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Which practice management solution is best for your firm?

Posted 2 months ago in Advisors by Levi Allan
Posted by Levi Allan

Whether you’re a solo practitioner in Australia or a national accounting firm with hundreds of employees, you likely have one thing in common: you need practice management software. But with the number of options growing, how do you determine which solution is right for you?

Given the new integration between GreatSoft and Xero, we thought it would be a good time to review the practice management options available. They range from free Xero tools to integrated third-party solutions that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. At Xero, we’re  investing heavily in our own solutions while maintaining an open platform that gives partners a choice of approaches. 

The first question any partner should ask when evaluating practice management software is: What services do I offer? 

If you strictly handle traditional jobs such as tax preparation, bookkeeping and business setup, you’re probably operating under one ABN. Easy enough. But if you’re a multidisciplinary firm that offers regulated services such as financial planning and superannuation, you’ll likely be operating under multiple ABNs. 

This distinction between multiple and single ABNs is probably the biggest determinant when choosing a practice management solution. Once that question is settled, it comes down to cost, number of offices and preferred platform. Here are the best solutions for Xero partners, ranked in order of practice complexity. All of them are ISO 27001 certified and use industry standard security and encryption.

Xero Projects and Xero Tax

Number of practice ABNs it can manage: One

Who it’s ideal for: Sole practitioners

Cost: Free – included with your practice subscription

Integrates with third-party apps: Yes

What it does: Xero Projects can track time, enter receipts and expenses, and record deposits against each project; create fixed price, time and materials, or progress payment invoices; and monitor and track project performance with up-to-the-minute reports on time and costs. And it also integrates with Trello. Xero Tax sets the benchmark for cloud-based tax software. Over 5,000 Australian firms rely on it to lodge tax returns for clients: individuals, business and non-business, both Xero and non-Xero. Its smart schedules, worksheets and workflows reduce the need for manual data entry. Activity statements as well as individual and sole-trader returns automatically prefill from the ATO.

Implementation: Do it yourself. Up and running within a day in most cases. 

Xero Practice Manager (XPM)

Number of practice ABNs it can manage: One

Who it’s ideal for: Firms with a single office that have consistent processes across their business and share client lists throughout the practice  

Cost: Free to partners who are Silver and above; otherwise A$163.90 a month 

Integrates with third-party apps: Yes, more than 30 practice apps

Implementation: Recommend setup assistance from Xero or certified third-party consultants. Up and running within a few days. 

What it does: XPM manages workflow and recovers costs quickly by providing a real-time view of ongoing jobs and work in progress. Workflows are standardised for all users, and access privileges, such as editing clients, are the same for users. However, you can restrict user access for tax returns in Xero Tax – which is included with XPM – down to the individual advisor. It also converts work-in-progress records to invoices and sends them directly to clients within the one tool. The software can create tasks and monitor staff performance, client profitability and recoverability. Practices using XPM range in size from a couple of users to more than 100.

GreatSoft

Number of practice ABNs it can manage: Unlimited

Who it’s ideal for: Firms with multiple offices, entities and service lines and complex workflows; offers customisable reporting and permissions

Cost: $40 to $60 per user per month, which includes software, hosting infrastructure, technical and end-user support

Integrates with third-party apps: Yes, 14 apps with a half dozen more expected soon

Implementation: Fully customised conversion and implementation; requires 12 days minimum plus time for customisations and site specific reporting.

What it does: GreatSoft is a recent arrival on Australian shores, having already proved itself in 19 countries with top and mid-tier firms firms including the Big Four, BDO, RSM, PKF and Grant Thornton. This enterprise cloud-based solution enables mid-tier and large firms to manage staff, clients and jobs in one database. Its open platform and APIs allow firms to integrate their chosen compliance, document management, and workflow solutions to provide a single unified view of the client. Existing or pending integrations including Xero Tax, Practice Ignition, NowInfinity and Class Super. GreatSoft is a smart choice for enterprise-size firms looking to eliminate data silos and multiple databases that are unavoidable with desktop solutions, as well as embrace a platform that’s open to third-party apps.  

CCH iFirm

Number of practice ABNs it can manage: Unlimited

Who it’s ideal for: Firms with multiple offices and business divisions, complex workflow processes, and individual multilevel permissions

Cost: Starts in the low thousands of dollars per month 

Integrates with third-party apps: Only with Xero Tax

Implementation: Fully customised plan from CCH iFirm; expect a few weeks minimum

What it does: CCH iFirm is an end-to-end solution that manages a large practice’s intranet, external website, marketing, document manager and practice mailbook. It’s a great choice for firms heavily reliant on the education courses, publications and documents in the CCH content and learning platforms. Unlike many cloud-based solutions, CCH iFirm is a largely closed system, with Xero Tax the only integration listed on the CCH website. When CCH iFirm is combined with Xero Tax, client data can be synchronised between the two databases for a real-time view of clients across many services. CCH iFirm also integrates with Xero Tax, and is a solution that alerts advisors to tax changes that occur throughout the year and their clients affected.

Accelo

Number of practice ABNs it can manage: Unlimited

Who it’s ideal for: Firms with multiple business divisions and offices (especially offshore), complex micro-workflow processes and individual multilevel permissions. 

Cost: Starts at $39 USD per user/month 

Implementation: Fully customised plan with Accelo; expect a few weeks minimum

Integrates with third-party apps: Yes, more than 20

What it does: Accelo’s strength lies in its automation, which can intelligently assign tasks to staff with little or no involvement from management. Like a self-driving car, Accelo can drive a business’s processes and alert managers if things are going off track. Accelo assigns client jobs as ‘tickets’  where staffers have complete visibility of the job and client but can see no other client data or jobs outside their own. The software is well suited to practices with large remote teams, such as those offshore. Accelo has to tools to manage your client operations including sales, quotes, projects, tickets, retainers, timesheets, billing, and scheduling all from one place.Like other cloud-based solutions, Accelo also offers CRM and client databases, invoicing and payments. And it integrates with third-party applications including Xero, G Suite, Office 365 and Stripe.

Salesforce

Number of practice ABNs it can manage: Unlimited

Who it’s ideal for: Large firms with layers of customisation requirements and specific needs for functionality and control

Cost: Can run A$10,000 a month or more

Implementation: Fully customised plan from Salesforce; expect a few weeks minimum

Integrates with third-party apps: Yes, 185 apps

What it does: Salesforce is the world’s bestselling CRM software, and its practice management abilities are impressive. The integration with Xero allows secure, controlled access to accounts payable and receivable data from within Salesforce, allowing your sales team and collections team to reliably access specific Xero data without requiring Xero logins. Sales teams work quicker and more efficiently, and invoices are sent sooner and with higher accuracy. Invoice payment status is visible across your entire company, speeding up time-to-payment. Salesforce also allows management to restrict employees’ levels of data access so they have only the information they need to complete a task.

If you have more questions about the options above, speak to your Xero account manager or our partner consulting team. They’re happy to answer queries, set up a scoping session, and connect you with experts who can help with implementation, whether it’s a Xero-owned solution or third-party. And if you’re considering a switch in your practice management software, check out this handy guide to help you with the change management.

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