I cannot remember everything that needs follow-up. Consequently I am a note writer – from scrap paper to sticky notes to blank Word documents. Of course, I do have to remember where that note is hiding. Writing notes on my laptop or a web application or on the iPhone is OK, but there are too many places to look for any one note. Evernote is a multi-platform application that enables me to write notes once and then view them on any of my devices.
Evernote is a three-headed program that includes a web app, iPhone app, and computer app. Categories can be added to each note. Therefore I can search for notes by person or topic. Evernote synchs whatever I write in one location with every other location. Synching is quick and done automatically when you are in range of internet access. It is clear that I am going to have to explore some new uses for my stash of scrap paper.
NOTE TO ATX USERS:OK, I get that many of you don't agree with Jeff Gramlich's assessment or my subsequent coverage of what appeared to be a fairly mundane business decision. Quit clogging my mailbox and post your comments here --- I'm opening this post to comments now.
Jeff Gramlich, President of the CCH Small Firm Services group, confirmed today that they are consolidating all sales and support functions for both the ATX and the TaxWise products in their Rome and Kennesaw, Georgia facilities. The Caribou, Maine facility will retain its development organization. The consolidation effort began last year and has been, says Gramlich, "extremely successful and well-received by their user base. Having all support people proximate to one another facilitates better cross-training and makes possible extended coverage hours. We are now offering week-end support and have extended daily support until midnight."
Local Caribou news coverage has speculated (wildly according to CCH) that this move foreshadows the ultimate closure of the Maine facility. Gramlich says the developers there are, and will remain, integral to the product and that they will be in Caribou indefinitely.
CCH has offered relocation or severance packages to those impacted employees in Maine. Several have reportedly moved to Georgia and are already on the job in both Rome and Kennesaw.
PS: I'll bet encouraging people to move to Georgia from "the most north-easterly city in the U.S." in January is a lot easier that the other way around! [smile]
Intuit's board of directors has appointed Brad Smith, current senior vice president and general manager of Intuit's Small Business Division, to succeed Steve Bennett who has resigned effective Jan. 1, 2008. From an accounting technologist point of view this is excellent news as Smith has extensive domain knowledge of our profession where Bennett had little or none. Smith is a solid communicator --- I watched him present last June to the California CPA Society Technology Show in Los Angeles (epicenter of the Lacerte User Group) just 7 short weeks after the Intuit "filing deadline meltdown". I was ready for Armageddon and Smith's charm not only avoided a confrontation, but the entire room loved him! Quite a feat!!
Smith, 43, will continue in his current role leading Intuit's Small Business Division until the end of the year and he and Bennett will "work closely" to complete the transition.
Smith has been senior vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Small Business Division since May 2006, and is responsible for QuickBooks, Quicken and Payroll products. He previously ran the company’s QuickBooks Group from May 2005 to May 2006.
Before moving to QuickBooks, Smith ran the Consumer Tax Group in San Diego from March 2004 through May 2005. That group produces TurboTax.
Previously, he was vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Accountant Central and Developer Network. Before joining Intuit in February 2003, Smith was senior vice president of marketing and business development at ADP. He has also held various sales, marketing and general management positions with Pepsi, Seven- Up and Advo, Inc.
Smith earned his master’s degree in management from Aquinas College and a bachelor’s in business administration from Marshall University.
New technologies focused on streamlining tax preparation were among this year’s winners of The CPA Technology Advisor’s Tax & Accounting Technology Innovation Awards, the most prized recognition for developers of software, hardware, services and other technologies geared toward professional accountants and tax preparers. The Awards were announced on Monday, June 4, at the California Accounting and Business Show & Conference in Los Angeles and were introduced to the accounting profession during a general session meeting at the AICPA TECH+ conference in Las Vegas on June 12.
The Tax and Accounting Technology Innovation Awards are sponsored by The CPA Technology Advisor. The Awards recognize recent advances in technologies that benefit accounting and tax professionals.
Two products in particular reflected the increased movement toward paperless processes that increase the efficiency of tax preparation. SurePrep received an award for its 1040Scan system, and Intuit Lacerte was awarded one for its SmartMap application. 1040Scan was first to market with a system that allows professionals to utilize scanning, form recognition and optical character recognition technology ( OCR) to scan client documents like W2s, 1099s and brokerage statements and have the data automatically flow directly into the client’s tax return in the professional’s tax preparation system. Intuit’s SmartMap utility simplifies and automates the movement of data between QuickBooks and the Lacerte professional tax application. The integration of scanning, OCR and forms recognition is a trifecta that will have significant and immediate positive effects for virtually every tax professional..
