From the Nov. 2008 Review of
Time & Billing Systems
Office Tools Pro has a newly redesigned interface that lets you go anywhere
in the program from its simple “One-Click” homepage. You can know
instantly what’s going on with your client, what projects are being done
for them and what documents are associated with them. You can even see the last
time they were called or e-mailed. Office Tools Pro is much more than a time
and billing system; it’s like a mini office manager on one page. For 2009,
the program moved to a SQL database backend, and according to the people at
Office Tools Pro the program is now much more stable and has increased in speed.
Also new for 2009 is a set of graphics that is really appealing and easy to
understand, making the program’s graphical presentation look much better
than prior versions.
The program can be a stand-alone program or implemented on your network in
a multi-user environment. The Professional Suite single-user license is $500,
and a five-user package is $1,400. Each additional user is $225. As I began
to review this program, I first loaded it on my Windows Vista laptop, but I
quickly realized that the program does not yet function on Vista. It is scheduled
to be available for Vista by mid 2009.
Ease of Use & Navigation Features – 5 Stars
Office Tools Pro essentially puts everything on one screen, which simplifies
navigation. It may sound like the main page is cluttered by the design, but
it doesn’t feel cluttered at all. You have a Client Screen on the top
half of the page, and as you advance across the tabs along the top of the Client
Screen you get different views without ever leaving the main page. The bottom
half of the page is the activity listing, which outlines all of the tasks, projects,
phone calls, etc. that need to be done for all clients. If there are items past
due, alerts at the top of the page will notify you to those items.
Tracking time is a breeze. An active timesheet, when clicked, replaces the
Client Screen and allows you to track time after the fact or in real-time. A
dispatch function allows you to quickly alert another staff person in the office
of a potentially urgent need. The other component I really liked was the document
management system. It allows you to organize all of the associated documents,
e-mails, PDFs, spreadsheets and all kinds of other documents by client for easy
|“Our Davenport, Iowa firm is very traditional in
its approach and direction, with a focus on individual income tax returns.
We prepare slightly more than 2,000 Form 1040s and 300 Form 1065s, 1120s
and 1041s. Our write-up portion of the practice accounts for approximately
35 percent of our gross revenues. Additionally, we offer financial products
and IRS controversy services. We have 10 full-time employees that grows
to a staff of 15 during filing season. It’s a family firm that was
started by my father in 1968, and I’ve been with the firm on a full-time
basis since 1975. Office Tools Pro has integrated many of the functions
of our office into a seamless workflow. This relieves our staff from having
to deal with many of the procedural workflow issues they have had to struggle
with in the past. We chose this product because the structure of the product
was tight enough that maintenance was a limited concern but open enough
that the product could be adapted to our needs. While there is an indication
from Office Tools Pro that this product can be implemented without training,
I believe doing so would be a SERIOUS mistake. Many of the features of the
program can be discovered through time and could be overcome, but training
cost is substantially less than the lost time in stumbling through product
implementation. Time is the only asset we have to sell. Our firm constantly
struggles with the issue of time keeping and capturing that time, i.e. the
cost of accounting for that time versus what is the value of the time accounted
Management Functions – 5 Stars
Everything you need to know is at your fingertips. That was my experience with
the main page of Office Tools Pro. You can manage your staff’s time and
expense entries with a couple of clicks. You can also manage their activity
list with the same number of keystrokes. The ability to see, at a glance, the
activities by client that need to be accomplished is a valuable management tool.
With the program’s Outlook integration, e-mails are stored in the document
management section of the client screen.
We all have that file structure on our server where we store Word and Excel
documents and PDF files for our clients. Office Tools Pro automatically organizes
that into a file structure that integrates with the document storage section
of the main page. Putting documents in the client document management sections
is as easy as dragging and dropping them. And its Microsoft Office integration
allows you to print directly to the document management folder.
Appointment scheduling, which is again on the main page, can be done in daily,
weekly or monthly views. From these appointments, tasks can be scheduled and
assigned to staff, and these assignments then show up on the assigned staff’s
main page in their activity list.
Billing & Reporting – 5 Stars
The billing and reporting functions are also accessed from the main page. A
good number of standard reports are available, including those for unbilled
WIP, Accounts Receivable, Billing by Staff and by Client, plus many more. I’d
say the reporting options are more than adequate. When you get ready to bill,
sorting unbilled time into different views is very easy and simplifies the billing
process. You can edit invoices on the fly. Once you are in an invoice, you can
include more or less detail on the invoice by clicking a couple of options as
you go. Invoice templates and client letters are available, all of which can
be customized to meet your needs.
Integration – 4.5 Stars
Integration is limited to Quick-Books and Microsoft Office products. Depending
on your work environment, this can be a limitation or no limitation at all.
Outlook integration means you can manually synchronize the contact list, schedule,
call list, to do list and e-mail with Office Tools Pro. As previously mentioned,
integration with Microsoft Office products includes the ability to print and
store directly into the document management section of the program. For remote
time or data entry, most firms log into their server where the program is housed
via Terminal Server. This process works fine, but it is not the same as remote
time and expense entry.
User Support & Help – 5 Stars
The user-friendly interface includes descriptions for each of the fields and
icons, and context-sensitive Help is also provided. Technical phone support
is included with the purchase of the program. The product carries an annual
maintenance fee of 35 percent of the cost of the product. This fee provides
you with product updates and continued phone support at no additional cost.
The vendor’s website has a knowledgebase, tips and training options, and
other technical assistance. As I was working to get my Vista machine functioning,
I turned to technical support. The support department connected to my laptop
via www.gotomypc.com and quickly identified the problem.
2008 Overall Rating: