FRIDAY, AUGUST 17, 2012

Can Technology Threaten Law Firm Productivity?

HOW TO ENSURE PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE HELPS RATHER THAN HINDERS YOUR LAW FIRM’S PRODUCTIVITY

RESEARCHERS DISCOVER WHAT HINDERS PRODUCTIVITY

The verb to clutter is defined as "covering with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness." 

Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute have proven that when our environment is cluttered and chaotic, it restricts our ability to focus. Our brains aren't able to process information as well and we become distracted — disabling us from working as well as we would in an organized environment. 

As a lawyer who deals with a multitude of tasks, desk space could easily become a breeding ground for clutter. For some, random piles of paper, file folders and post-it notes cover every square inch, leaving little space to work — much less work effectively. 
A cluttered environment encourages distraction, ineffective multitasking, procrastination and a feeling of being overwhelmed. 

But the danger zone isn't limited to the physical work space … 

The Invasion of Techno-Clutter …

These days there's an app for absolutely everything. Legal professionals certainly know this better than most. With an endless menu of legal apps available on the market, our computer's desktop can very quickly become a victim of Techno-Clutter. 

In a law practice, specialized software is certainly a necessity. Among many other things, you need an efficient way of storing client information, scheduling appointments, tracking billable hours and billing for time worked. 

The challenge arises when you require multiple applications to accomplish these tasks. Your desktop will soon become a chaotic hodgepodge of icons and open windows, making it very difficult to stay focused and organized. 

Having to use multiple applications brings other inconveniences as well: 

1. You need the proper technology (hardware) to run these different applications. 
2. You need the money to purchase all the different applications and technology. 
3. You need the time to learn how to use these applications and get the real benefit from them. 

What if there is an application that doesn't require any new hardware? 

What if that application incorporates the most useful practice management tools into one place? 

What if this application could seamlessly integrate into Microsoft Outlook — a tool as familiar to you as the back of your hand? 

And what if you could easily download the application in minutes, for FREE? 

Credenza is this unique tool that combines matter management, document management, calendaring, contact management, e-mail, time tracking, billing, tasks and much much more into a single interface that runs in Outlook!

Credenza is a peerless practice management tool that enables you and your firm to share information in a familiar interface. And it does it all without a server. A revolutionary "hybrid cloud" technology allows multiple users to connect to the same team, no matter where they are in the world. By using information you already have in Outlook and hyper secure Microsoft Azure technology, Credenza lets you log an e-mail onto a client file from your desk while your partner books an appointment from theirs. No extra hardware, no extra software, Outlook and an Internet connection is all you need. 

 

MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2012

Who You Going to Call?

The quality and timeliness of client communications has a big impact on the success of your firm. While today’s advanced technology lets us shoot off replies via text, email, tweets and more, we can’t ignore the importance of the phone call. It is an effective tool for client communications, especially when you aren’t able to set up a face-to-face meeting.

One key component of a phone call is the follow-up. In particular, staying on top of callbacks by tracking details such as when a message was left, whether there were any action items and most importantly, have you returned the call. To ensure that I stay current with my callbacks, I set aside an hour or two each day to deal with them, but with so much going on in a day, how do I know the status of each callback?

Well, with Credenza, it is effortless! You can simply filter your phone call list to just show callbacks. These include callbacks that you have created or messages taken by other team members and assigned to you.

 Simply select “Phone Calls” on the left-hand menu. Then, on the screen that appears, go to the ‘Show’ menu and select “All Callbacks” from the drop-down list. You can also specify what user/group you want to see the callbacks for, however callbacks will only appear if they have been assigned to a matter that you share with the selected Team Member/group.

Voila! A list of phone calls you need to return. It’s never been easier to stay on top of client communications than with your Credenza.

 

MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2012

Basic Search

A while back I talked about the Team Search feature (which provides the ability to instantly search in full-text across your team database). But did you know that there is also a feature in Credenza that helps you search for items when you already know what module they are located in. Read on to find out more!

Usually my memory is pretty sharp- I can remember details about projects I’ve worked on, articles I’ve read and the name of the singer who was kicked off American Idol in the third week of the 8th season. But sometimes the steel trap that is my mind needs a little help in recalling minute details… and that’s where Credenza comes in.

Credenza includes module specific searches for Files, Phone Calls, Time/Expenses and Billing. Within each module, your search parameters change according to what you are looking in. So let’s say that you would like to search in your Files module: you can choose to search on Name, Summary, Referral Source, Other Text & Memo Fields, and All Common Fields.