Innovation Awards were also presented to Microsoft for Microsoft Office Accounting Express, a free small business accounting system included with the Office productivity suite; Thomson Tax & Accounting for Practice CS, an advanced practice management system for accounting firms that includes integrated time and billing, project management, client management and data sharing functions; and BankServ for DepositNow A/R, a system that integrates with small business accounting software and allows businesses to scan customer check payments and then matches checks to invoices, verifies check value, and then can make bank deposits electronically.
Honorable Mentions were presented to Acct1st Technology Group for Best of Breed Innovator (BOBI); BizActions for BizActions Dashboard; CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business for Tax Research Consultant; RIM for the BlackBerry 8800; and Thomson Tax & Accounting-PPC for SMART e-Practice Aids.
Winners of the Tax and Accounting Technology Innovation Awards are selected by our editorial advisory board, contributing writers and editorial staff for their innovation as well as for the potential benefits their products or services are likely to deliver to the profession. The advisory board is comprised of 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.
Intuit SVP Brad Smith spoke this morning at the CA CPA Society Technology and described what he termed "the five new faces of entrepreneurship". Smith listed Gen Y-ers, Baby Boomers, "mompreneurs", careerpreneurs. and immigrants as the groups that will start small businesses in large numbers over the next 10 years.
Smith's colleague, Steve Bludell, followed with specific advice to the participants regarding ways they might take advantage of the trends that Smith described. One of Blundell's tips that seemed to resonate well with the audience was that they develop ways to reach out to their client's teenage children offering basic financial and tax advice in hopes that the teens would eventually become clients. Together Smith and Blundell made a compelling case to encourage practitioners to think "future".
If Intuit offers this presentation as a road show, I'd highly recommend that you attend. This is good stuff.
In my 32+ years of experience with accountants practicing in small firms I have grown to understand that the thing they universally hate SECOND most is contacting clients about a past due balance. [The number ONE thing is obviously "not getting paid"!] That same reluctance regarding accounts receivable management often follows to these firm's small business clients. Last week while speaking at the New Jersey Society of CPA's Technology & Business Show I noticed a new exhibitor and stopped by for an introductory visit. I met Roger Gins, CEO of Call Motions, LLC and he demonstrated his company's web-enabled, automated accounts receivable collection management system.
www.AR-Connect.com provides a secure portal via which a business can upload their A/R aging report (generated from most popular accounting packages including QuickBooks, PeachTree, and Microsoft Office Accounting) and then, following rules and processes established by the individual businesses, have collection efforts undertaken automatically. The rules and processes can include emails, postcards, letters, and telephone calls --- and all are highly customizable. The genius in the process is that, while every step is automated, each step [can be] individually approved immediately prior to its implementation. This avoids the potential embarrassment of escalating efforts after a payment has been received. And the telephone call component has some clever twists, too. First, the system spoofs the called ID into displaying the businesses number rather than that of AR-Connect. And the message delivered allows the recipient to press a button and be connected directly to the business for more in-depth conversation. I like the design as it's completely transparent and all communications appear to come directly from the business owners rather than a service or agency.
If you and/or your clients hate asking to get paid, but hate not getting paid even more, then perhaps you might want to take a peek at AR-Connect.
The technology portion of public accounting is served by a fairly small community of people working for a [now] fairly small number of employers. One of the "old timers" in this group is CCH's Bob Dias. I first met Bob when he was point man for CCH's acquisition of their first PC based product. The year was 1986 and the product was 1040 Solutions. He had a big job (let's just say the transition wasn't the smoothest on record and Dias helped to hold it together) and his understanding of the business end of a public accounting firm helped him deliver. He's a talented guy and I've since watched him grow his career at CCH for over 20 years --- in that time I've been a customer, a prospect, a competitor, and an interviewer. Through all of that he's been a friend.
Yesterday CCH named Dias Vice President of Product and Segment Management saying he would "provide overall leadership for CCH’s Product Management and Market Segment organizations in serving tax and accounting professionals as a strategic partner."
Dias has a solid background and appears to be a great choice for the job ... he's had great seasoning in prior product management positions for both ProSystem Fx Tax and the entire ProSystem Fx Suite.
