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Workflow is King

Mobile professional payroll applications, online document storage, SaaS-based account-ing and practice management tools, and an in-practice knowledge sharing system were among the technologies honored at The CPA Technology Advisor’s 7th Annual Tax and Accounting Technology Innovation Awards.

From the July 2010 Issue

Mobile professional payroll applications, online document storage, SaaS-based
account-ing and practice management tools, and an in-practice knowledge sharing
system were among the technologies honored at The CPA Technology Advisor’s
7th Annual Tax and Accounting Technology Innovation Awards. The Awards serve
to identify and honor new and emerging technologies that have the potential
for significant positive impact on the profession and in the day-to-day work
of tax and accounting practices.

Winners of the 2010 Awards are Account-antsWorld for Accounting Relief; CCH,
a Wolters Kluwer business, for KnowledgeConnect; SmartVault, Inc. for SmartVault
v3; SurePayroll for Mobile Payroll; and Thomson Reuters for its Practice CS
Staff Management Module. Two additional technologies were given Honorable Mention
recognition: The AvaTax with AvaCert system from Avalara; and ProSystem fx
Document SaaS, a part of the new SaaS Suite from CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business.

The Innovation Awards are selected by the awards committee for The CPA
Technology Advisor
, which includes accounting and tax professionals from
across the country who are engaged in public practice in firms ranging from
sole practitioners to major, multi-office regional practices.

are no specific subcategories for the awards, but there are trends that appear
each year,” said Executive Editor M. Darren Root, CPA.CITP, who also maintains
an accounting practice and consultancy. “Over the past decade, dramatic changes
in technology have led to great advances in productivity, particularly in terms
of redesigning workflow processes within practices and in the continuing movement
toward SaaS-model professional programs.”

The software-as-a-service model can reduce the IT needs of professional firms,
while also offering greater mobility and scalability. Likewise, several new
technologies have led to changes in workflow processes, including the initial
movement toward a paperless office. But Root notes that optimizing how a professional
practice performs requires a much broader view.

“Over the past decade or so, we’ve continued on from the paperless
movement to a point where workflow optimization is the key, and this includes
all aspects of how practices operate, collaborate internally and with clients,
and even how they interact with outside partners, vendors and service providers.
It requires a monumental re-thinking of how a practice can function most productively
and efficiently, and it is being led by tech- and business-savvy professionals
who have spent their careers teaching clients and other tax and accounting professionals
how to work smarter, more efficiently and more profitably.”

Any technology product or service may be nominated for an award, but it must
be commercially available at the time of judging, and be less than two years
old or have undergone a significant redevelopment or addition within that timeframe.



Client write-up, as we know it, may be nearing its end. Imagine a client
write-up engagement where there was no need to transfer client data,
no need to synch changes back into the client’s system, and even the
ability for the accountant to go live into the
client bookkeeping system at any time without the client having to stop
work. This is the promise of what we call “integrated professional client
accounting,” something that is made possible by web-based accounting
platforms and cloud computing, and that’s exactly what Accounting Relief

At the heart of Accounting Relief is a powerful, web-based professional
accounting system designed specifically for firms that provide services
to multiple businesses. It is a full professional suite that includes
optional modules for integrated live and after-the-fact payroll, asset
management, sales and use tax reporting, practice management and web-based
document management.

What makes the Accounting Relief system truly innovative, however,
is that it includes a client bookkeeping component that is a part of
the professional system. Each client can be set up to have their own
web-based bookkeeping system, with the accountant able to set the functions
and access rights they are allowed. The interface is focused on the
small business user, so it’s easy to learn and use, but limited to only
the aspects of their own accounts that the business and each of its
users needs.

Information from sales, receivables, payables and other data is always
immediately available to the accountant from their dashboards, and the
data is already in their professional-level accounting program … because
it is the same program, just with different user levels and capabilities
at the firm and for the client. When you don’t have data moving around
between systems, the result is improved efficiency and saved time, along
with an increase in the accuracy of the data. Accounting Relief also
offers integrated portals for collaborating with clients. It’s an entirely
new way of looking at client bookkeeping. As a web-based system, it
is also easy to implement since there’s no software or updates to install.

CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business

One of the most valuable assets in any professional practice is the
knowledge and experience of the senior staff and specialists. In a small
firm with only a few members, a mentor-like relationship can often provide
enough guidance. As a firm grows, however, it becomes less viable to
have juniors peeking into the
office of seniors to ask advice on a particular tax treatment or accounting
issue. And with the AICPA estimating that as many as 75 percent of credentialed
accountants will be eligible for retirement in the next 10 years, finding
a way to chronicle the knowledge and experience of these leaders is

Over the years, many firms have compiled their own best practices,
case studies, resource guides and other documents, but CCH’s KnowledgeConnect
finally takes an innovative approach to knowledge management in the
accounting profession. The program offers a centralized, indexed and
easy-to-search system that allows staff to access knowledge resources
faster and make more informed decisions for their clients and their
own practice.

