Intuit is partnering with SmartVault to integrate the SmartVault document management system (DMS) with Intuit ProSeries and Intuit Lacerte, replacing the Intuit-provided DMS functions that have been a part of those products in the past. This partnership provides users of ProSeries and Lacerte with not only one of the best cloud-based document management systems available, it also provides them with a secure customer portal for exchanging documents.
Intuit has a number of different document management features in various products that it supports. They all work in different ways and keep their documents in separate storage vaults. If you look at the document management features in ProSeries/Lacerte, QuickBooks desktop and QuickBooks Online, you see that each of these systems works very differently and stores data in different ways. I believe that this creates a maintenance issue for Intuit as well as makes it difficult to expand the products to add new features.
In the case of ProSeries and Lacerte, Intuit made the decision to not offer its own document management system starting with the product for Tax Year 2014 and, instead, will be partnering with SmartVault to seamlessly integrate ProSeries and Lacerte with SmartVault.
I’ve had a chance to preview this, so let’s take a look.
SmartVault: Chunkification Personified
One of the significant industry trends that Doug Sleeter has talked about for years is Chunkification, how the accounting software market is being served by large “chunks” that address specific business functions, which can then work together to provide an integrated system to solve the specific needs of a business. Some of these chunks can be considered “core” chunks, horizontal products that can be used to tie a wide variety of other chunks together and provide uniform services across all. SmartVault is an excellent example of this kind of “core” chunk.
SmartVault is a cloud-based document management system that works with a growing ecosystem of products, providing a single full-featured repository for your (and your client’s) documents. See our reviews of how SmartVault integrates with QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero.
Figure 1: The SmartVault Ecosystem
In addition to document management, SmartVault provides a client portal that can be used to exchange documents securely with your client. You can customize this with our own branding.
Intuit Picks SmartVault
As it has announced to its ProSeries and Lacerte subscribers, Intuit has decided to discontinue its own DMS feature for the 2014 release. The DMS feature was removed from customer renewals, and a notice was sent out to all users. Intuit acknowledged that its customers have asked for a more feature-rich DMS, as well as the ability to create custom-branded portals for secure document exchange.
By integrating with SmartVault, Intuit can now provide:
- Built-in document management integrated with both Lacerte and ProSeries, which also can work with QuickBooks.
- An integrated secure client portal for sharing files with clients, which can also be branded.
- Easy setup using existing client data and templates.
- The ability to print and share tax returns with staff and clients with one click.
- The ability to batch email clients.
You can see details on the change at:
SmartVault Integration with ProSeries and Lacerte
The integration is still in beta test status as I write this article, with the intent that it will be rolled out to customers in June. Please note that I have not had the opportunity to test this extensively, so this is just a preview of a few of the features. I’m showing Lacerte here, the features will be very similar with ProSeries.
From your client list in Lacerte or ProSeries, you can easily import your clients into SmartVault. Figure 2 shows the Lacerte customer list, with the SmartVault import window displayed.
Figure 2: Importing Clients into SmartVault
Within SmartVault, you can see that the customer list has been imported, and a separate folder is created for each client (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Folder list created in SmartVault
The structure of the folders is guided by a set of templates. You can modify these templates to fit your needs. Different tax types can be set up to create a different folder structure, so you can (for example) have a different structure for a business client (Figure 4) versus an individual (Figure 5).
Figure 4: Business client folders
Figure 5: Individual tax return folders
Conversion of your existing documents from the Lacerte/ProSeries DMS into SmartVault should also be a part of this integration. That cannot be demonstrated at this point of the beta test, but it is the plan to make this transition as easy as possible. This is an important feature, so I hope that it can get implemented soon. If not, you still have the ability to move documents into SmartVault using the “SmartVault Drive” to drag and drop individual files.
Managing Documents in SmartVault
Once you are set up in SmartVault, you have a number of features for managing the documents. For example, as shown in Figure 6:
- You can see a list of the documents in any folder. You can view the documents from here very easily.
- On a folder-by-folder basis, you can control notifications so you can be notified (for example) when a user posts a new file via the customer portal.
- You have user-by-user control over permissions for the documents in each folder.
Figure 6: Managing documents in SmartVault
Receiving Documents from the Client
It’s always best practice to use a secure method to transmit documents, but clients don’t always follow the rules. SmartVault provides you with multiple ways of receiving and storing documents that your clients want to send to you.
If your client sends files as email attachments, SmartVault has plugins for Outlook and Gmail that make it easy for you to import the files. Figure 7 shows this using Outlook.
Figure 7: Importing from Outlook
A better method is to get your clients to use your secure client portal. This is a feature that you didn’t have with Lacerte/ProSeries before, and it’s a great advantage to have the portal interact directly with the DMS.
Figure 8: The SmartVault Customer Portal
Saving to SmartVault from Lacerte and ProSeries
From within Lacerte/ProSeries, saving your tax returns is very simple. You just “print” the return, sending it to PDF, and the document will be posted directly to SmartVault in the appropriate place. You do not have to navigate to the proper folder, SmartVault knows where to save it (Figure 9).
Figure 9: Saving the tax return to SmartVault
At this time, the integration does not provide support for annotation and bookmarks of the PDF file. This is something that’s being worked on, and they say it will be added as soon as possible.
Pricing and Availability
The current plan is to charge $360.00 a year per firm, which should include the DMS for both Lacerte and ProSeries. Check with SmartVault for details as things could easily change. This will get you two user accounts for your staff and unlimited clients. Your clients don’t have to pay anything to use your portal. You get 500 GB of storage as part of an introductory offer. Additional user accounts for your office are $15.00 per month, per account.
As I mentioned earlier, this currently is in beta test. I’ve not had an opportunity to exercise this, so I can’t comment on the quality and responsiveness of the integration with Lacerte/ProSeries. However, I have been using SmartVault for a long time now, and it is an excellent product.
There are some important pieces that they plan to implement, but they can’t be demonstrated yet. The ability to convert your existing documents from the Lacerte/ProSeries DMS into SmartVault properly is going to be a key issue. I would wait to convert to this new system until I knew that this was available. However, of all the software developers I have reviewed, SmartVault is the most reliable as far as delivering on features they promise.
Some firms will be concerned because this is moving your documents into a cloud-based solution. SmartVault is very aware of the needs for a high level of security, and I believe SmartVault has addressed this very well. If you aren’t sure of this, I recommend you review SmartVault’s security FAQ for details on how security is addressed.
On the other hand, moving from local storage to a cloud product provides you with many features that you can’t get otherwise. The branded portal will actually increase security for document exchange with your clients.
I think this is a very smart move by Intuit, one I hope is extended to all its products.
SmartVault was a recipient of a 2011 Awesome Add-on award from The Sleeter Group.
Members of The Sleeter Group Consultants Network are eligible for the SmartVault Solution Partner Program.