Chartered Management Accountant
Midas Accountancy
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Practice Management for a sole practitioner

I'm a sole practitioner with 50 clients and no staff. I try to work part time hours but generally spend a lot of time fire fighting. I'm just windering how larger practices cope with managing deadlines, sending out reminders to clients and keeping up with the workload particularky where they do not have any staff to help.

Many thanks in advance for any advice.

sD

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10th Jun 2012 19:58

My situation

I'm a sole practitioner with 200 clients and no staff. I have to work more than full time hours.

I have Digita Practice Management but I don't use all it's features. If I spent more time on setting it up it would send emails and track deadlines. Iris does something similar - I think it is easier to use from the start but Digita is more flexible.

Presently, I have spreadsheets for deadlines and standard emails for chasing clients which I customise.

Sometimes I feel that I am spending a lot of time keeping up with what is needed to do rather than just doing the work!

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By kamzy
11th Jun 2012 07:23

Cost

petersaxton wrote:

I'm a sole practitioner with 200 clients and no staff. I have to work more than full time hours.

I have Digita Practice Management but I don't use all it's features. If I spent more time on setting it up it would send emails and track deadlines. Iris does something similar - I think it is easier to use from the start but Digita is more flexible.

Presently, I have spreadsheets for deadlines and standard emails for chasing clients which I customise.

Sometimes I feel that I am spending a lot of time keeping up with what is needed to do rather than just doing the work!


If you dont mind me asking how much is digita?
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By invensa
10th Sep 2012 11:53

Cloud Based deadlines management system.

 

Dear Sir,

With reference to your post, we have developed a software, PracticePA a Cloud based Practice Management software which helps professional accountants in United Kingdom to manage the client's information, Workflow/Dead lines and Job completion on the cloud

The application is hosted on cloud, hence No Technical Worries, automatic software updates, and access anytime anywhere from the browser with a Low Cost Monthly Subscription with no Hidden costs! Pay per User.

We would be most grateful if you could log onto www.practicepa.com  evaluate our software and give us your valuable feedback on this application.

I hope you'll take the opportunity to do free trial. During this our Support team will assist you just as if you were a paid up user.

 

Warm Regards

PracticePA team

 

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11th Jun 2012 08:10

Digita

The good thing about Digita is that you pay for each program separately. Also, you only have to pay for what you use.

You have to buy the programs and pay for a years subscription in the first year and then next year you just pay for the years subscription.

I pay about £5 per year per client for each program.

Some programs have a minimum of 10, 25 or 50 clients. This means that you can start off with a few clients and only pay more as you need to prepare accounts and tax returns for more clients.

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By RICKIEG
11th Jun 2012 08:37

Practise management
Hi
It's obviously imperative in the professional environment of public practise to be aware of deadline thereby avoiding the possibility of fines and penalties
There are different software programmes on the market, moreover since the introduction of the online submission facilities with both HMRC and Companies house

Iris has an entity call practise management that can be purchases as a stand alone facility at a cost based upon the number of client that you have , used in conjunction with dates via outlook it really does cover an astonishing range of practise areas

It's really worth having a look at the website
Regards

Rick

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11th Jun 2012 09:22

Drive

When I worked in a fairly large practice, we initially used spreadsheets to keep track of deadlines and workflow. (I lie, initially we used the partners' memories and the back of an envelope - those were the days!)

The spreadsheets worked fine for a time. We were able to filter the list by client, deadline, tax head etc ... until someone deleted a line accidentally and a client's return went in late.

We soon progressed to tailored practice management software. Except that most managers still used the Excel sheets behind the partners' backs, because it was what they were used to.

Anyway, I now run a slightly smaller practice and I use Drive.

It has a deadline management module which allows you to enter the deadlines once when setting up a client. It will then repeat the deadlines as necessary. I check the deadlines once a month (for the next 2/3 months) and schedule calls/reminder letters etc based on the deadlines. I put these reminders in my Outlook calendar. There is a way to sync Outlook and Drive but I prefer to do it manually as I can enter my own notes, link to emails etc.

There is a workflow management module in Drive also but I find the practice is too small to use this at the moment. Instead I use Outlook for managing workflow.

I use the Accounts Production software from Drive also which keeps track of the status of the accounts e.g. Waiting for Books, Draft to Client etc.

