Watch this OfficeTools Free Training Friday Webinar recording for a quick overview of all the exciting new features and updates in the latest version of OfficeTools. Among them, a CreXendo integration, an installer to assist in moving to Abacus Private Cloud, and more!
About Free Training Friday: Since the beginning of 2017, we have been holding these free, 30-minute training hosted by our industry-leading experts and innovators who will teach you about AbacusLaw, Amicus Attorney, the Abacus Private Cloud, and now, Results CRM and OfficeTools Software. If you would like to request a topic, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello and welcome to this OfficeTools Free Training Friday. Today, we'll learn what's new in the latest version of OfficeTools. My name is Anna Weinkam, I am a Marketing Coordinator here at AbacusNext, and I have here with me Philip Phares and Nicole Fluty from OfficeTools.
This will be about a 30 minute free training, and we will answer your questions in the last 10 minutes, so feel free to input your questions in the question section of the GoToWebinar control panel. And with that, I will let Philip and Nicole take over.
Great, Anna, thank you so much, and thank you everybody for joining me here on a Friday. I'm recognizing even more and more names every week, so I almost feel like I have a Friday following. Thank you all so much for joining me.
Just to complete the housekeeping a little bit, one thing that we're going to do a little different moving forward on Fridays is polling questions. So I'm going to throw up some polling questions here real quick. They are very self-serving, but I would love and appreciate if you answered our polling questions as we go through the webinar.
This week's a little bit different. We're going to be talking about the latest and greatest in OfficeTools. Now I want to put a little asterisk next to that in that what I'm going to show you today, you won't be able to do in OfficeTools just yet, but Nicole's going to clarify some of that for us here in just a minute.
So again, my name is Philip Phares. Nicole Fluty is joining me, and I want to go ahead and start off real quick with the very first polling question. We're not wasting time anywhere, but I want to gauge everybody a little bit and make sure that the content that we're providing is what everybody is looking for. The question really is, what areas of OfficeTools from a training point of view would you like to see more of during these Free Training Fridays?
Again, we don't have a whole lot of time, but I want to make sure we touch all the parts that are important. So with that being said, I know Nicole has some information that she wants to bring to light, so Nicole, go ahead.
Hi guys. What I would like to announce is that we're going to have our up and coming release sometime next week. It will be our first release underneath the Abacus umbrella, so we couldn't be more excited about it. We've put a lot of hard work and effort into this release, a lot of new improvements and maintenance.
So again, we're very excited about it, and that's what OfficeTools users can expect is a quarter release from OfficeTools with improvements, new features, and of course, bug fixes and maintenance.
Perfect. So right now, what you may want to check or consider is that you're on the most current version. There are actually two publicly facing ones. If you are on one or the other, you are fine. You don't have to worry about being on the higher numbered one. There are different reasons why these were made available. So as long as you are on 2016.019 or 2017.043, then right now, you're good to go.
If you want to be notified of that new version, the best way to do that is to set those settings within OfficeTools because that's how you'll be notified when that release is available for you to update to. And I'll show everybody how to do that if you're not familiar with it. Okay, great.
So what we're going talk about today is a couple of things. We're going to talk about Crexendo, so we now have phone integration built right into OfficeTools. I can hear some cheering already through the webinar over the ability to sync multiple clients to the portal, along with downloading documents in bulk from the portal, which is great. We're going to talk about some cloud optimization, specifically, obviously, with Abacus Private Cloud. And some cool things in reports as far as contact groups go. So without further ado, let's jump in and have a look here.
So, the first one is going to be a little hard to show, but we'll talk about it, and I think everybody will understand and appreciate what this can mean. We've partnered up with Crexendo, and they over a voice over IP phone system, which is fantastic in so many ways. I recommend everybody go to their site, Crexendo.com, and have a look at what they offer. That being said, we do fully integrate with their phone system.
One thing that you'll notice is down here on the activity list, there's actually a new icon which represents the tool that you then can open up and monitor how this sync works. It does a couple of things, really cool things. First of all, if you receive a phone call, you get a pop-up notification where you can answer and create phone calls, you can put details of that conversation right in OfficeTools directly from the screen as it realizes that you're receiving a call. You can click to call, so you'll be able to click on a phone number and dial out through your phone. There's also some really cool utility when it comes to voicemails and attachments.
