CPA Technology Advisor 2009 -Practice Management Review 5 Stars

April 19, 2010

Office Tools Professional 2009

Office Tools Professional 2009 is the latest version of this vendor’s practice management system, which is offered in industry-specific versions for CPAs, tax practices and other types of professional service providers. The program provides a wealth of features, including full contact management with Outlook and Quick-Books integration, call and email tracking, scheduling, time tracking, billing, document and project management, notes and to-do lists. Office Tools Professional now also offers client web portals that enable secure document sharing between firm staff and clients. Pricing for the base program starts at about $300 for a single user, plus $250 for additional timekeepers. It is more then worthwhile to add all available modules for an additional $100, plus the client portals for $20 per month for unlimited clients.

Ease of Use/Flexibility
The recently redesigned interface for Office Tools Pro was developed using .NET technology, enabling it to offer great customization options and features, in particular the dashboards, which give quick access to information often in one click. The home screen opens within an attractive screen that houses traditional pull-down menus across the top, as well as main feature icons across the top that make it easy to jump to contacts, notes, to-do items, the scheduling system, prospect tracking options, time and billing functions, and document management.
A client/contact selection menu with search functions is located on the left of the screen pretty much at all times when within the program, with contact detail information provided on intuitive screens that include selection lists and smart entry features, and even a built-in MapQuest function for the contact’s address. For time and expense data, Office Tools Professional offers an at-a-glance spreadsheet view that can show all time logged toward a client or project, or by a specific staff member, over a selected time period.
During entry of the time information, the system offers graphically appealing calendars, summary data and selection lists for client, projects, activity, expenses, mileage and other data, along with the ability to add notes or quickly generate a timesheet report, output the data to QuickBooks, or use the included Microsoft Office add-in, which allows the creation of timecards using Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. A timer tool is also available.
The system’s billing management console provides similarly intuitive functionality, enabling management or AR staff a convenient overview of all timecards, with multiple search and filter options, and the ability to mark up or down, change billing codes, cite as un-billable or otherwise edit, with the resulting balances automatically updated and displayed.

Productivity Tools/Features
The program’s key features of contact management and time and billing are exceptionally easy to use, with intuitive and intelligent data-entry screens. Office Tools Professional 2009 also includes several great tools for the small practice, including built-in scheduling, notes, to-do lists and records management. The call tracking system is also noteworthy, allowing users to easily track what contact/client called in, the amount of time spent on the call, the subject and whether it was billable time, and then quickly makes a timesheet for the event. Also, the program’s recent additions of integration with QuickBooks, Microsoft Office and one-click printing of mailing labels using the DYMO button will be valuable to many users.
Office Tools Professional’s project management feature enables firms to track projects and engagements and monitor due dates. It also provides detailed summaries and overviews of estimated versus actual costs, along with other key information. The system includes functions for paperless document management, as well as paper-based records management. The option to use secure client portals was recently added to Office Tools Professional. The add-on, developed by parent company North 40 Systems, provides a portal that lets firms securely share documents with their clients, allowing the client anytime access to selected files.

The program’s reporting options are located within key areas, allowing users to quickly generate more than 80 standard reports, including client lists, AR, expenses, WIPs, budgets, schedules, and time and billing summaries by client, staff or project. All reports can be customized and saved for future use, as can the program’s collection of pre-written client communication form letters. Reports can also be output to PDF, Excel and Word.

Office Tools Pro recently announce the addition of its client portal options via and its Microsoft Office toolbar that allows any Word, Excel or Outlook file to be quickly stored within the program’s document management system. Additionally, it enables the creation of time cards in these Microsoft programs. Other integration options allow two-way data flow with QuickBooks, contact data and calendaring integration with Outlook, and the inclusion of the MapQuest link on client contact sheets.

The new design of Office Tools Professional has enhanced its usability, with client, billing and time data always easily available, while assistance functions like Help bubbles, right-click menus and links to online support give a little more help to those who may need it. The vendor’s online support center offers a knowledgebase, tips, user guides and phone-based, web-based and live training options. Office Tools Professional also hosts an annual conference.

Relative Value
Office Tools Professional 2009 is a great option for smaller firms looking to move up from basic time and billing into a system that offers more capable practice management functions that enable them to better manage clients, staff, projects and productivity. The program is exceptionally easy to use and sports an attractive and intuitive new interface, making it a quick learn. Pricing is affordable, particularly for practices with 10 or fewer timekeepers, although the system is capable of handling larger staff sizes, as well.

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