I have set up standard template letters that can be created from Drive. I just select the client and then select the letter and it produces it in Word for further editing. This has saved an enormous amount of time, especially for letters of engagement.

The most important thing I did was to put all this in writing in a one-page manual of how I keep track of deadlines and workflow.  This helped me to get some focus as well as being a reminder of what to do if I forget.

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By chatman
11th Jun 2012 09:26

Beware of Digita

I used Digita for a few years,before finally finding time to test out some alternatives. After that I left Digita and that in itself saved me many hours every month, Digita software being so slow, clumsy and user-unfriendly. Just being able to import a trial balance from my bookkeeping software saved me hours of Digita-style inputting.

One of the problems with Digita is that they tell you everything their software can do and then quote the price for the core programme without much of the expected basic functionality. Many things you would expect to come as standard cost extra.  You do not realise that you have only bought part of the product until it is too late.

I never used the practice management module, but I doubt you can use it top any effect without the other modules, and Digita products are very expensive.

It might be a good idea, if buying from Digita, to ask the salesman what optional extras are available for the product he is trying to sell you, and how much they cost. You will probably be very surprised. Having said that, you would still have to deal with the lack of usability of the products.

Oh, just remembered, backups are a nightmare with Digita too.

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11th Jun 2012 09:35

Chatman

I disagree with everything you say about Digita.

Anybody can import a trial balance from their bookkeeping software as long as you can export a trial balance to csv. You don't even have to do that with the main accounting software packages.

Backups are incredibly straight forward with Digita. Did you not use the backup software Digita provide for free?

What is the expected basic functionality that Digita don't provide? I certainly haven't had a problem with that.

 

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By chatman
11th Jun 2012 09:57

Why is Digita so bad?

petersaxton wrote:
Anybody can import a trial balance from their bookkeeping software as long as you can export a trial balance to csv. You don't even have to do that with the main accounting software packages.

We have discussed this before, Peter. I pointed out that Digita imports never seem to work first time, and always seem to require so much manual intervention that it is no quicker (and possibly slower) than simply inputting the TB. At the time, your response was that you didn't mind inputting the TB every time.

Compare this with VT, where data import is at the touch of a button and post-TB adjustments posted to both the ledger and the final accounts just as easily.

petersaxton wrote:
Backups are incredibly straight forward with Digita. Did you not use the backup software Digita provide for free?

This too has been discussed on AWeb. Digita data files can only be backed using the Digita backup software, which produces enormous files, which then need to be backup again if you want them off site.  Digita once sent out an email to all their customers pointing out that many people had been using the Digita backup programme incorrectly, and therefore finding they have irretrievably lost all their data. I do not know of any other backup software so difficult to use that many people do it incorrectly. I believe your response was that it was not Digita's fault if people used the software incorrectly. My point is that it is Digita's fault if their software is that difficult to use.

In addition, I don't think Digita officially offers unattended scheduled backups. This is a major internal control weakness.

petersaxton wrote:
What is the expected basic functionality that Digita don't provide?

This was a long time ago, but I think capital allowances in their personal tax product was extra, as well as deferred tax in their CT product. It is too long ago for me to produce an exhaustive list. They will never say something is extra; they always say it is "controlled by licensing". The best thing to do would be to ask the salesman what optional extras are available, and how much they cost.

I once had a problem with MSSQ, which is essential for Digita, but which they do not support.  I also found Digita very unintuitive, slow and resource-heavy. The company always seemed to be sales and marketing led rather then techie-led, which explains a lot

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Another vote for Iris

See related topic a couple of weeks ago.

I'm now down to 80ish clients and one sub-contractor but would still use Iris PM or something similar if far smaller.  I have not used a spreadsheet or other manual checklist for 10 years and only add a prompt to my Outlook calendar to fortify a reminder already recorded in PM.

I have to say though that, as PM is linked to the other Iris modules, ie stages are updated, or letters prompted, automatically as soon as you produce say a draft set of accounts or tax comp/return, you get far more benefit from it if you use the "doing" modules of Iris, and I'm sure that's the same for Digita and other interactive programs.

Because these things are so comprehensive and sometimes, like Sage/Quickbooks or timesheets/no timesheets, methods are down to personal preferences you are better getting a full demo of the possible solutions but once you settle on one you'll wonder how you ever managed before.

