Efficiency by any other name
Whether you call it document management or workflow,
it will help your practice work better and smarter
BY ted needleman
Workflow and document management are two terms that get bandied around a lot. Sometimes
they are used interchangeably, which is incorrect since either may be a subset of the other, de-
pending on how each is applied.
and, with the CNG-Web component, easily
shared by others in and out of your firm. Access rights are granted by the administrator,
and password-protected. Documents can be
files of varying types, including Office files,
scanned files, e-mails, PDFs and graphics
files. They can also be routed, providing basic
For QuickBooks users, a product-specific
version, CNG-Books, gives them fairly extensive document management capabilities.
Let’s look at workflow management first.
On the micro level, workflow describes the
processes and data routes that occur in a
single application, while on the macro level
it describes the routing of information within a firm. For example, in many firms, tax
preparation workflow involves obtaining the
taxpayer’s data, possibly comparing income
and expenses to those of the last year or two
(though this can be done later in the flow),
data input, data calculation, verification that
the return contains all of the data delivered
by the taxpayer, resolution of any questions
or problems encountered in the preparation
of the return, sign off of the return by one or
more managers, review of the return by the
taxpayer, filing of the return, and follow-up
with the taxpayer. Workflow management
here requires understanding of where the
data moves into the system, where it’s routed,
why it’s routed there, what processes are being performed at each destination, and having the ability to determine the progress of
Tax prep is far from the only practice area
that benefits from workflow management.
At New Jersey-based WithumSmith+Brown
PC, XCM is used to manage the workflow
throughout the firm. James Bourke, CPA, a
partner in the firm, explained: “I believe that
a workflow tool should be deployed within a
firm to better manage and control the flow
of all work through the firm. Picking a tool to
manage solely the flow of tax jobs or solely
to manage the flow of audit jobs throughout
the firm is a very inefficient deployment for
a solution like this.”
information is stored, searched and retrieved.
There can be a considerable overlap between
these two major functions. Some consider
the capture, file conversion, and routing to
be a responsibility of the document manage-
ment system, while others consider that these
tasks fall into the domain of workflow.
inet be used with other components of its
system, it’s really aimed at those users.
The application itself is more of a store-and-retrieve system than an actual document
management system, though it has some of
the more commonly found aspects of such a
system, including the ability to scan in documents, file e-mails, and store other types of
documents that are in electronic format, such
as Microsoft Office files.
Where CyberCabinet differs from a full-blown document management system is in
its lack of ability to convert files from one
file type to another, abstract and extract key
words, and track version numbers. At the
same time, it can be set up so that clients can
access files, so that sharing files generated
in Accountants World’s other applications
becomes a simple and easy process. For the
reasonable monthly or yearly fee, if you are
already using one or more of the PowerPractice components, adding Cyber Cabinet to the
mix is almost a no-brainer.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
As with a number of the other applications in
this roundup that are part of suites, ProSystem fx Document is primarily designed as an
adjunct to the ProSystem fx Office suite. That
doesn’t mean that it can’t be used with other
apps. In fact, Document has tight integration
with QuickBooks, so that clients’ QuickBooks
files can be kept in Extended Storage and
searched and accessed just like any other
fx Document files. ProSystem fx Document
also allows you to drag and drop e-mail files
directly from Microsoft Outlook.
The retention and destruction features of
Document are among the several that distinguish it from many other document management systems. Much of the information in client files is not intended to be stored forever,
and setting retention periods allows client
files to remain manageable.
Another feature that is usually found in
true DMSes is document lock-out, which
prevents multiple people from unwittingly
working on the same client file. Documents
need to be checked out and checked back
into the system, providing an audit trail.
CCH has a number of other optional application modules that can greatly enhance the
usefulness of Document. ProSystem fx Scan
can automatically scan paper documents
and add them to a client’s file. ProSystem fx
Document also has tight integration with ProSystem fx Engagement, providing enhanced
workflow tracking and management.
A DOC BY ANY OTHER NAME ...
Workflow is concerned with establishing the
path that information takes within an application (on the micro level) or within a firm or
client (on the macro level). To a great degree,
document management deals with how the
A number of applications covered in this
roundup are tightly tied to other applications from the same vendor. While Accountants World does not require that CyberCab-
CabinetNG is a DMS that is a step up from
file-store-and-retrieve systems. The application is modular, meaning that you can
add only the components that make sense
for you or your client, and pay for just what
features and functions are required. Should
those needs change, you can add additional
components at a later date.
Rather than use a system of folders or file
drawer analogs, the core of the system, CNG-SAFE (an acronym for “Shared Access Filing Environment”) maintains a single large
depository of all documents that are stored
in the system. The files and documents can
be consolidated from multiple locations,
Doc.It Suite is a set of highly integrated mod-