Among the core features of KnowledgeConnect is the ability to search
across multiple databases from a single location, which connects firm
employees with the knowledge they need. These multiple resources include
the internal knowledge of an organization’s leaders and subject-matter
experts, as well as the ability to search across other CCH databases
that professionals in the firm use on a daily basis in their normal

Current integration points exist to IntelliConnect, the CCH Support
Knowledgebase and ProSystem fx Document with additional CCH
integrations planned for future release. In addition, an organization
can have custom integration points created to unique firm databases.
KnowledgeConnect also integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Outlook,
simplifying the process of asking and answering questions and sharing

Practices can also create interactive communities where staff can
collaborate with each other, even with multiple locations and remote
employees. Additionally, customizable Business Rules allow KnowledgeConnect
to behave the way an organization needs it to.

KnowledgeConnect helps employees work more productively, and protects
the future of an organization by ensuring critical knowledge is captured
and shared, as opposed to being lost when a thought leader retires or
leaves the company.

CS Staff Management Module
Thomson Reuters

As an optional component for the Practice CS firm management system
from Thomson Reuters, the Staff Management Module is the first staff
management pro-gram designed specifically for the modern tax and accounting
practice. The system greatly eases the unique human resources and personal
staff management
functions of professional practices by giving firm managers a centralized
location for tracking and analyzing benefits, sick time, staff targets,
budgeting, staff scheduling and CPE credits.

As with the other programs in the Thomson Reuters CS Professional
Suite, all information is seamlessly integrated with other components
of Practice CS and is available, as needed, in other program areas.
The system also provides features for performing analysis of firm and
employee productivity, with managers having the ability to assign engagement
tasking based on multiple perspectives and to choose the workflow management
strategy that is most efficient for their firm.

This customized work queue is then able to pull data from other areas
of Practice CS to determine the priority of specific projects and tasks,
available staff for specific projects (based on availability, skill
set, location and many other factors), and what individual staff workloads
are in order to enable efficient scheduling for firm management.

All functions in the Staff Management Module use a dashboard-based
design that groups a variety of pertinent information into single screens
for easier viewing, faster progression from one task to the next, and
better management of high-volume processes like 1040 tax returns with
limited involvement of management outside of initial setup.

The Practice CS Staff Management Module offers an innovative and unique
advantage to firms looking to further streamline internal management
processes, which can then help improve engagement productivity and firm

SmartVault, Inc.

For accountants who have clients that use QuickBooks, SmartVault can
be one of the greatest simple tools when it comes to improving collaboration
and client-side document retention. The system, now in its third version,
is a web-based add-on to QuickBooks that provides advanced document
management features
that can be used by both the client and their professional firm.

The easy-to-use SmartVault system lets users attach any document or
file to any QuickBooks transaction, and allows them to store the digital
documents in secure, online storage facilities, with the ability to
instantly create copies of the document or share with other users. The
system includes a built-in hierarchy for storing and sharing documents
and source files, with a three-step toolbar that creates a seamless
experience for scanning, attaching and finding documents.

Since SmartVault was first introduced in 2008, new enhancements and
features have been designed to further meet the needs of accounting
professionals, including streamlined firm-client collaboration functions
that help bring efficiency to workflow. Most recently, the program has
added features that expand the program beyond QuickBooks users to make
it available to everyone in a business, accounting practice or professional
services firm. This includes core system utilities such as creating
and customizing folder structures, greater online file and folder access,
and enhanced intuitive Windows integration.

The system can also be set to automatically perform data backups of
QuickBooks or other small business bookkeeping systems, with intuitive
wizards that simplify setting up rules and features and performing searches
of documents. For accounting practices, a centralized management portal
offers additional tools for managing multiple clients, their portals
and workflow functions.

Mobile Payroll

Professional payroll … now, “there’s an app for that.” SurePayroll,
which offers online payroll processing and management systems for professional
accountants and small business owners, has introduced its new SurePayroll
Mobile Payroll app for user of Apple’s iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad.

The app can be downloaded for free from Apple’s Apps store and is the
first mobile add-on to the devices that is specifically designed for
a professional payroll system.

The SurePayroll Mobile Payroll app integrates directly with the vendor’s
web-based payroll systems, which allows users of those programs to access
them from wherever they may be. All features of the payroll systems
are available, with the exception of printing functions. This includes
the ability to enter payroll information, preview totals, perform calculations,
create or edit employees and contractors, and even process and perform
payroll runs, with print-based checks generated and delivered via SurePayroll’s

Other features include the ability to view all available reports and
summaries, use the payroll calendar, set human resources and benefits
for employees, and connect to SurePayroll’s customer service. With the
addition of the Mobile Payroll App, SurePayroll gives active professionals
more freedom, but with all of the power of one of the leading payroll
systems on the market.



In addition to this year’s Innovation Awards, The CPA Technology Advisor
extended Honorable Mention recognition to Avalara and CCH, a Wolters Kluwer
business for the following technologies:

  • Avalara – AvaTax with AvaCert
  • CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business – ProSystem fx Document SaaS

See inside July 2010

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