 

 

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11th Jun 2012 10:49

Still don't agree

"We have discussed this before, Peter. I pointed out that Digita imports never seem to work first time, and always seem to require so much manual intervention that it is no quicker (and possibly slower) than simply inputting the TB. At the time, your response was that you didn't mind inputting the TB every time."

I don't like automating TBs because I prefer to consider where they go in the accounts production program. Reviewing the results makes it too easy to overlook an error or something else that needs addressing.

Even if you input a TB manually, does it really take you "hours of Digita-style inputting"?

"Digita once sent out an email to all their customers pointing out that many people had been using the Digita backup programme incorrectly, and therefore finding they have irretrievably lost all their data."

They didn't say they had been using the Digita backup program incorrectly. They said they hadn't been using the Digita backup program at all!

This is the email that was sent by Digita:

"Following recent support calls it appears that while many of you believe you are backing up your client data, upon investigation it transpires that in many cases the backup method being employed is not actually giving you a reliable backup.

We would therefore strongly advise you to review your backup procedures taking into account the following considerations:

All Digita software (apart from Forms Production) uses the Microsoft SQL Server database engine to manage your data. Because SQL Server runs as a service on your computer the data files are constantly in use and can only be backed up in very specific ways.

Simply making copies of the data or installation files, or including these files or directory in a scheduled file copy is not satisfactory.

Similarly, if you use a third party automated backup system just setting this to include the installation or data files may not work, and even if it does it is possible that the resultant copies cannot be restored. Since the files are constantly in use they may not be copied at all leaving you with no form of backup.

If you outsource your IT support to a third party you should ensure that they are aware of these considerations and should ask them to verify that the backups they are taking can be restored if required.

If you do not have access to the full version of SQL Server, or you use backup software which does not specifically cater for SQL databases, then the only recommended method of backing up your data is to use the Digita Database Backup tool. This tool can be used to take backups of your data and to archive these backups to a different location. Archiving compresses the backup file and makes it easy for your data to be stored away from your local hard drive for added security in the event of hardware failure.

The Digita Database Backup tool is installed automatically on the main PC/Server (on which the database is held) whenever you install any Digita product (excluding Forms Production) and is accessed via Start>Programs>Digita>Database Backup. A tutorial is also available via the same route. This tool allows you to Backup, Archive, Extract and Restore your data, it also allows you to manage the resulting backup files and schedule backups. Note that the Digita Database Backup tool will produce a new backup file every time it is run so you will need to use the tool to manage these backups to avoid using excessive hard disk space."

I backup my data files using the backup tool provided.

"In addition, I don't think Digita officially offers unattended scheduled backups. This is a major internal control weakness."

The Digita backup tool allows unattended scheduled backups.

" I think capital allowances in their personal tax product was extra, as well as deferred tax in their CT product"

Capital allowances have not been extra in the years I have used the software. Deferred tax is extra but I calculate deferred tax easily without needing an add on.

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By chatman
11th Jun 2012 11:11

Digita Problems

petersaxton wrote:
I don't like automating TBs because I prefer to consider where they go in the accounts production program.

Fair enough Peter; that is your personal preference. For those who prefer to import, it is a problem

petersaxton wrote:
Even if you input a TB manually, does it really take you "hours of Digita-style inputting"?

Yes, for a big TB, including having to go back and find the odd typo.

petersaxton wrote:
The Digita backup tool allows unattended scheduled backups.

When I used it, they would offer to help you automate it, but stressed this was not part of the service. Also, you could not do it yourself if you ever had to reinstall the software, eg on a new machine.

petersaxton wrote:
Capital allowances have not been extra in the years I have used the software.

It was when I used it

petersaxton wrote:
Deferred tax is extra but I calculate deferred tax easily without needing an add on.

Again, personal preference, but they advertised it without telling you you had to pay extra for it.

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11th Jun 2012 12:10

Importing

"I pointed out that Digita imports never seem to work first time, and always seem to require so much manual intervention that it is no quicker (and possibly slower) than simply inputting the TB"

Once I had a problem with importing which didn't seem to work at all but when I have been able to import it worked as expected. I would think the problems are usually due to setting up the codes to tie in with accounts production. Obviously, if you use a bookkeeping program which is produced by the same people who make the accounts production program it will work better. Unfortunately, I have clients that use various programs.

