This season's "must-have" accessory for technology-savvy accountants is an online client portal, according to the suppliers who are launching or exhibiting such tools at Accountex.
A quick review indicates the following will be on view at Excel in London’s Docklands on 6-7 June:
- Thomson Reuters will be introducing its Digita Virtual Office, a cloud-based implementation of the Digita Professional Suite of personal and corporation tax, accounts production, company secretarial and practice management software. The company also has a NetClient document management portal for sharing files with clients.
- CCH will also be demonstrating its new portal, which links into the CCH ProSystem suite of tax and practice software. It was a long time coming, but a test drive on AccountingWEB proved it to be a simple and satisfying experience for potential client users.
- IRIS has a bit of a headstart on its big rivals. Last year it launched OpenSpace, an online storage facility that forms part of its cloud-based OpenApps family. Since then it has extended its cloud portfolio with the web-based IRIS OpenTax suite.
- DocuSoft also launched a portal system last year, incorporating electronic approvals.
- Lindenhouse - one of the pioneers of specialist document portals for accountants in the UK will be exhibiting the latest version of its Virtual Cabinet, a sophisticated, integrated document management and authorisation system.
- PracticeWEB is another long-timer portal provider with its Secure Document Exchange, which is designed to operate in tandem with PracticeWEB’s website packages.
Document portals have been discussed extensively on AccountingWEB in the past year, starting with Dropbox and moving on to accountant-specific systems such as those mentioned. The debate arose partly in response to claims that sending sensitive client information by email could violate the Data Protection Act. That’s not strictly true, but email is a pretty unsatisfactory method to exchange bulky, confidential files. If you do still rely on email, you could take precautions like encrypting files before sending them - which applies just as much to Dropbox.
When it comes down to it, an online portal is a very simple concept - it’s a big bucket on the net into which you dump files, to which you can invite other people to view them. When assessing them, it is worth checking what they offer over and above basic storage facilities, which could include the ability to authorise files such as tax returns for further action or direct links into your document and practice management systems.
There are bound to be more portal products on view at Accountex and we will report them here as we uncover them at the event.
The exhibition and conference sees a return to the calendar of an event designed to give accountancy practitioners insights into the latest trends and technologies. Now in its second year, Accountex shares some characteristics with Softworld, which used to host spring and autumn events in London and Birmingham - although they catered more for business software buyers.
These big, national gatherings give accountants a chance to compare products available from scores of 50 suppliers. And visitors looking to brush up their CPD are catered for with a full programme of lectures from experts including Rebecca Benneyworth, Mark Lee, Mark Lloydbottom and AccountingWEB’s editorial team.
When they’re not presenting, John Stokdyk, Robert Lovell and Rachael Power will work their way around the exhibition hall to uncover the latest announcements and discuss the key trends with conference speakers, exhibitors and Accountex visitors. Their reports will be updated on this page throughout the event - so keep in touch and even ask us to follow up specific topics by commenting below.