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Review of Practice Management Systems — 2006

Last year’s submissions for the practice management review were wide and varied. A couple of products were receiving final touches to major updates, while a few others had obviously been neglected by their owners for several years.

From the October 2006 Issue

Last year’s submissions for the practice management review were wide
and varied. A couple of products were receiving final touches to major updates,
while a few others had obviously been neglected by their owners for several
years. The majority of products, however, could be heard screaming for attention
— there was a drought of inspiration in the software world. I’m
happy to report that the plain of software production is showing signs of rain
and fertility. Many products have seen accelerated growth since last year’s

While there are likely to be several contributing factors to this growth,
the best explanation I can think of is user response. This year’s entries
have added integration to new products such as Microsoft Small Business Accounting,
improved document management techniques, and utilized better designs for Internet-based
record-keeping. Better thought has been given to layout, and it appears that
many developers have taken user responses seriously and developed their products
to those specifications.

Because our firm recently upgraded to a new practice management platform,
I’d like to provide a task list of sorts for you, as a potential user,
to do beyond reading the reviews. If you already make use of some software package,
a needs-analysis will not be enough. It is very important that you identify
characteristics of your current software that you like; the new software will
already have plenty of “new features” that your users won’t
like or will have difficulty adjusting to. Check out the reports that are available.
If they don’t meet your needs, can you edit those included or make your
own? Evaluate what’s broken or what may break in the next few years with
your current processes. This is especially important if you are trying to grow
your firm. Try to determine how easy information will port between the old and
the new software. Also, make sure that several potential users sit down and
try out a demo of the program; they may see potential problems that you do not.
One last suggestion: Make sure you have an updated copy of your needs/wish list
available in case the vendor decides to stop supporting your software implementation.

Hopefully, this checklist will get you and your firm started on your quest
for a new practice management package. Feel free to add to the list as needed.
If you or the vendor can’t pass this test, you’re not ready to purchase.

  • We have identified the five (or 10) most important reports necessary for
    our practice.
  • Our current user frustrations will be addressed by [this software package]
    through the following functionality: (make list).
  • We do/do not need Internet or remote connectivity to our package.
  • Our time zone corresponds well with the support hours of the vendor.
  • The vendor provided a demo of the software we plan to purchase, not one
    with extended functionality enabled.
  • My boss did not get vague promises and answers from a vendor salesperson.
  • Timekeeping really is easy in this package based on our organization system.
  • There is a strong chance I can train all of our users to use this package
    the way we intend for them to use it.

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Caseware — CaseWare Time
and Today 2006
CaseWare Time and Today 2006 offers accounting firms
a thorough practice management software package. Intended for midsize firms,
this product is best implemented by…
CCH, Inc.
— ProSystem fx Practice Management – Office Edition
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…
Commercial Logic, Inc. —
Practice Engine
Practice Engine Version 7.0 is now available for
the U.S. market. Well suited for medium and large firms, this web-based
product is tailored to the needs of each customer.
LexisNexis — TimeMatters
with Billing Matters
Time Matters with Billing Matters Plus 7 from LexisNexis
encases the entire business process, with timekeeping, customer relations,
billings, employee scheduling, project management, communications, research
tools and document management.

Office Tools Pro — Office
Tools Pro
Office Tools Pro 2006 is a versatile office management
suite with a target audience of tax and accounting firms and law firms with
fewer than 20 active timekeepers. Offering document management, calendaring/scheduling,
project tracking, time and billing, and contact tracking, this product packs
a lot of features into an organized and affordable package.
Shift Technologies, Inc. —
Timesheet Reporting By ThinMind
Timesheet Reporting 6.2 is a web-based time, expense
and issue-tracking product that can be extended with project and document
management utilities. Professional service firms of all sizes can easily
adopt this platform, though this product does not provide the entire suite
of practice management capabilities such as billing or client management.
Thomson Creative Solutions —
Practice CS 2006
Practice CS, Version 2006.1.0 from Creative Solutions
marks the second edition of its new environment and one component of a very
large suite of integrated accounting and client service products. This product
can easily be implemented for a small firm, but medium to large firms (upwards
of 30 to 100 timekeepers) will make greater use of the suite approach and

Review of Practice Management
Programs 2006 — Executive Summary
This year’s showing of practice management
products provides a glimpse of the software-as-a-service market and next-generation
full-suite approach that will soon empower firms large and small. The ability
to work on an anytime, anywhere basis is going to dominate the growth patterns
of midsize firms and highly successful small firms.