 

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Thank you for all the responses

I have looked at the practice management software route before but most of the softwa available appears to be over complicated and over my budget. I'm currently using software like VT and Moneysoft so I'm a big fan of these typews of software ie small, inexpensive but perfectly formed.Has anyone come across the VT/Moneysoft of the practice management software variety?

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11th Jun 2012 16:48

Practice management

 I am also using VT and payroll manager from money manager, with Tax calc for submitting my return and i found its a great combination in my small practice firm. Though Tax calc is littile bit expensive but i enjoyed working on this friendly software.

If someone know better combination, please let me know as well.

Many  thanks

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12th Jun 2012 11:51

BTC software

We use BTC, VT and Payroll manager from Moneysoft. All work well together and the beauty of  BTC is that it's inexpensive and we are able to import VT accounts straight into BTC to file Tax Returns and CT Returns as well. Support is pretty good with all 3 of these providers.

We also use a document management software called DMSPRO from docman solutions which has become the core of our practice. Let me know if you need any further info or help.

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By Jimess
11th Jun 2012 20:29

@ Sir Digby Chick

We have just moved from Iris to VT and BTC and wish we had done it years ago.  BTC gives you some really nice practice management software alongside tax return processing.  We pay around £65 per month for practice management SA and CT, but I think there are other options.  Nice and easy and links seamlessly with VT.

Regards

 

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By invensa
10th Sep 2012 11:57

Cloud Based deadlines management system.

 

Dear Sir

With reference to your post, we have developed a software, PracticePA is a Cloud based Practice Management software which helps professional accountants in United Kingdom to manage the client's information, Workflow/Dead lines and Job completion on the cloud

The application is hosted on cloud, hence No Technical Worries, automatic software updates, and access anytime anywhere from the browser with a Low Cost Monthly Subscription with no Hidden costs! Pay per User.

We would be most grateful if you could log onto www.practicepa.com  evaluate our software and give us your valuable feedback on this application.

I hope you'll take the opportunity to do free trial. During this our Support team will assist you just as if you were a paid up user.

 

Warm Regards

PracticePA team

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Cost v less stress

At the end of the day (like me with IRIS as a whole) it may cost me a lot of money each year but it's cheap in terms of how much it helps me get things done & controlled & on time.

This is even more the case with any form of PM software.  Without numbers it's difficult to know what you think is over budget but in Iris's case the PM bit is cheap given what it enables me to do.

If I had my time again and did not run an integrated system I'd probably go for one of the online project management facilities (Google Simple Project Management) there are loads and many incorporate billing.  But even so you will still pay perhaps £25ish per month so you end up with similar costs.

If all else fails then a spreadsheet is your best bet filling out year ends and with columns/rows for the various stages of collecing work, chasing for info, sending it out, getting it back & submitting it.

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11th Jun 2012 19:47

WorkflowMax for managing client work

For keeping track of what client work need to be done when I find WorkflowMax works really well. Then I use TaxCalc, Payroll Manager and VT. Together it's much cheaper than Iris or Digita and though there is some duplicated data entry it's not really that bad. The most time consuming bit is inputting a TB into VT, which isn't that bad.

Xero are increasingly making noises about being able to provide a full suite for accountants. I'm happy to continue with my poorly integrated system until that happens.

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11th Jun 2012 22:14

VT and BTC also

This tax year made the move to VT and BTC (previously ftax for returns) and well pleased 

with both packages. The BTC have offered a monthly plan, which makes it more affordable, well 

worth the money.

Previously had used excel for month end tracking and also accounts preparation.

 

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12th Jun 2012 11:44

What we do

I am a sole practitioner, have 20 staff and 2000+ clients.When I started I thought Iris etc was very expensive  and as part of microsoft office you get access database. We just wrote a database to control it all

 

It logs:

 

Basic stuff like

clients names, addresses,tax ref nos,  telephone,no, fees, each type of job,

 

Each type of job has a separate screen showing  work in progress on each job ie

what job is

when deadline is

when asked for info,

when received

when started

when sent to client

when sent to companies house

and who is doing it

when books returned

 

Well we wrote it when there was 2 of us ( it wasnt me it was the other part of the 2) and the spreadsheet I used got a bit unweildly, since then the other people who have turned up here to  use it scream if we threaten to change it...so it does its job and cost nothing and no yearly repeat fees.

