An Example of a Higher-Level Practice Management System
One of the comprehensive practice management systems that I’ve been looking at is Karbon. I want to give you a quick look at this as an example of what can be done – this is not a “review” of the product.
Karbon focuses on collaboration, both with team members in your firm as well as between your firm and your clients. It combines email, team collaboration, workflow management, simplified project management, document management, and customer relationship management (CRM). It is the place that brings all of the work-related information together.
Some of the features include:
- Email management: Enabling email to be actioned, assigned, and automatically tracked with a contact, client, and project. Documents in emails are automatically placed in client projects.
- Workflow management: Karbon works with checklists, tasks, and timelines to manage the work your firm engages in with clients.
- Automation: You can build workflow templates so that work can be easily repeated, with checklists automatically calculating due dates based on the assigned start date. Tasks are auto-created when assigning work, checklist items, notes, and more. Karbon takes the work out of creating your tasks (auto-created on assignments to others and oneself) and provides the full details related to the tasks when a person is ready to complete them.
- Collaboration: Karbon collects emails, notes, documents, and more, into a common system that your team members will use. Every team member who is involved in a project can see all of the information about that project, from a single platform.
- Client tasks: If you wish, Karbon can help with the chore of reminding clients about deadlines and important tasks. When you create a task, you can set it to provide gentle (or urgent) reminders. Clients can then upload documents (for example) to the system, and you will be notified.
Here’s one example of a task dashboard in Karbon:
You can also download this overview PDF document for some additional screen shots and information.
Of course, a comprehensive system like this comes at a cost. It isn’t free! Pricing varies depending on how you pay (paying annually gives you a significant discount over a month-to-month plan) as well as the number of users, the features that are included, and the level of training/support you need. The core features start off at $39.00 a month per user (please check with Karbon for details on pricing).
Do I Like QuickBooks Online Accountant Practice Management?
I’ll point out again that I’ve been looking at a pre-release version of the product. Things are changing as you read this, Intuit is taking feedback from many sources. Also, they have a long-range plan for enhancing the product. More features will come over time.
Here are a few areas where I would like to see improvements, along with some additional comments. Again, I’m looking at an early test release of the product, so some of these may be addressed by the time that you get hands on it. Also, Intuit will continue developing new features as time goes on, so some of these may be addressed in upcoming releases.
Jobs and Tasks
- At the time that I’m writing this there is no way to see jobs or tasks that are dated more than 30 days out. That is a major shortcoming that I’m sure will be resolved soon.
- It is difficult to differentiate between jobs, tasks, and requests in the Work Dashboard. If you are going to use a visual/graphic representation of the information (as opposed to just a list), you need easily recognizable visual clues to identify the different elements.
- I’m concerned with the amount of space that the cards take. There isn’t a way to collapse them. If you have a large firm with multiple jobs and tasks, you are going to have to do a lot of scrolling.
- There is no way to assign multiple staff members to a specific job or task.
- I would like to see a filter by “status” in the Work Dashboard. I might want to see all tasks that are blocked, for instance.
- We should be able to enable the notices that come from our client’s QuickBooks Online accounts by client or category of notification.
- The only place that you can access Jobs or Tasks is from the Work Dashboard. If I’m looking at a client’s file, it would be really helpful to have a way to see the Jobs assigned to that client, along with details.
- A variation of this – I would like to see an optional column in my client list that would indicate if there are any open jobs (that is, not “done”) for the client. Maybe even flagged in red if they had a “blocked” status? Or, perhaps, a filter option in the client list to show clients with open or blocked jobs.
- I would also like to see a Calendar view of the Work Dashboard. A more traditional calendar, with the jobs and possibly tasks placed in the boxes for each date. This would be complicated for very busy firms, but would be a major boon for smaller firms. Integration with Google Calendar would be the next step.
- If you modify the message in a client request, this information is not captured in the system. It goes through Intuit’s email system, not your own, so there is no record of this altered communication.
- There are no notifications in the client’s dashboard or status bar that informs them that there is a new request, or a new comment on a request. Yes, the initial request can send an email, but that is optional and is outside of the system.
- Similarly, there is no notification on the accountant side of things when a client responds to a request, other than the email that is sent.
- You can’t tell who uploaded a document with a It would be nice if there was a way to know who added the document – the client or the accountant.
- If the client adds multiple documents and comments when they open a request, each one generates a separate email to the accountant. There should be just one email each time this window is opened.
- Clients can delete any document, there is no way for the accountant to “protect” a document so it can’t be removed from the system.
- This is great if you are working with QuickBooks Online clients. There is no integration with QuickBooks desktop, and I am very sure that there won’t be in the future. Yes, you can add those clients to your client list, but desktop clients won’t have any way to work with you directly.
- There is no integration with your email systems, so any client communications outside of this system are not included in the project management database.
- I don’t see a good way for team members to correspond with each other inside the system. No comments or notifications. You can use email (or, heck, just walk over and talk to someone?), but those communications are not a part of the job or task database. This is an area that Intuit is investigating for a future release.
- There is no way for the client to initiate a communication with the accountant other than responding to a request. They can use email, but that communication is outside of the system, which is a problem.
- Similarly, there is no way for the client to send a document to the accountant other than responding to a request.
That looks like a long list of issues, but that is because I’m a picky person and I like to delve into the little details. Regardless of all these points, the real question is, “Do I like the QuickBooks Online Accountant Practice Management system?”
At this point I’ll say “Yes, basically it is a good start for the kind of firm that it fits.” It is a lightweight practice management system with a lot of room to improve, but there are many good features here. The development team behind this is enthusiastic and is working hard on taking feedback and turning that into the features that accountants need. Also, you can’t beat the price (free)! I think that this will be a good start for those smaller firms that really don’t have the time, money, or energy to implement a more comprehensive system. It will be interesting to see where Intuit takes this feature.