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Practice Management: A Revolution Waiting to Happen

The CPA Technology Advisor
October 2005, Vol. 15, No. 6
By Matt Altman

2005 Overall Rating –

CaseWare Time 2005 offers a wide array of management tools with an extremely easy-to-learn interface.

CaseWare International Inc. — CaseWare Time and Today 2005
CaseWare Time and Today 2005 is a thorough time, billing and practice management software package complete with contact management, extensive project and staff reporting, and scheduling. The design of the software is primarily for accounting firms and other professional service firms in need of billing, staff and office management, and aims to complement other CaseWare products for accountants.

Ease of Use/Flexibility –
CaseWare Time 2005 offers a wide array of management tools with an extremely easy-to-learn interface. In just a day’s time, you could set up a firm, have security enabled, add staff, begin entering clients, and have workers start their timekeeping. One of the best features is its well-designed layout. Users have easy access to reports and timekeeping on the left, while the help section sits on the right. This help section is already divided into the most common practices, making it very easy to find what you might need. Some programs have a large number of pop-up windows for each process, but CaseWare has implemented an Explorer-like browser feature that allows the user to go forward or back through their “history” of processes. The windowing layout provides easy drag-and-drop functionality — if a user would rather have the Document Manager sit on the right, he or she simply has to drag it to the right.

The User Profile Toolbar provides a good number of filtering options for input into reports. For time and billing, work codes can be set up into separate classifications, and clients can be put together into groups. Documents already exist for reporting on each, and all data is updated in real-time. Do you have a large number of staff, clients or engagements? That’s no problem. The software can handle the largest of firms, but make sure that you plan your implementation appropriately. Staff will appreciate the ease with which time can be entered, and a checkout feature exists for those staff that will be working remotely for extended periods of time. Administrators will appreciate the multiple billing methods (especially bill-by-project) and reports on staff billable time.

Scalability/Stability –
Firms with one to 10 timekeepers may not use all of the functionality available in this product, but they will find it easy to grow into the capabilities. Larger firms may need more reports and documents, and those can be created relatively quickly. If a firm suddenly experiences rapid growth, a well-planned implementation will handle the growth. For the purposes of this review, a newly created company was up and running with timekeepers in under an hour; invoicing in two hours. If a firm suddenly finds it is working in a new area of expertise, categories and work codes can quickly be added to ensure that all hours are tracked and billed appropriately.

Productivity Tools/Features –
If staff members regularly work out of the office, an option exists to check out files. When they return, those files can easily be checked back in. Unfortunately, there are no integrated online capabilities. However, the CaseWare Today add-on provides a wealth of tools. Today is an add-on for Microsoft Outlook, giving an additional dashboard that summarizes upcoming meetings, news and calendar items. Bi-directional synchronization with Time is relatively easy to set up, and the dashboard can be configured to provide information about performance metrics, training and knowledge centers, and clients. Neither CaseWare Time nor Today are intended to be complete project management tools; firms would be required to have a separate group calendaring system such as an Exchange Server, and web research tracking would need an independent system. CaseWare Time allows for the creation of multiple billing timers that can be used for quick tracking and billing of phone calls, meetings or research. The Document Manager could be configured to track documents related to a particular client or project, and default reports, Word documents and Excel spreadsheets can be posted to those folders. Firms with limited ongoing projects may appreciate this approach.

Reporting –
CaseWare Time provides an excellent selection of built-in reports. Reports can be easily prepared through the Document Manager, and, in most cases, summary and detail reports are ready-made. Under the Clients Section, users will find 32 unique reports that provide basic client information (name/address/client type), WIP details, and a host of monitoring breakdowns. Firm management will be able to access all information regarding profitability of clients and employees through the Time Analysis reports. Customized reporting can be set up through the New Automatic Document interface and the User Profile Toolbar. For firm administrators, an additional diagnostic report can help determine setup problems and missing firm information.

Support/Help/Updates –
CaseWare has worked diligently to upgrade its product for the 2005 edition. Updates for CaseWare products are posted to the web site, and an extensive knowledgebase complete with movies can be found online, as well. Optional updates published throughout the year are provided for a $25 shipping and handling fee.

Integration –
In order to make use of CaseWare Today, Outlook is required. If you already make use of Outlook contact lists, you might find the synchronization tool between Today and Time quite valuable. CaseWare Time can also make use of local installations of Microsoft Office for creating new Word and Excel files in the Document Manager in CaseWare Time. CaseWare Working Papers is the company’s engagement software that provides a complete document management system. Unfortunately, engagement-based activities can only be billed by means of the timer system, as no integrated billing exists for online research, document composition or tax preparation. For those firms converting to a new practice management system, data can be processed from AuditCase, ProSystem fx, and PACS (DOS), as well as most any software that can export lists to ASCII format.

Relative Value
Single timekeepers can purchase this product at a cost of $499 for CaseWare Time, with an annually renewable $199 single-user support plan. For our prototype firm of 10 active timekeepers, the cost would be $999 for the first five timekeepers, and an additional $175 per timekeeper thereafter — a total of $1,874 (office licensing includes one year of technical support). Annual renewal pricing is half of the current license pricing. Firms with fewer than 20 timekeepers will likely find the highest value with this product and should evaluate how much integration with MS Outlook is worth for the additional cost of CaseWare Today. For those firms in need of analytical tools, basic project management and an easy-to-learn timekeeping utility, CaseWare Time and Today is a suitable package.

Refer to pages 10-11 for the software review, page 24 for the Executive Summary table and pages 8-24 for the full article.

Reprinted by permission ©2004 The CPA Technology Advisor, 110 N. Bell St., Suite 300, Shawnee, OK 74801 - 800-456-0864

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