So how do you get to this basic search? Easy! If you are in your Outlook inbox, simply click the “Search Credenza” button in the top toolbar to begin.  From there, you will be able to select the module you would like to search from the pop-up menu that appears (that is, if you’re not already in that module). Once the search menu has appeared, simply fill in the information you are looking for and select what item you would like to “Search In.”

If you don’t want the search option showing up again for the rest of your session in Credenza, you can just turn it off by clicking the “Search Credenza” button again, or clicking the ‘X’ in the far right corner.

Your mind is one of your best tools, but it may drop the ball from time to time. Let Credenza pick it up with the Basic Search – find exactly what you are looking for, when you need it!

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2012

Everything in Order

It is always important to know where you stand with regards to your practice. Are deadlines being met? Have time entries been created and the corresponding invoices sent out? Are you up to date on your communications with every client?

I use Credenza for all of these reasons. But there are even more ways this program can provide further insight into your practice. A feature you may have overlooked is the chronology. With the Chronology tab in the Credenza File screen, you can see everything on that file in chronological order.

Sometimes I want to see the work I’ve done for a given time frame and sometimes I want to see just the work I’ve done on a single file. This helps me get a complete picture for any file that I am working on - so I can help provide even better service to my clients.

When I open a file and click on the Chronology tab, a list of everything that has taken place on that file along with all scheduled events or actions is displayed. This includes appointments, time entries, email messages, notes, phone calls…everything listed in the order it was done!

Seeing full details is as easy as clicking on the activity to open it! Plus, Credenza has the ability to filter your Chronology screen as you see fit. You can click on the Date header and have your entries sorted in chronological or reverse-chronological order.

With your Credenza, you will always know where you stand with your practice.

 

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2012

Show Me the Money/Show Them the Money

When I opened my Credenza the other day, I got a notification that a new Credenza update was available, would I like to install it now? Of course I would!

One feature of this update that caught my eye was the ability to customize the appearance of invoices. We’re still dealing with a tough economic climate so I thought it was a good to time to shed more light on the ways Credenza helps you make money!

While invoicing your clients may not be a fun task, it is a necessary one. Credenza makes it easy for you to create an invoice from bills on files, so that you can send them out in a timely manner. Invoices are often one of the final interactions you have with your client and so you obviously want them to look the best that they can.

Adding a logo to your invoices can make them look more professional, as well as provide you with more exposure. I know that not every lawyer has a logo… but that doesn’t mean your invoices can’t look polished.

With the new update, there are a few additional invoice preferences. You can still opt to use just a logo, but now you can input a logo and text (or just text in a fun font!)

Customizing the appearance of your invoices couldn’t be easier. From your main Credenza screen:

  1. Select Credenza Options and click on the Billing tab on the top of the Options box.
  2. Click on “Invoice Options”.
  3. On this screen, you are able to customize many things for invoices (Formatting, Invoice Header, Invoice Footer, and Saving Options).

With this update, you also have the ability to change the title of your invoices. I prefer to call my invoices ‘Bills’ and always wished I could send them out with that heading, and now I can! Bills, accounts, or whatever term you prefer… Credenza lets you change your titles as a new invoice preference.

 

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2012

See More, Sort More, Do More

Let’s face it, we live in a fast-paced world where everything needs to be done yesterday. I know I’m always looking for ways to make my job (and therefore my life) easier. You may have been able to tell from previous posts that I am slightly obsessed with customization (especially in my Credenza). But that’s because it really helps me to streamline my work.

If you like customization as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that you can add more fields to Credenza list views, so you can filter and group things such as Files. And you can re-order fields as you see fit.

The best part? It is so simple to do! I’ll show you how using Files as an example:

  1. First, click on the Credenza tab in your Outlook.
  2. Select the Files option in the lower left navigation.
  3. Once your Files list appears, right click anywhere on the screen and select Show Fields… on the menu that appears.
  4. A new window will open. On the left is a list of the available field types you can add and on the right is a list showing which fields are already selected to appear in your view. Select the Field(s) you would like to add and click on the button. Similarly, to remove a field, select it and click on the < button.
  5. To change the order in which fields appear, simply select the field and drag it to the position you prefer or select the item and use the move up or move down commands. You will also be able to change the order in which fields appear right from the Files view. Just drag and drop it to the desired position.
  6. Once you are satisfied, click OK to return your Files view.

