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2010 Review of Practice Management Systems

Practice Management Systems Break the Barriers:What View Do You Have of Your Firm?

From the August 2010 Issue

For many professionals, the concept of practice management has long been a
challenge to precisely define. But new technologies are increasingly giving
firm partners and managers greater control over aspects of their practices that
were, not too long ago, somewhat intangible. This enhanced control over all
of the many areas of a professional practice are crucial to breaking the productivity
barriers that can limit a firm’s ability to take on more client engagements
with the same staff, and thereby growing their practice by working smarter and
more efficiently.

As many thought leaders in the profession are helping to identify best practices
as they involve the new technologies available for accounting professionals,
it is becoming clear that the key to firm productivity lies in maximizing the
efficiency of internal workflow processes. Yes, once again, “It’s
all about the workflow.” And there is no singular program within a practice
that can have greater impact on overall processes.

Whether billing by the hour for all or some engagements, using a “value-based”
flat-fee structure, or a mix of both, most professionals acknowledge that time
management is an integral component, allowing management to either bill directly
for time spent on client work or to assess the current flat-fee structure in
place. And time tracking, on a per-professional, per-client, per-task and overall
firm basis can offer extensive analysis options, helping to find the areas and
members of greatest productivity. This analysis can also help find “lost
time” and expenses that can drain a firm of its resources.

Many time and billing systems are available (see the review that begins on
page 11 of this issue) that offer these capabilities, providing management tools
for many small and mid-sized practices. But where those systems are primarily
focused on time for billing purposes, practice management systems take a more
comprehensive view of time as one of many practice resources that needs to be
managed in order to provide greater productivity and profitability to the practice,
as well as enhanced client service.

To achieve this, practice management systems merge time tracking and invoicing
functions with options such as support for multiple work groups within the practice,
internal and client collaboration, project management capabilities, full AR
management options, extensive reporting features, detailed analyses, workflow
oversight, calendaring, managerial processes, and even contact and employee
management functions. New technologies are even enhancing the core billing and
receivables functions, with electronic distribution of invoices and even integrated
options for accepting credit card payments electronically.

While practice management begins with time, it continues in a constantly evolving
practice workflow that makes the best use of all of its resources. By integrating
with the other programs within a professional firm, including both client service
and internal management systems, a practice management application provides
day-to-day utilities for general firm staff, while giving firm management powerful
insight into their practice.

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Practice Management:
2010 Review Sections

  • Basic System Functions
    • General Navigation/Ease-of-Use
    • Designed for accounting pros
    • Scalability
  • Time Management Capabilities
    • Timesheets, timers, multi-staff views
    • Project management
    • Contact management & marketing
    • Approvals/sign-off process
    • HR tracking (PTO, sick, benefits)
  • Invoicing Functions
    • Expense tracking options
    • WIPs, budget-from-estimate
    • AR management
    • PO management
    • Customization
  • Management Features
    • Dashboard overviews (AKA Snapshots)
    • Managerial reporting analysis
    • Security features/user roles
  • Integration & Data Management
    • Data output options
    • Integration w/payroll and professional accounting systems
    • e-Functions: Invoicing, payment, remote access
  • Help/Support
    • Built-in Support Features
    • System Updates
    • Support website/ documentation
    • Live Support
  • Summary & Pricing

CaseWare International Inc. —
CaseWare has long been a mainstay in large legal
practices and the top 100 accounting firms in the country, offering a
suite of professional applications focused on time and billing, engagement
management, financial analysis, audit applications, benchmarking tools
and advanced database engine tools.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
— ProSystem fx Practice Management
CCH offers a broad suite of applications for professional
accountants, from fully integrated client service programs for tax compliance,
asset management, tax planning, trial balance and write-up, to systems
designed for internal firm management of engagement processes…
Thomson Reuters — Practice
Thomson Reuters offers Practice CS as a part of
its CS Professional Suite of tax, accounting and business management programs,
providing an overall practice management application that includes time
and billing, productivity analysis, staff management functions, contact
management with Outlook integration, and project management capabilities.
Related Articles
Redesigned Office Tools Pro Offers New Interface and Features
Office Tools Pro has been a popular choice for professional
service firms for many years, including tax and accounting practices and
legal professionals. The system includes integration with QuickBooks for
AR and invoicing functions and syncing with Microsoft Outlook for full
contact management capabilities.
Projecturf Offers Collaboration & Project Management Software for SMBs
Developed as a web-based application, Projecturf
2.0 is a new breed of project management software for small and medium-sized
businesses as well as freelancers. Projecturf offers an easy-to-use and
customizable interface with unlimited data storage.

2010 Review of Practice Management Systems — Comparison Chart

See inside August 2010

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