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CCH unveils Twinfield accounts link

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22nd Oct 2012
Editor at large AccountingWEB
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After more than a year of development work, CCH Software is ready to unleash the “end-to-end” integration of its ProSystem tax and practice suite with the cloud-based Twinfield accounting system.

The results were impressive at a recent demonstration in London.

Like its cloud accounting “companion” (a new word CCH has embraced to describe its third party partners) CCH caters for a fairly sophisticated demographic and the integration between them delivers facilities not found in many other systems. For example, Twinfield can import figures from scanned invoices and includes a thumbnail viewer that displays the original document image as you hover over the numbers in a transaction record.

Twinfield includes a number of other eyebrow-raising features such as one-click authorisation for posting and paying invoices, automatic bank reconciliation from online statements, "self-learning" facilities to post subsequent transactions to the correct nominal code and a client management dashboard for practitioners. Client access is controlled by the accountant, so some might be able to adjust their chart of accounts themselves, but for other users it could be locked down to ensure integrity.

Explaining the whole premise behind CCH’s end-to-end message, Twinfield channel manager Louise Prophet commented that the accountant can use Twinfield as a platform to go through reports and accounts with clients online, wherever they are at any moment.

“Twinfield allows you to get into the accounts and spot things going wrong such as high cash burn rates or excessive WIP and sort them out,” she said.

“We’re seeing cloud-based accounting as the next stage to move in your business… Today’s accountant can connect to the client and become more of a business adviser.”

CCH integration

The back-end, on-premise element of the CCH package was demonstrated by Paul Brace. When an accountant logs into their CCH Central hub, they are also signed into the Twinfield cloud accounting system, which appears as an extra functional tab on the Central menu.

There are two-way links between Twinfield and CCH ProSystem’s accounts production module both at the chart of accounts and transactional levels, Brace said.

When a user clicks into Twinfield tab, Central will alert them of any transactions that have not been synched with the final accounts module. A sample run of 500 transactions took about 5secs to import. For his crowd-pleasing demo, Paul Brace entered an accrual for accountancy fees and synched it back into the client’s Twinfield ledger.

From that point on CCH ProSystem accounts production is able to do its stuff, and any further adjustments can be synched in the same way. The ProSystem AP program is template-driven and can automatically compile an iXBRL file for submission to Companies House or HMRC.

The final flourish in CCH’s latest package was a Strategic Planning module offering more reporting and analysis features. At the heart of this tool is a single screen financial scorecard into which key values are entered: debtor days, turnover, admin expenses, wastage, stock days, creditor days. Adjusting these values will illustrate how potential might affect the financial results. The program includes goal-seeking tools and can be used to compile benchmarking reports from multiple accounts.

That’s the future. But what of the past? CCH made it clear during the demo that the new Accounts Production module will spell the end of Viztopia and PROacc systems acquired from MYOB in 2008.

Some of the features of the programs will now be supported from within Twinfield, and some in the replacement accounts production system. At the event, CCH said VAP and PROcap who provide outsourced bookkeeping services will be able to switch to CCH Twinfield for free on a like-for-like basis up to 31 December 2014. Like-for-like means similar client numbers, and any additional clients taken on will be chargeable. From 1 January 2015, CCH’s standard charge of £4.50 a month per outsourced bookkeeping client will apply.

CCH Accounts Production will also be provided free of charge on a like-for-like basis, and the developer said it would have free conversion tools in place to help clients manage their own transitions. Since CCH Accounts Production runs on Microsoft’s SQL Server database, an additional day’s training is advised for these sites.

As has already been noted, the integration between Twinfield and CCH ProSystem is very slick, but while its developers have been working on the link, rivals at FreeAgent, Xero and KashFlow have been hovering up thousands of users. With these companies claiming 15,000-25,000 users in the UK, CCH’s Simon Crompton declined to reveal Twinfield’s UK user numbers.

“We wanted to get integration right for the UK market,” he told AccountingWEB. “Historically our industry went to accountants and asked them what they want, but the world is now driven by SMEs. So we spent some time with SMEs to make sure we can do what they want.

“But it’s also got to be right for the accountant. There’s no point in creating noise in market if accountants aren’t ready.”

The CCH Software UK worked with counterparts in the Netherlands to see what lessons they could pick up from the Dutch experience and now think they have the tools to take data and put it in the accountants’ hands so they can help companies with their management reporting, Crompton said. Around 30 practices have taken on Twinfield in the past quarter, including one that brought on 1,000 clients.

“It’s early days for a new strategy, but the momentum is starting to build,” he added.

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