Simply follow these easy steps to customize your Credenza and further streamline your work! Fields are listed how you want, where you want. Plus, if the fields you have added no longer suit your needs at some time in the future, it is just as easy to take those fields out as it was to add them!

 

FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 2012

Reporting on Your Practice: Always Know Where You Stand

In my last post, I talked about how Credenza can help to streamline your practice by aiding with legal research… in my case, helping me actually stick to one of my New Year’s Resolutions. Lucky for me (and you), there are even more ways Credenza simplifies my job - so of course I want to share them with you!

Today we’re going to take a look at Credenza’s report-drafting capabilities. These make it unbelievably easy to see cross-sections and summaries of important practice information.

For example, instead of going from file to file to check if/how many cases I opened in a given month, I can just run one of Credenza’s many reports to give me a summary of what I am looking for. Once you have the data you are seeking, you can easily print it out, save it to Adobe PDF, or export it to Microsoft Excel.

Here is a quick how-to on creating reports through your Credenza:

  1. First, click on the Credenza tab in your Outlook.
  2. Click on the Reports option. This will launch a new window.
  3. In the new window, select from the Files, Time Sheets, Phone Calls, or Billing tabs. Each tab contains more filtering options to choose from, like date ranges, etc. With the Time Sheets tab, you will also be asked what team member you want the information pulled from. This is a great way to see what your group members are doing, or just how busy you’ve been.
  4. Click ‘Run Report.’ The report will then open in a new window within your Outlook
  5. Click on the report’s File tab to print the report, publish it to PDF or to save it in Excel format.

With Credenza’s vast reporting capabilities, you can easily access the data you want, when you want it, where you want it.

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012

New Year, Better Business: How Credenza Will Help Your New Year’s Resolution

It’s January, meaning it’s time for the classic New Year’s Resolution. While many people commit to eating healthier, saving more money or cutting out stress, I have committed to streamlining my work processes. But unlike those who give up 3 weeks in, I have a secret weapon to guarantee success - and that is my Credenza.

Like many of you, doing research is an integral part of my job. Because I do it so much, research details need to be easy to save, find, and access. 

With Credenza, this is a cinch! It stores all research details in the file the material relates to. This makes it really easy for me to see all components of each file. Plus it gives me a snapshot of the big picture: research details are placed right alongside emails, appointment and other items save to the file.

Credenza even has a built-in Research Assistant, making it super easy to do online research from within your Outlook! I use it to look through search engines like Google Scholar, Google Legal and Bing; when I find an article of relevance, I can easily save it to a research article in a single click.

Credenza can’t help you with those last five pounds but it does make it easier to reference and store all of your research.

 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012

Adding File and Time Columns

In recent posts I have talked about customizing my Credenza during set-up as well as tailoring certain parts as I get more familiar with the program. Today’s post combines these two things as I share a tip on how to change folders or lists you create to mirror those created on set-up… you’ll see what I mean in a moment.

One very neat feature of Credenza is that File and Time Entry columns are added to most item lists in Outlook. These columns display any associated files and let you know if a time entry has been created giving you a quick summary of work done on any given item.

Now here’s something to keep in mind. These columns are automatically created upon your initial Credenza set-up, but you need to add them yourself to new folders or any additional list views that you create. Sounds time consuming, but I promise it’s really not! It’s just as easy as everything else is with Credenza.

Here is a step by step guide to help walk you through this process.

  1. You will be using the standard Outlook function to perform this task.
  2. Open the list view in which you want the column(s) to appear.
  3. Right-click on the view’s column headings and choose Field Chooser.
  4. Click New.
  5. For the File column, enter the name “File” (or “Matter”, or “Project”, or whichever term you set Credenza to display). Note: leave the type and format set to Text, then click OK.
  6. For the Time Entry column, enter the name “Time?”. Note: leave the type and format set to Text, then click OK.
  7. Drag the new field from the Field Chooser list to the desired position on the column headers.
  8. If the term shown for file/matter/project was changed, remove the old column (showing the old term) by simply dragging it off the header row.

And don’t forget, if you remove a column from any view, you can always add it back later. Also, if you ever decide to change the terminology used for files/matters/projects, the column name will change automatically.