Perhaps I should sell it as practice management software...hmmmmm...

 

So theres your answer, save your cash and spend half a day drafting a database from the existing software you have!

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By chatman
12th Jun 2012 12:00

Import VT straight into BTC for CT600?

@greybeard - Are you sure you can really import from VT into BTC for CT600s. I thought this was only possible for unincorporated business?

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12th Jun 2012 12:10

VT Import to BTC

HI Chatman,

VT allows the generation of IXBRL accounts for ltd co's and this is imported to BTC when preparing the CT600 - works a treat.

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By usman
12th Jun 2012 12:13

Fraud or what??

When we accountants put our matters on this website, we expect to be answered by our fellow accountants but it seems to me only few accountants actually reply to your post (probably within few lines) and all other pranks are trying to sell their softwares and criticising others (with long & detail replies, probably readymade answers, ready to paste).

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15th Jun 2012 15:21

Dear Usman

usman wrote:

When we accountants put our matters on this website, we expect to be answered by our fellow accountants but it seems to me only few accountants actually reply to your post (probably within few lines) and all other pranks are trying to sell their softwares and criticising others (with long & detail replies, probably readymade answers, ready to paste).

 

 

Dear Usman,

Do you actually know what the word "Fraud" means? If so, how is the use of it appropriate in this context. If not please refer to a good dictionary.This section of the website is called "Any answers" not "Any rants"- where WE accountants post questions - Your post doesn't actually pose a question! Looking at you posting history - perhaps disappointed by the lack of decent answers from accountants - because you have yet to post a question! You first have to pose a question to get a response from accountants.You complain about the quality as well as the length of replies - however looking at your post history - it appears that you yourself haven't bothered replying to any of the questions - So, if you are not prepared to make a positive contribution on this forum how can you expect your fellow accountants to do so? Perhaps you could lead by example!Do you actually know what the word "pranks" means? If so, how is the use of it appropriate in this context. If not please refer to a good dictionary.Learn to read (I highly recommend it) - If the question is about what software to use in practice - I am not sure why you are surprised that the responses revolve around software recommendations. Also reading most of the responses reveals that they are from Accountants and the few posts from the actual software suppliers usually help to clarify issues or  further the debate.It is interesting that that you complain about "probably readymade answers, ready to paste"  when you yourself have simply copied and pasted your rant on several threads! Shame on you!.

Yours sincerely

The Big Bad Wolf

 

 

I think I have too much free time on my hands

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And some just have nothing to add

usman - like adverts on TV you can just ignore them, but at least they are addressing the question of the thread, how about you what would you suggest Sir Digby does?

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By chatman
12th Jun 2012 12:36

Import to BTC

@greybeard  -I understand now. You are referring to attaching the iXBRL file to the return. I thought you meant importing the numbers from VT into the calculation part of the tax software.

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13th Jun 2012 12:19

Importing to CT 600

The figures are also imported to the CT600 - if you need further help you can ring BTC direct -on 0800 612 7650

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By chatman
13th Jun 2012 13:55

@greybeard

greybeard wrote:
The figures are also imported to the CT600 - if you need further help you can ring BTC direct -on 0800 612 7650

Thanks Greybeard. That will save a lot of time.

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12th Jun 2012 12:40

Logical Office

I'm in a simlar situation to you with VT, Taxcalc, Moneysoft and Logical Office for practice management/workflows/CRM. LO costs just £40pm and we moved onto it from spreadsheets.  I looked at Iris and BTC but both were far too expensive by comparison.

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13th Jun 2012 11:50

HQ for Accounts

have a look at this product http://www.selestial.com/accountancy.html

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13th Jun 2012 12:38

BTC

Don't forget the Practice Management facility within BTC PM.

We have always used ACT and had the layouts tweaked for us. Newer versions of ACT to some tasks automatically. It's easy to track work in progress vs deadlines. All standard letters and emails are pre-formatted templates and practice management becomes a breeze. We use HMRC and other  notices as trigger points for job entry with tasks and responsibities preset. 

I reckon it's the only piece of Sage software worth buying.

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