Again, to really see this, what we could do if you'd like, and if you want to see it, is schedule some time with our sales team. They do have the phone systems and everything, and they can visually show you what this might look like. I would like everyone to go to Crexendo's website and have a look at what they have there also. Very, very cool integration built right into OfficeTools, and it really allows your phone processes to be built right into the OfficeTools workspace. That's very, very cool. That's going to be a lot of fun.
New Portal Feature
Moving off to the next thing, and we're going to try to knock these down as quick as we can. Again, I want to make sure that we do leave some time for Q and A, so we're going to talk about these in a rapid-fire succession here. The next couple of things have to do with the portal. This probably ... Nicole, I don't know if you would agree ... this might be our number one requested portal feature, is the multiple clients.
This is something that we've wanted to do for a very long time. I even recognize a couple of names in our attendee list who have beaten me up personally over this, so I'm excited about this. This is great.Typically in OfficeTools, when syncing a client to the portal, it would be a process of choosing the contact, going to the portal button, and synchronizing them. Now, what you're able to do with this update is go directly to the contacts menu here at the top, and there will be a new option called Sync Multiple Contacts to Portal. Okay, you can open up this dialog, it will give you a list of all the clients, and you can just click, click, click, click, click who you want and send them portal invitations. Very quick, very cool. This is something, again, that has been requested quite a bit, and as part of the, as Nicole had mentioned, under the AbacusNext umbrella we're able to get this out even faster.
On the heels of that, something else that is requested quite frequently in regard to the portal is downloading documents that clients have uploaded. The client will upload a file to their portal account, you'll receive your e-mail notification, then you would navigate to the document management tab here. Under the portal button, you can go ahead and view all those files, all right? Now, this is a fictitious client, and obviously they're not uploading anything, but from right here, if I did have documents that I wanted to download in bulk, I could just simply click Download All Files, versus having to go through each one, one at a time to do so. Again, it's these small little things that I think pay off big time, especially in the heat of battle, during tax season when you have all kinds of information coming and going, and you just need to make it happen, these small features I think pay very, very big dividends.
Couple more cool things, real quick, is when it comes to if you're doing any synchronization of payments with the portal, we've added that ability to likewise in the payments area. If you go into the payment section, under billing, there is a portal button here, and within that there is an option of downloading all those and bringing all those payments over. Again, another thing that's a relatively small function, but you can receive and get all of those payments in one pass directly from the portal. Another very, very cool feature that I'm excited about.
Okay, so let's talk about something else again that not everybody will be able to see necessarily, and that is our cloud optimization. There's a lot of things that happen under the hood in a program that are built and designed in a very general way. What I mean by that is OfficeTools, or any application for that matter, is typically designed to work in the most general environments, meaning we don't know the type of computer system a user's going to have. Is it a new computer or an old computer? Do they have fast internet? What version of Windows are they using? And all these other things, so programs have to be designed in a certain way, and databases have to be built in a certain way, to make sure that it fits most people most of the time.
One really cool aspect of what we've been able to do recently is optimize OfficeTools to work in the APC, the Abacus Private Cloud environment. This is going to cover a lot of different ways, and I'm not going to get into the weeds into the technobabble here, but I want everyone to understand that in the APC environment, OfficeTools has been optimized in such a way that it is being built and designed to work as well as it possibly can. If you are having any kind of performance issues with OfficeTools, if you wondered if OfficeTools can run any better, then the answer is yes, and it's going to do that on APC. That's something that I want everyone to think about and consider, because from a performance point of view, we now control the environment also, and that allows us to do a lot more when it comes to reliability of the application, performance of the application, and so on. That's something, again, that you can't see. That's something that you can feel as you use OfficeTools in that secure cloud, that private cloud environment.
Filter Billing Reports by Contact Groups
Okay, so we're getting through these, just got quite a bit of time to talk about here, and I want to leave some room for Q and A because I know a lot of people are going to have a lot of questions. One area here that's something that we've wanted to do, again, for a long time that can be very, very helpful to anybody who's running billing reports. If you don't really do billing reports, this may or may not help you out a whole lot, but if you are, then this could be huge. We've added the ability to filter billing reports by contact groups. What this allows you to do is, let's say that you're running various reports and billing for, obviously, different reasons. You want to look at WIP, you want to look at a current AR, etc. We've now added to all of the different billing reports a contact groups filter.