 

MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2011

Team Search

At this time of year with the holidays looming, financial quarters closing and the weather changing, everyone seems to be rushing around with no time to relax. I get so busy that I often can’t even find my keys, let alone find that specific document that was sent to me in an email months ago.

That was all before Credenza! Now I can always find just what I am looking for using the Team Search feature. This handy tool provides you with the ability to instantly search in full-text across your team database; any item you have associated with your shared files can easily be searched. Whether you’re looking for a specific Outlook appointment, a task, contacts, notes, time entries… you name it, Credenza can help you locate it.

So what do you do if you’re looking for an email attachment but can’t remember the contents of the email to search by? Don’t worry! You can use the Team Search feature to look across the full content of all Web documents for your client files and documents attached to your email messages.

If you’re like me and often want to go a little more in-depth with your searches, there is always the advanced option which allows you to specify even more search criteria. With the advanced search, you can look for precise phrases or even exclude certain words from your search.

With Credenza and the Team Search feature, you never have to worry about losing something in your own email again – giving you more time to look for your missing keys.

 

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2011

As You Like It: Custom Fields

In our previous post, we talked about customizing Credenza during set up. Today, I’m going to show you several ways that you can tailor Credenza as you become more familiar with your software.

If you are anything like me, you are always looking for ways to further improve efficiencies, in this case with Credenza. Just when I thought that I had my Credenza Files set up to catalogue all the information I could dream of, a colleague showed me that there was more I could do. So now, I’m going to take my new knowledge and share it with you so you too can take your productivity to the next level!

Different professions often need to track different types of information. With Credenza, you can create custom fields by file type just by clicking on the ‘Custom’ tab right in the File itself. These custom fields help you store all the extra information you want; this customization gives you a great deal of flexibility when working in Outlook.

Here’s a mini how to for creating custom fields. Simply:

  1. Open the File you want to add custom fields to.
  2. Click on the ‘Custom’ tab.
  3. Click on ‘Edit Custom Fields’. This will launch a new window.
  4. Once the new window is open, click on the ‘New’ tab to reveal a drop down list.
  5. Select which type of field you would like (text, memo etc.)
  6. Name the new field.
  7. Save and close this window. 
  8. You will now be able to fill out the information you want to add in the main File view.

And remember, customize doesn’t always mean adding. You can simplify as well as supplement. It’s just as easy to hide columns in index list views to present less information.

 

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2011

Practice Management System or Chameleon?

One of Credenza’s notable traits is its chameleon-like qualities. There is vast potential for customization in this program; it isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all practice management solution. You can set it up many different ways so that it meets the needs of all types of professions. Basically, you can customize Credenza so that it works the way you want it to.

When you first set up Credenza, you are prompted to select your profession from a set list (legal, accounting, consulting, or other). Could it get any easier? Well, it does! When you select one of the pre-set professions, Credenza automatically offers you pre-populated lists with industry-specific terminology. Let’s say you select Legal: you will be offered terms such as Cases or Files. Credenza even makes suggestions for related case types and contact roles.

And don’t worry, if you don’t see the term you want to use, you can simply create your own. One thing I really like is that you always have the option to change or add terms – and changes are applied to all users, so consistency is not an issue.

Getting too crazy for you? Don’t feel like we are forcing your hand to customize. If you want to keep Credenza the exact same as when you installed it, feel free. One of the most intrinsic parts of this program is that it is ready to go right out of the box, without fuss, muss or intense adaptation.

I’ll leave you with the following thought. I like to think that Credenza gets absorbed by Outlook… you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. This program really does adapt to every environment. So, is Credenza a highly specialized and intuitive practice management system or is it a really cool reptile adapting to its environment?

 

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2011

Organize Your Inbox

In last week’s A File Centric Outlook post, I mentioned that there is a way to set Credenza to automatically move messages out of my inbox into subfolders. This helps me to keep my inbox tidy so that I am better able to stay on top of my email. Of course I could always drag messages out to folders that I've created once I've dealt with it, but why not let Credenza do it for me?

I know my first question when I heard about this was ‘does Credenza know what to name the folders or do I have to specify each folder name?’ The answer is very simple and will save you precious time. Credenza creates a folder for each of your client files, and when you’re ready, moves the emails out of the inbox to the appropriate folder, so you don’t have to do anything!

This really cool feature is very helpful, especially when used to manage not only your incoming but outgoing email as well.

