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CCH enters web portal market

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16th May 2013
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CCH, the tax and practice software wing of Wolters Kluwer, is the latest developer to introduce a web portal for sharing and approving documentation with clients.

CCH Portal links to the CCH ProSystem tax and practice software suite and gives firms a way to send secure messages back and forth to their clients, along with documents and tax returns for approval.

Web portals have become this season’s “must have” product for practice software suppliers and the CCH Portal lags some way behind rival products from the likes of Lindenhouse, Thomson Reuters, DocuSafe, PracticeWEB and IRIS. CCH’s portal was first demonstrated at the company’s conference almost a year ago and is the latest piece in an ambitious end-to-end practice technology strategy. According to CCH Software head of product management Wendy Rowe, the ease of use and integration with other CCH tools justified the wait.

“There are a lot of cheap tools you can buy off the shelf which run separately to exchange documents between organisations. When we sat down with clients and talked about functionality and scope, they didn’t want a separate application, they want it fully integrated with the tools they use every day,” she said.

A series of feedback meetings earlier this year contributed significant improvements to the user interface and experience, she added.

Working within the CCH Central practice management hub, users can create new branded web portals and activate them for client use in a matter of minutes. Notifications can be set to alert accountant and client when anything new is loaded, and portal can be brought straight back into the CCH document management module.

CCH Portal Message Centre

CCH is selling its portals in blocks of 100 at a cost of £6 per client per year. The package comes with 100GB of storage space, which can be spread between clients. “Only the entity needs a portal, you can have many users on each one. The cost is equivalent to 50p a month - less than a first class stamp. If you send one letter to a client, you’ve instantly covered that cost,” said Rowe.

The portal presents a deliberately stripped down environment, she explained, relying on a clean, social media-like view to encourage easy use. Secure messages are stored in one of the two functional areas, and documents for storage and approval are held in the other:

CCH Portal - document for approval

Security remains a concern for many acccountants, and in addition to built-in encryption, CCH Portal will adopt the client and employee information and team security settings already held within the CCH Central, and will forward client messages directly to the practice management hub, so that  client communications are retained consistently in a single location for greater visibility and control.

Aware that there is still some ground to catch up with more established portals in the market, Wendy Rowe said that a multiple document authorisation facility was already in the works and set out more ambitious development plans.

“The next piece is not just document exchange. It’s to surface things like collecting data for the tax year and missing items in the cloud,” she said.

“We’re looking to engage the client in the workflow, so as they scan in dividend vounchers, they could go straight into Central, where the data could be OCR’d  [optical character recognition] and brought straight into the tax return. When they approve a tax return, an alert could go into Central and we could automatically transmit the return to HMRC and sign off the work.

“Those are the sorts o things we’re looking for portal to do to drive efficiency between the practice and the client.”

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By Peter Waterman
23rd May 2013 11:56

seems expensive

this could be quite a cost for a practice with say 500 clients?surely there are cheaper alternatives that work in the same way

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