Now, this is one of those really cool features that while I know a couple right out of the box reasons why offices are going to use this, I think this is going to turn into a feature that is heavily used by users in their own ways, in ways that we can't even anticipate right now. To give you an example, let's say I wanted to run an AR reconciliation report. I do have some filters available. I can filter by account manager. I can filter by contact, various other things, but maybe not everything. Maybe I want to filter by a certain region, or I want to filter by a custom definition that I've created, all my clients who are in the fast food industry, or clients who have a certain type of work that we do, or a certain service we provide them. I can actually create a contact group, associate the client to that group, and run this report based off of those custom contact groups. This is huge. This is really good. Again, I know a couple of reasons why offices are going to use this, especially offices that have just that multiple offices or multiple partners, or some way that they want to organize their billing reports that isn't a clearly defined field in OfficeTools. They can create their own custom groupings, put contacts and clients into those groupings, and run their billing reports based just off of those.
One client in particular that I can think of has a lot of offices in various areas, so running reports has always been a little tricky, especially because we have some limited filters on some of these reports. But with contact groups, what they'll be able to do is section off clients by regions and say, "I want to see all the billings for the Florida area." "I want to see all the billings for New York," and so on. This is a very, very powerful tool, and while it seems like a relatively simple option, this is quite a long time in the making as far as the complexity of what it takes to add this layer of filtering to reports, and I really hope everybody's going to jump in and get the most out of it, because it's a really, really powerful tool.
More Updates Already Available
There are some other things in OfficeTools I'm going to bring up. We got a couple more minutes here before I jump into the Q and A, that I want to talk about that people may have missed. These are not necessarily things that are going to be new in the update, because everything that you've seen is going to be in the next update. These are some things that are in OfficeTools that over the last few months or a year or so have been added or changed, and I want to bring it to everybody's attention, that way you know it's there if you haven't visited these areas in a while.
One of these specifically has to do with projects and how you set up and define projects. If you've done any kind of project creation in the past, you're probably familiar with all of the different windows and stuff that we have. Well, we've consolidated some of those options. To show you what I mean, if you navigate to the Setup menu here at the top, and you go under Project Definitions, there was a particular screen here for assignment groups or assignment options that allowed you to choose how your project's going to behave when it comes to your workflow, your assignments. There was a lot of options, a whole menu, and people would check boxes because it sounded like a really cool option, and it ended up just making the projects act completely silly and whatnot.
So what we did is we took two of the best iterations of project workflow, and we've created shortcuts to get to those settings. If you navigate to a project definition, and obviously each project can have its own version of this, and you go to the assignment options area, you'll now actually see workflow type. From here, on this dropdown menu, you can choose sequential, concurrent, or advanced, and advanced is going to be our favorite list of options that we were used to. But you can shortcut that and choose sequential or concurrent, and here's what they do:
The sequential workflow type is our best practices when it comes to projects that work in a clearly defined linear fashion: Step 1, then Step 2, then Step 3, and so on. Think tax returns, think bookkeeping and monthly work that's typically going to be sequential. In fact, I would even guess than 9 out of 10 of all of your projects are going to use this option right here. In the future, as you're creating new projects, or if you want to go back and modify existing ones, this is going to fit the bill most of the time. You don't have to worry about all of those other options. The project's just going to work in a linear, step by step way. You have a lot of flexibility. You can add additional steps if you need to. You can skip steps if you want to, but this is the best practices when it comes to sequential-style workflow within a project.
The other option, which is concurrent, is the opposite. This is basically saying all of the steps within your project are individual tasks, they're not connected necessarily in any way. This is going to be for audit type work, perhaps, or any kind of project where you have multiple people involved or multiple assignments involved, but there's no direct correlation between these steps. Whether I get my job done or not, that doesn't mean you have to wait, or you can't complete your part. We're independent as far as the assignment work goes. This is another common option, and we've shortcut it a little bit and condensed it down to one step. You don't have to worry about the check boxes, it's just going to work right out of the gate. If for some reason neither one of these guys are really working for you, you can always go back to the tried and true advanced settings and check the boxes for the appropriate options and things that you're looking for.
Those are some great things that we've done in projects to streamline it a little bit. Newer users are going to benefit more from this, I believe, because they're going down this road of creating projects, but if it's been a while since you've reviewed your projects or if they're acting a little weird, you know what? It might be helpful to just come back in here, flip that workflow type over to sequential or concurrent, and be done with it and know that it's set up with best practices in mind.