I have my Inbox Control set to move emails from my inbox to their associated folder if the message isn’t marked for follow-up, if it has been in my inbox for five days and if a time entry has been created. Since I have three different criteria set, each one of them must be met before Credenza will move an email. With these controls, I know that messages won’t go unattended and I know exactly where to find them if I need to reference them at a later date.

As I mentioned above, one major plus that Credenza offers is the ability to sort emails from your outbox. I feel like sent items are often overlooked. If you are a lawyer, accountant, or any business professional, you know that it is just as important to keep track of your outgoing messages.

When I want to review my communications for a specific project, all I have to do is go the folder Credenza created and voila! A list of all my received and sent emails.

You can also access all emails pertaining to a specific File - along with phone call details, appointments, tasks, time and expenses - directly from the File. It really is that easy to stay organized and track information in Credenza!

 

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2011

A File Centric Outlook®

Some might say that I am slightly obsessed with order. Before I started using Credenza, my Outlook inbox looked like an overly-segmented organizational diagram. There was an endless list of folders with subfolder and sub-subfolders. Not to mention my list of custom rules that was a mile long.

When you look at how emails are sorted in Outlook, they are generally organized by date, sender, or subject – a more transactional approach. The one thing that always bothered me about this was how there was no way to centrally locate information – not just emails, but associated appointments or contacts. Sure, you can create rules so emails are automatically sent to particular folders as they come in, but that’s as far it goes.

Like many practices out there, I work and think in a file centric manner. If you’re new to our blog or don’t use Credenza yet, you’re probably thinking “if only Outlook were file centric”. Well, with Credenza it is, and it makes it super easy to associate emails to Files! Essentially, Credenza turns Outlook® into a file centric practice management tool. While with Outlook you can use rules to move emails to folders, with Credenza you can easily associate emails to Files - in addition to moving messages to folders named after a specific File (I’ll elaborate on this part in our next post). And it’s up to you whether you want to set future emails to or from the same email address to be automatically associated to the same File.

Since Credenza adds Files to Outlook, I can see all File related material (appointments, contacts, expenses, time entries…) in one place. Just open a File and it is all there.

With Credenza, information is not only organized by sender and recipient, but by project! Now that my emails are organized by File, I can’t imagine having to go back to Outlook’s basic sorting capabilities.

 

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2011

Attention Credenza Customers - A New Update Is Now Available

One of the perks of subscription based software is that any new features or updates are immediately available to you – and at no additional charge! When I came into work last Wednesday, I launched my Outlook and poof – there it was, waiting for me.

Last week’s update included some great new features, many of which came from suggestions submitted by fellow Credenza users. So, a big thank you for sharing your valuable feedback. In case you missed the “what’s included in the update”, here is a quick summary.

  1. With Credenza you can generate bills for your fees and expenses. All it takes is a single click and you have a draft bill for your selected time entries. Once you are ready, you can convert the draft bill into an invoice. Now say you get to this point and notice that there is a missed time entry for an appointment that should have been included in the invoice. In the past, you would have had to create a second separate invoice to send to the client. But now, you can simply revert the invoice back to a draft bill, go in and make any necessary adjustments before sending out the invoice. Huge time saver, and much cleaner if I do say so myself!
  2. Credenza comes with all types of reports that look at the various cross-sections of your business. My personal favorites were the Client Payment Distribution and the Time and Fee Listing reports. I run them at the end of every week so I can see how much work had been done and how much had been collected. You may have noticed my use of the past tense – favorites were… That’s because of the new Client Profitability report. This report is by far my new favorite! It not only gives me a complete overview of all work, it shows me how much revenue is being contributed by person- in a single report!
  3. When creating a bill in Credenza, you will notice that there is a very handy section at the bottom of the screen that totals all fees, expenses and taxes. And now, just below this amount due there is a spot where you can specify what portion (if any) is to be withdrawn from a retainer or trust account. This definitely makes it much easier to use any money in trust or held as a retainer towards bills.
  4. The last new feature in this update was a must have. Credenza now allows you to make partial payments from retainer or trust accounts. You either had to have enough money to cover the entire bill in retainer or trust, or you couldn’t use it. Amazing how such a small thing can make such a big difference.

All in all, this update provided some pretty useful features. Enjoy!

 

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2011

I Can’t Take Your Call – Please Leave A Message

How do you keep track of your phone messages? Does your assistant hand you pink message slips? Do you rely on Post-it notes all over your desk? Are they lost in a notebook somewhere?

