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Review: Time & Billing 2012

/time and billing.There are two ways to bill for client services, and neither is perfect. The first is known as project billing, or billing-by-the-job. Under this method, the client is quoted a full price for the job based on the estimated time and costs anticipated for the job. This usually works to the advantage of the accounting firm, since no firm wants to lose money on a job and thus will quote just a little on the high side.

Clients prefer a time-and-costs billing method, in which they are given an estimate for the job and the exact time and costs for the job are billed out on a weekly or monthly basis. This seems more fair, but in fact benefits neither party, as it locks both into endless squabbles over time taken and not-to-exceed estimates.

The problem with services based on time-and-costs is that it most often represents the average time to perform a job, not the optimal. That is, if the firm has an employee who is a superlative performer and can complete the job in record time, there is little incentive for the firm to pass those savings on to the client. Instead, there is a subtle adjustment process to average out costs.

Good accounting firms therefore use some blend of the two billing methods. They require the use of time and billing statements, which are then passed to the firm's billing department for adjustments to meet the expectations of both management and the client. This billing method nonetheless requires backup data, and some type of time and billing method.

Thus it is worthwhile for an accounting firm to periodically view what is available in time and billing software. To assist in this process, here are the eight leading time and billing software packages in 2012.

Practice Relief
Hauppauge, N.Y.
(888) 999-1366
(800) 927-1283 Fax
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: Practice Relief, $40 per month or $395 per year. Available as both an online and standalone application.

Practice Relief
Practice Relief , an online time and billing system designed for accounting firms, use a desktop module with integrated wizards to provide both basic and advanced time-keeping, billing, and analysis services. It operates either as an integrated part of the AccountantsWorld Power Practice system or as a stand-alone system.

Tasks entered in the application automatically generate invoices in Accounting Relief, with all the journal entries created behind the scenes. In addition, Payroll Relief synchs with Practice Relief -- payroll tasks performed for an employer in Payroll Relief get automatically transferred to Practice Relief, generating an invoice in either Practice Relief or Accounting Relief for the client.

Key features including the ability to set up for entry of standard users, clients, projects and expenses, with up to 10 titles and corresponding default rates for each user; and the ability to generate invoice and billing with a variety of payment terms, delivery methods (print or e-mail), billing date of month, tax rates, billable vs. non-billable tasks and expenses, flat fee versus. computed billing, invoice prefix format, task and expense groupings, flat fee description, and invoice footer text. In addition, the system appointment scheduler synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook, and provide differing levels of security with appropriate rights to users, managers and administrators.

New to the system is Practice Relief Mobile, which allows the user to add, editor or delete tasks and expenses for clients anytime and anywhere from any smartphone. Mobile updates synch instantly with Practice Relief to enable faster and easier client billing.

The most powerful assets of Practice Relief lie in its reporting architecture, which includes client realization rate reports, payment tracking, client ranking and analysis, and a list of receivables outstanding. Firm and user reports provide a summary of firm performance, invoice information, expense and task choices for the firm, and a list of users by rates, and analysis of user productivity.

BigTime Software
Chicago, Ill.
(312) 346-4646
(312) 268-6246 Fax
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Price: BigTime Express, $25 monthly (up to five users). BigTime Premium, $150 monthly, 10 users.

BigTime is customizable, web-enabled time and billing software for professional services firms, designed for easy adaptation and smooth integration with each firm's existing procedures for engagement workflow, billing and tasking. The software was designed to work seamlessly with QuickBooks, whose maker, Intuit, chose to embed BigTime's technology within its own practice management suite.

The accounting version of BigTime uses a familiar timesheet format and specialized billing formats for accounting that includes multiple billing rates, write up and write down (for WIP analysis), and make-progress payments. The software's timesheet formats enable staff to enter their daily time at the end of each day or use a timer, with simple reference to client lists and billing/expense codes.

BigTime offers a flexible rate structure tailored to each client, with the ability to invoice standard time and expenses, or fixed-fee engagements - with numerous printed invoice styles and limitless billing formats.

BigTime is designed to "learn" from the workflow style of the accounting firm. Each client plan is saved in the system as a "virtual template" from which engagements, special projects, rates, tasks and team members can be copied for new clients. Management reports can enable automatic analyses of WIP (by staffer, billing code, and client), capacity and other critical measures, and offer more than 150 standard report templates and endless report customization options.

Planned enhancements include an all-new pro release for the 4th quarter, which will include at-a-glance dashboard, enhanced reporting and a mobile smartphone app.

QBE Software
Torrance, Calif.
(866) 945-1595
(310) 784-8482 Fax
Price: Basic version, $495 (two usres); additional users, $145 each. The Pro version, starts at $1,295 (up to five users)

BillQuick is a family of practice management products that provide critical business functions, including time and expense tracking, project management, billing and accounts payable. It is offered in Basic, Pro and Enterprise versions, with an accounting-specific implementation well suited for both small and mid-range firms. A free "lite" version is available for single practitioners.