One other area that I want to cover real quick in the context of projects are reminder options. Again, if we go back into the project definition, you look at reminders options, we've changed this around a little bit to make it a little clearer. Now, what we have is we still have the three sections. We've moved some things around a little bit, but we've put them all in one place. Under the project definition reminder options, you can see the project due date reminders. Remember, everybody should know this, but just to reiterate, the project manager is the person who gets the project due date reminders. We have those options in here.
We also have that option that allows reminders if projects have been created and they're coming up due and we haven't started them yet. Those are going to be unprocessed. If you have a project and you got a reminder set up and no one's even touched it yet, you may want another alert just for that item. And then lastly, we've added the staff assignment reminders. This is the value that you're going to set when you want to dictate how long somebody has to complete their assignment once it's assigned to them. If we want to give them five days before it's due from the time we assign it, or if we want it to be assigned five days before it's due, then this is where we can go ahead and control that value. We can push these options out to existing projects also, which can be very helpful.
For existing OfficeTools users, this is really cool because we now have reminders that can be managed on a definition level versus having one global option that managed and pushed this out to every definition, so now we've got those unique values that you can set, giving you a lot more flexibility in maintaining those reminders per project.
Perfect. Okay, so those are some things that we wanted to talk about today that are maybe newer items that people may not be aware of, because they're typically setup options, and then obviously all the really exciting stuff that's coming out. I'm going to go ahead now and pull up the last polling question real quick, and then we're going to get off into the actual Q and A areas. Let me go ahead and put this up real quick. For the question, this is really about anybody who might want some more information on Abacus Private Cloud, on APC. If you're having performance issues, if security is a concern, which it should be for everybody, this is definitely one of those areas where we want to do a little bit more homework and do a little bit more research.
But now what I want to do is open up the gates a little bit to questions. If you have any questions, now's a really good time to type those into the questions area. I'm going to go ahead and look through those, and we'll address it. If for some reason we don't get to your question, I do a follow-up, and I'll go ahead and answer those questions after the webinar.
Do you integrate with any other voice over IP systems?
Currently, no. To integrate with a phone system is actually very, very complex and requires both parties to commit quite a bit of resources to doing. Crexendo was obviously excited about the prospect also, and we have a really good partnership, and we made that happen. We are obviously always open for any future integration with phone system providers. Let them know about us. Let us know about them. We'd be more than happy to pursue that, but currently, the only voice over IP, the only phone system that we integrate with is Crexendo.
Will this be offered as a beta test so it won't interfere with our current application before tax season?
Very, very good question, and understandably a cautious question. But no, we don't offer any kind of dual-running licensing, I guess is the best way to word that. You can install it, and it's obviously been through all the testing and things of that sort. If for some reason you don't like the updated change, let us know and we can revert you back to previous versions. It's not a commitment so far as that you can't go back, but we do not offer a beta version in addition to your existing license. Okay, good questions.
Is the private cloud the same thing as the portal?
No, but very, very good question. One thing to differentiate is, the portal is really a landing zone for you and one of your clients, what I'll refer to as an end user, to send documents back and forth. It's secure, requires log-ins and all of that, but that's really something that your client is going to interface with, that you interact with via OfficeTools.
The Abacus Private Cloud is just that, it's a fully managed private cloud solution, meaning that every program you have: OfficeTools, your Microsoft products, Outlook Exchange, your tax applications, QuickBooks, and everything is hosted on a private cloud, where it's secure, you don't have to worry about the ransomware stuff, it's single tenants. There's a lot of really, really good benefits to hosting it, but you're basically putting all of your applications in this secure hosted managed environment. All your IT concerns and all of that are taken care of. While both, yes, the portal and APC are online services and products, the portal is really more of a client-facing repository of information, as where the Abacus Private Cloud is a solution for your entire firm. I hope that clarifies it. If you have some more questions, you want a little bit more about the technical things, you can go to AbacusNext.com, which is the parent company of OfficeTools.
I think right now, we're just about at our time, so if there's no other questions, I just want to take a moment to thank everybody for joining us. I really look forward to getting with everybody on Fridays. For all of our repeat attendees, thank you so much, hopefully I'll see you guys next week. For everybody who this is the first webinar, this was a little bit more informational and a little less training, but nonetheless it's some information that we're excited about, and we wanted to get it out to everybody, so thank you so, so much. Nicole, thank you very much for your input today and all the hard work that you've done on this update. She has worked her butt off on this for a long time, so we all now get to reap the rewards of her hard work. Anna, I want to thank you also for hosting.
Everybody have a great weekend.
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