As a tax professional in this rapidly developing accounting technology age, we are perceived to not only be tax preparers, but more importantly, tax planning strategists. We require a process to have real-time access to our clients’ financial data, whether we handle year-round accounting or financial statement preparation. For many of my colleagues who also manage tax practices, our process has incorporated management reporting dashboards, providing an efficient method to evaluate business performance, while allowing us to develop strategic advisory roles with our clients.
As expected, there are several options in the management reporting app arena. On my quest to research and implement a reporting dashboard for my firm, I learned there was a combination of three solutions that could work independently and/or harmoniously together to collect and create business intelligence data for my clients:
- Finagraph – The financial data engine
- Fathom – Create beautiful and usable business intelligence tools
- LivePlan – The world’s leading business plan software
Let’s first cover what all three solutions have in common, and then differentiate what they each bring uniquely to the table. This will provide a perspective on how these apps can be used independently, or how they are stronger together.
- Direct connection with accounting solutions to seamlessly bring financial data into a web-based profile that can be accessed by the accountant and business owner.
- Real-time financial report creation, including visual charts and graphs for continuous high-level review, and strategic business and tax planning.
- Industry-specific benchmark data, financial and non-financial key performance indicators (KPIs), and financial ratios for competitive advantage discussions.
- Investor-ready reports and business intelligence data may be used for future lending opportunities.
What’s Cool About Finagraph?
Finagraph can proudly consider itself “the financial data engine,” since I agree that it’s the most powerful of the three, regarding its business analytics output. Built initially for banks and lenders to make credit decisions for prospective loans, the financial ratios, graphs and metrics are very valuable. This solution provides indicators that explain how metrics are computed and how these metrics impact the company financially. These explanations provide great discussion topics for quarterly tax planning reviews with our clients.
In addition, Finagraph has teamed up with Moody’s Analytics to provide a free business credit score called the MARQ score. My colleague Beth Damis explained the value of this business score as “a platform to translate the accounting data into an easy-to-understand format, which advisors can utilize when speaking to non-accountant stakeholders without all the lingo that makes their eyeballs roll in the back of their heads.”
However, what I personally love most about this solution is that it’s completely free, with no hidden fees and no strings attached. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Just click on pricing on the Finagraph website, and you’ll find this:
What’s Cool About Fathom?
What stands out most about Fathom are the beautiful reports and dashboards. The visual reports, charts and graphs are visually delightful, and many of my colleagues have fallen in love with this app. The reports can also be branded with our tax firm’s logo, which provides a very professional look when reviewing the financial data during our strategic client meetings.
What’s Cool About LivePlan?
LivePlan is most popular for its business plan “creating your pitch” feature. This solution provides an all-inclusive financial dashboard that begins with a business plan and evolves into a robust financial dashboard. The dashboard’s metrics assist business owners and their advisors with managing a company’s current performance, along with budgeting and cash forecasting, to achieve future strategic goals.
An exciting new feature is the “what if scenarios,” allowing the creation of forecasted situations that provide a possible glimpse of good or hard times in a company’s path. More importantly, these scenarios give way to open discussions on how we, as strategic advisors, can tackle these uncertain times together. The LivePlan team advocates for a collaborative teamwork environment and has recently launched the Strategic Advising and Financial Forecasting training track for accounting and tax professionals.
Regardless of whether you choose to implement one solution or all three, your tax planning strategies will be tremendously strengthened. Your clients will not only appreciate the real-time transparency of their financial data, but they will also be excited to participate in more intelligent and open discussions with their respected strategic advisor and tax professional.
Editor’s note: Want more information on high-tech ways to make your practice more efficient? Check out “4 Technologies to Advance Your Tax Practice” by Jim Bourke, CPA.CITP.