Time entry is available in three methods - standard timesheets, time cards and a timer. Expenses may be tracked in multiple currencies, with receipts attachable. Billing is performed through the use of 150 customizable invoice templates that can be easily converted to PDF files for emailing and storage. The system integrates with all of the major small business accounting systems, including QuickBooks, PeachTree and MYOB Australia. Functions for financial statements, bank reconciliation, batch billing, general ledger and AP/AR are built into the system.

Options available for the BillQuick family include a web-based system hosted on your own server; a hosted online option in the Cloud; BillQuick HR for expanded human resources functionality; integration with MS Outlook for scheduling; an Agent module to manage reports and other workflow functions; and cell phone and tablet options for the Apple and Android operating systems.

New in the 2012 version are progress billing for expenses; the ability to specify minimum retainers; an overtime calculator; automatic payment receipts; and interactive Gantt charts for project management. In addition to the existing Report Center, the 2012 version adds a Project Center to centralize project management; and a Collection Center to aggregate all collection efforts.

A mature product line with 16 years of development under its belt, BQE BillQuick offers a robust time and billing system that has been expanded to provide additional capabilities for management both of client projects and the firm itself. It offers an impressive set of versions, options to expand its value and a strong focus on practice management.

CaseWare Time 2011
CaseWare International
(800) 267 1317
(416) 867-9504
(416) 867-1906 Fax
Price: $500 (single time keeper); $1,000 (up to five timekeeper). Each additional timekeeper after five $175 each. Renew annually at 50 percent of license value.

CaseWare Time 2011
CaseWare Time, a practice management system, performs the functions of time and expense entry, at-a-glance monitoring, enhanced billing, numerous ready-to-use reports, and project and contact management.

Time 2011 uses a dashboard-style interface to summarize information, with specific task information in a workflow layout. This Workflow layout is tailored to the requirements of each user in the firm, and provides access to documents, program features and the help system. The CaseView word processor with spreadsheet and database capabilities has the ability to create invoices, statements, marketing letters, customized working papers, forms and schedules. Accountants can create professional-quality documents using CaseView's desktop publishing enhancements that are directly linked to accounting data in Time.

The layout and content of proposed, interim, recurring and final invoices can be customized, as can the hundreds of sample reports. Time's document management system allows for organization of reports into hierarchical folders, allowing specific reports to be accessible by staff function. Time has over 200 reports that can be edited and filtered to manage the practice. In addition, Time provides built-in contact management with the ability to generate marketing and form letters with filtered address fields.

With the new Time mobile app, staff can input, view and edit their time and expense entries using a tablet or mobile device. Mobile devices currently supported include those running iOS 5.0.1, Android 4.0.1, and Blackberry OS 5.0.0 and 7.1.0.

ImagineTime 10.0
Imagine Time
Bostic, N.C.
(877) 520-1525 toll free
(704) 259-0412 fax
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Price: Stand alone, $295 (single user); Annual optional support starts at $95. Networked starts at $795 (five users); annual optional support starts at $295. Cloud suite starts at $40 per month per user.

ImagineTime 10.0
ImagineTime 10.0 is a full practice management system whose modules include time and billing. Its standard features include time and expense tracking, with flexible billing, credit card processing and both client and staff realization reporting. Invoices have highly customizable formatting, allowing companies to create bills with as much or as little detail as they like, including a click-to-pay link, discounts, narratives, itemized time slips, mini-statements, account history, etc. The program also provides historical realization reporting by client, by staff, and by work code.

With Version 10, ImagineTime has added a new Finish-Line Workflow module to enhance the existing Due Date Module. In addition to tracking the status of tasks and forms and assigning these to staff, the workflow module allows the user to create customized subtask steps to any given task, assigning to one or many staff, and tracking time and budgeting.

The program offers the ability to adjust slips and expenses at billing and have reporting on realization, and this year a feature was added to allow this write-up and write-down to be done on the actual time slip. Also added was the ability to integrate with more than one QuickBooks file, and enhancements to the reporting capabilities to support multi-office locations. For those users wanting just a basic time and billing menu and program, a new "ImagineTime Lite" option provides a streamlined view of the application.

Also new is a cloud-based subscription service, accessible from any computer with Internet Explorer, providing the convenience of a web-based application with the richness of a full desktop application experience. Finally, ImagineTime 10.0 has continued its pricing options that include elimination of mandatory annual fees; pricing based on concurrent users; and a modular design that allows firms to add users and modules as the firm grows.

Practice CS
Thomson Reuters
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968-8900
(800) 326-1040 (fax)
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Price: starts at $1,875.

Practice CS
Practice CS offers real-time access to essential firm, staff, and client information, built around an effective set of dashboards and paperless billing.