Who's running the show here, anyway? I'm completely flabbergasted by the IRS announcement today obsolving tens of thousands of Intuit customers from late-filing penalties caused by yesterday's server problems. While I understand, (I am, above all, a pragmatist) the idea a carving out special treatment for certain taxpayers based on their selection of tax perparation software just seems wrong. Had I failed to file because my copy of "Bob's Tax Prep Pro" had failed I doubt I'd be afforded the same consideration. Intuit will deservedly suffer the judgement of the marketplace, but, in my opinion our government should have taken the opportunity to extract a "pound of flesh", too.
The IRS announcement, which appeared on their site this afternoon, is reprinted below.
Taxpayers, Tax Professionals with TurboTax Problems Have Until Midnight April 19 to e-file
April 18, 2007 WASHINGTON —
Taxpayers who were unable to e-file their tax returns Tuesday using Intuit Inc. software products have until midnight on Thursday, April 19, to file their returns, the Internal Revenue Service announced Wednesday. Potentially up to several hundred thousand last-minute tax filers were affected by company server problems on Tuesday evening, and they or their accountants may have been unable to electronically file returns. Intuit confirmed Wednesday that those problems had been resolved, and it was successfully accepting e-file returns on Wednesday. The company said affected taxpayers and tax professionals include those using “TurboTax,” “ProSeries,” “Lacerte” and Intuit’s Free File offering,“TurboTax Freedom.”
Intuit product users who were unable to file their returns through the company’s servers Tuesday should e-file as soon as possible. The IRS will not apply late filing penalties to taxpayers who were affected by this problem. Overall, the IRS has seen a strong year for e-filing. Taxpayers filed more than 75 million returns electronically through April 17, shattering last year’s record of 73.2 million.
E-file and Free File will remain available through Oct. 15, 2007, to taxpayers who have requested a six-month filing extension.
I hate to pile on when a guy's down, but ..... just in case you're a) not a ProSeries or Lacerte user, and b) you're relaxing today and not following the news, you've not heard that Intuit suffered what's being termed "massive server failures" yesterday. As a result tens of thousands of their customers hit a brick wall when trying to efile their last-minute tax returns. The mainstream media is full of TurboTax user stories so we'll not go there (heck, we all think they got what they deserve for doing their own returns, right?) but rather we'll discuss the practicing professional firms who got caught in the middle.
In a telephone conversation a few minutes ago with Intuit VP Sasan Goodarzi I was told yesterday's problem was an "equipment failure" exacerbated by very heavy volume. Goodarzi, who had stepped out of a planning meeting where executives were discussing "how to make sure this would never happen again", insisted that the company was properly prepared for yesterdays unprecedented volume and that the equipment problems were actually unrelated to volume but that the onslaught of last minute returns made recovery problematic. He also emphasized that Intuit was in conversations with the IRS relative to the last minute filing problems and he believed no penalties would be assessed to taxpayers affected by the slowdown. [EDITORS NOTE: Most practitioners are aware that the IRS has an unofficial policy of not assessing penalties on returns filed a day or two late. An IRS spokesperson reportedly commented that "the IRS will hold taxpayers harmless that encountered these problems last night.'' This"deal" with the IRS most assuredly falls into that category.] All returns pushed to the Intuit servers yesterday have now been processed and filed with the IRS --- if you're a ProSeries or Lacerte user you can check your client's efile status within your respective program.
Other tax compliance vendors (Thomson, CCH, and Drake) said that their volumes were also extremely heavy but none reported any significant throughput problems.
Well, 2007 is barely here and already we've seen the first acquisition. In a letter apparently sent to its user base this week officers of TaxWorks confirmed what had become one of the worst-kept secrets in tax and accounting technology vendor history --- namely, that they had been acquired by H&R Block. After last year's Dunphey / CPA Software / ATX / TaxWise acquisitions we're now down to [essentially] one independent --- Drake. (See post of August 18, 2006).
As in all acquisitions the user base is assured that there will be no changes, that TaxWorks will continue to operate "the same way it has operated over the past three decades", that personnel, products, services, and seminars will all remain intact and headquartered in Kaysville, UT.
Family members of the late Wayne Bates, TaxWorks' founder along with VP Lyle Petersen signed the February 19th letter saying "We look forward to the next three decades."
I tried [unsuccessfully] at least 15 times to reach Petersen --- leaving a dozen voice messages over a three week period ---- to discuss this matter. None of my messages were returned. It's too bad, because he could have added valuable insight for all you TaxWorks users.
I wonder if McGladrey [also owned by Block] will be using TaxWorks in their offices ---- or will existing TaxWorks customers be offered a "deal" on a H&R Block franchise?
Oh, and in the office pool on the "next three decades on Kaysville" deal ---- I'll take the "3 year" spot!