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App Watch – A Weekly Roundup of Application News

Dec 7th 2015
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Welcome to the first installment of our new application and service provider-centric column App Watch, where we intend to supply you with a roundup of recent and relevant application news.

With all that is going on in the world of accounting-related technology it is difficult to keep tabs on who is doing what, or for what reason. And let's face it, no one is really referring to “software” anymore as what is being updated. What's new and relevant is mostly an application, platform, or service.

Through this column, our aim is to keep you abreast of the more relevant goings on over the past week in the world of technology. And, where applicable, we will also provide some insight as to what the news could mean for you or your clients.

This week we explore news coming from Intuit, Sage, and Xero.

The News

First off, Intuit had several product announcements over the past week related to its Intuit Tax Online, Lacerte, and ProSeries products. First up is the Client Connection Suite, which is designed to reduce the time it takes to collect documents and client signatures. Then there's Intuit Link, a tool to automate the client document-collection and data-entry processes for both tax professionals and their clients. It is integrated with Intuit Tax Online, Lacerte, and ProSeries and connects to financial institutions and payroll providers to securely collect data on behalf of the client. Clients can also share tax data, including document uploads. They've also added an eSignature tool so professionals can electronically collect signatures for Form 8879 within Intuit Tax Online, Lacerte, and ProSeries.

A pay-by-refund has also been added to Intuit Tax Online, Lacerte, and ProSeries so clients can pay their tax-preparation fees directly from their refund. In addition, tax professionals using ProSeries can now provide their clients an extra layer of support in the event of an IRS audit or identity theft through personalized audit assistance and ID theft restoration.

For Lacerte users, Intuit has added new filing types and forms for e-file, while ProSeries tax software users now have a tool that guides them step-by-step through each input.

The Views

OK so that's a lot from Intuit, but it makes sense and not outside their mode of operation to add a bucket of new features to their tax products at this time of year. Personally, one of the bigger product additions was announced in early November, with the addition of a Trial Balance function to QuickBooks Online Accountant, designed to help reduce or eliminate manual data import, export, and entry work to help save time. But, for anyone still using the desktop tax products, or even the online tax tool – which, from what I've heard over the past year or so, is a welcome addition – these new features, while not earth shattering, should make tax preparers pretty happy.

The News

On to Xero, which over the past week released its Xero Apple Watch App. This new offering provides banking notifications to know when transactions have arrived and allows you to see your updated balance at a glance, see all accounts across multiple banks ​with money received from a paid invoice, and notifications when invoices and bills have been paid.

The Views

Not that Apple Watch sales are on par with where iPhones, iPads, and other major mobile devices are, but it makes sense that Xero, ever the forward-thinking company, would put this on the market. Like the Apple Watch, it doesn't do a whole lot more than give you alerts, but it seems a good tool to have if you are connected in the Xero-verse and, of course, have an Apple Watch. I'm certain Xero's overall mobile offerings will continue to increase even in the near future.

The News

As for Sage, the company has formally released Sage Value for the US and UK markets. It is touted as a cloud solution designed for accounting professionals who want to set prices based on the value their clients receive. Sage Value offers accountants client questionnaires, pricing templates, and profitability analysis of clients.

The Views

For anyone following Sage lately, you know they have been – for their part – innovating in the issuance of newly created products aimed primarily at the more forward-thinking businesses and accountants. All of their recent releases have been, as you would expect, cloud-based and are platforms that allow users to perform a variety of functions away from the confines of an office. Now comes Sage Value, which is squarely aimed at accountants who are interested in the value pricing model, but not entirely certain or comfortable with doing so.

Sage Value, therefore, is designed to give that leg up that interested accounting firms need for getting at the core of the pricing model, that being the “value” portion. It's a tough thing to figure out, especially when you're a firm not used to doing so, and even Ron Baker, who literally wrote the book on value pricing, will admit this is one of the crucial steps in being able to move away from hourly pricing. As to exactly how firms will use or embrace this particular tool, say over just going through Baker's book, taking notes, and figuring it out on their own, remains to be seen. But, I suspect any additional support for those interested in establishing value pricing in their practice will be welcome.

Until next time, let's keep the conversation going on this news, as well as what's to come. Hope you find value in this column.


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