The workflow application is organized into four dashboards, each a collection of real-time portlets containing information about the firm. Each dashboard is fully customizable, so that the software can provide the information most critical to the needs of each firm. The Staff Dashboard integrates with the firm's applications, such as Microsoft Outlook and Office, providing a convenient workflow hub and access to Outlook features. Remote Time entry is available from any computer or laptop connected to the Internet. The reporting system offers more than 150 custom formats in the reports library, including listing, production, billing, collection and reconciliation reports.

The Client Dashboard offers contact info, demographic data, work-in-progress billing activity, payment history, current balances, and more. And from the Solutions portlet, access CS Professional Suite, Enterprise Suite, and other Thomson Reuters programs, in addition to documents such as Word and Excel files. Through the Firm Dashboard, management and authorized staff can access the firm's receivables, billings, collections, profitability, staff productivity, and historical information. The Home Dashboard displays multiple portlets, such as system information, RSS feeds, Practice CS News Feed, and web pages.

Among the new features in the current version are an expansion of the Mobile CS mobile app ,which allows real-time access to key Practice CS data, remote time and expense entry capabilities, and more from a variety of Apple and Android mobile devices; integration of client contact information with smartphones; new file transfer capabilities via web-based client portals; and improved integration with other products in the CS Professional Suite, including the ability to import invoices from Accounting CS and the ability to extend Practice CS projects automatically when a client's return is extended in Ultra Tax CS


ProSystem fx Practice (SaaS) and fx Workstream
Riverwoods, Ill.
(800) 739-9998
Price: SaaS version starts at $230 (tiered, per-user annual subscription); ProSystem fx Workstream, starts at $175 (tiered, per-user annual subscription).

ProSystem fx Practice
ProSystem fx Practice is a Software as a Service (SaaS) implementation designed to increase staff productivity, increase profitability and better manage the resources of the firm. It does this through more effective time management - reducing time spent on non-billable and non-productive tasks - and through more effective capture and recording of cost information for each client and task.

The Time Capture and clock utilities within Practice provide staff members with the ability to record their own project and client hours - daily, weekly or by use of clocks. Notification tools can be established to automatically remind staffers to record their hours; monitor unreleased and posted time; analyze productivity ratio for enhanced workflow; and track both billable and non-billable hours. Up-to-date, relevant information is available from the ProSystem fx suite-wide dashboard. A time-keeping dashboard uses Microsoft Outlook calendars, email and to-do lists, as well as entering time spent.

Billing is completed online, and can be done immediately following completion of a project. Groups of clients can be billed simultaneously, and each client can receive multiple invoices or in-progress billing notices. CCH also offers ProSystem fx Practice Management for firms that prefer an on-premise firm management solution.

Integrated with these Practice tools is ProSystem fx Workstream, a flexible project management system that provides project templates for ease of setup, "my views" for the administration of project lists, easy import of government forms, a dashboard for notifications and project assignments, and both standard and custom reporting. Updated in August of 2012, ProSystem fx Workstream now provides integration with ProSystem fx Engagement, enabling users to link binders in Engagement to Workstream projects and access the route sheet directly from Engagement.


Sage Timeslips 2013
Sage Software, Inc.
Lawrenceville, Ga/
(877) 816-7829
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Price: $499.99 (one user); $249.99 (each additional user).

Sage Timeslips 2013
Sage Timeslips 2013, released in August of 2012, offers new features to enhance the time and billing cycle, with additional capabilities in firm workflow and reporting.

One of the most critical new features is an integrated calendar function, with the ability to share calendars with other staff members; click and drag functionality for easier calendar updating, the ability to color-code events; and pop-up meeting reminders and "To-Do's" to support important billing activities. Other features include the ability to delete multiple slips; to print slip notes on pre-bill worksheets; forecast "average days to pay;" and attach receipts as files to bills submitted electronically.

A Billing Assistant helps to prepare billings for output in printed, RTF and PDF formats. The Billing Assistant helps to manage approvals as well as multiple billing arrangements for each client -- including hourly, flat, contingency, and percent complete. Bills can be adjusted for pre-printed forms and letterhead, and include the ability to create cover letters and envelopes for mailing.

Retained from previous versions, and from the 25 years of development work on Sage Timeslips, is a strong reporting capability that includes over 100 pre-defined reports designed specifically for accounting and professional services firms. These include both detailed and summary reports of every task performed in the firm, and are produced using an intuitive report wizard. The reporting system provides a report design tool that customizes reports based on information such as slips, clients, timekeepers, tasks, expenses and transactions.

Dave McClure

David P. McClure is a technologist and business consultant whose career has included eight years with the NASA Space Shuttle Program and assignments in marketing, environmental services, software publishing and broadband.  He founded the US Internet Industry Association, the nation's primary trade association for Internet and broadband companies.  In 2004 he was awarded a Cornerstone Award for leadership in the broadband industry.  In the same year, he was named to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, the non-profit corporation that oversees the nation's $8 billion universal service telecommunications fund.  His areas of expertise include software management, strategic and market planning, global technology policy and technology audits.  He is the author of more than 100 white papers on business management, technology, customer service and strategic planning.

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