productivity. Streamlining engagement processes
involves managing not only the workpapers involved in an engagement, but also
the collaboration required between staff and maintaining review mechanisms that
let all professionals involved in a process know what steps they need to do
when, and where potential issues may arise.

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CaseWare International, Inc.
– CaseWare Working Papers
CaseWare’s Working Papers program provides
comprehensive tools for managing trial balance and other engagement processes
digitally, with collaboration and security tools, document management
functions, online review features, roll-forward capabilities, scanning,
and additional options.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
– ProSystem fx Engagement
As a part of CCH’s ProSystem fx family
of professional accounting products, ProSystem fx Engagement
is focused on increasing efficiency with workpapers, enhancing collaboration
among multiple staff members and enabling paperless engagement management.
Thomson Reuters – Engagement
The Engagement CS system is the centralized hub
for workflow management for the CS Professional Suite, which includes
options for tax, payroll, fixed assets, practice management, write-up,
website building, document management and trial balance.

Need Trial Balance? Check Your Tax Prep Vendor
All accounting professionals know that a proper trial balance is essential to good business management and tax preparation.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
– ProSystem fxTrial Balance
ProSystem fx Trial Balance provides a dedicated trial balance system capable of importing data from most accounting systems.
Thomson Reuters – Trial Balance
The Trial Balance CS system from Thomson Reuters (formerly Thomson Tax & Accounting) provides full integration with the tax, write-up and document management components of the CS Professional Suite.
Sidebar Articles
Pendock Mallorn — Accounting for Practitioners
AFP is geared toward small and mid-sized professional accounting practices, with three versions of the program that provide trial balance and working papers compilation and management through integration with Microsoft Excel.
Capital Confirmation
The confirmation process is integral to performing trial balances, but managing this process can often be either time consuming or put data at risk, or both. Capital Confirmation’s secure, web-based confirmation system provides relief to both parts of this equation.
CPA Service Group — Disclosure and Reporting Manager
Created by a CPA who specialized in audit and disclosure compliance processes while in public practice, CPA Service Group’s Disclosure and Reporting Manager (DRM) is a web-based reporting program that automatically generates engagement letters, discloser checklists, financial statements and other documents based on AICPA requirements.