With the number of phone calls and messages I receive every day, it gets very hard to keep track of who I need to get back to and what specifically a call was about. That is why I absolutely love how easy Credenza makes it to not only record the details of incoming and outgoing phone calls, but to track the details of voice messages as they are picked up.

And to further simplify life, Credenza also lets you take messages for other team members. Say somebody is out of the office, in a meeting, or just can’t get to the phone, you can take a message on their behalf - right from your Outlook. When you work in a team environment, there is a drop down box (right beside the callback required button) with all of your colleagues’ names. Just select the appropriate person and the message will appear in their list of required callbacks.

Every morning, I come in and go straight to my phone call list. Here I see a complete history of all of my incoming and outgoing communications. And because Credenza runs as a part of Outlook, I can see my phone call notes alongside my emails. I can also see all of my files and a record of all phone calls, even those recorded by my colleagues who are also working on a given file.

And for those days when I know I will out of the office without access to a computer, I simply print off a report showing me all the callbacks I need to place, and take it with me. That way, if I have any spare time, I can return a call or two!

Being able to track messages and record details of incoming and outgoing phone calls has had a very positive impact for me. I am confident in saying that calls are retuned in a timely fashion and I no longer find myself scrambling to gather information or trying to decipher just what that phone message said.

 

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2011

It’s Easy to Follow Up with Clients on Overdue Accounts with Credenza Pro

A couple of weeks ago I discovered how easy it is to use Credenza Pro’s Collection Assistant to help me follow up with my firm’s clients on matters that still have outstanding balances. 
Last month as I received a couple of checks in payment of invoices that I’d sent out at the beginning of last month, I tracked the incoming payments in Credenza Pro. But I knew that I’d sent out invoices for more than a couple of accounts, which meant that I still had a couple of outstanding bills to collect on.

Not only did the Collection Assistant help me to send out reminder messages to clients who didn’t pay on time, it was a very effective way for me to obtain payment for those unpaid invoices! This was probably because as I was using Credenza to organize my email and calendar, enter time and expenses, as well as keep all of our client matter files in order, the Collection Assistant was never very far away to remind me to collect on our unpaid bills.

So in the Collection Assistant I decided to view all matters for which no payment was received in the last 30 days that had an outstanding balance of at least $0. Up popped a list of delinquent client matter files! Since it showed whether a payment was made at the last payment date or not, I could see just how overdue these payments were. That meant that I had outstanding balances that had remained unpaid for longer than just the most recent month. I knew I had to get busy now and remind these clients to pay our firm so that it could maintain a healthy cash flow.

With one click of my mouse I created late payment reminders for the outstanding client accounts, attaching the pertinent invoices for each. That’s a pretty direct way to remind my clients to pay their overdue accounts, and since I sent payment reminders twice in the last month to these clients with overdue accounts, they paid up. What a great way to reduce our outstanding accounts receivable!

I’ve found that Credenza Pro’s Collection Assistant is easy to access from various points while I’m carrying out my regular work. I can just click on it when I’m in the Billing view of the Billing module. Or else I can choose it right from the Credenza menu.

Using the Collection Assistant has proved to be the most effective way for me to collect on our delinquent accounts in a professional and easy way.

 

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2011

Batch Billing in Credenza Pro Speeds Up the Billing Process

This morning I decided to take a look at the financial status of my client files in Credenza®, my practice management program in Outlook®. I was pretty sure that I had accumulated quite a bit of work in progress time for many of my files, and that I’d also amassed a lot of expenses in long distance telephone calls and travel that I’d done for one client in particular.

Now since it was the beginning of a fresh new month, it was time to take a look at where I was at from a business point of view and see what work I could create invoices for. I usually like to stay organized and send out my bills at the beginning of each month for previous work done during the past month.

In this blog post I’m going to go through the step-by-step process of creating multiple invoices with one click, through Credenza Pro’s Batch Billing feature.

Before even going into Credenza Pro’s Batch Billing feature, I clicked on the Billing tab to check things out. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered that I could see each client file and how much was billed and what was still outstanding. All I needed to narrow down was how much work I could include on the invoice up to the last day of the previous month. I had worked on a couple of files over the weekend, on October 1st and 2nd, and I wanted to be sure that this time wouldn’t be included in the invoices I was about to prepare.

So I clicked on the Batch Bill tab. Right at the top of the page I could designate that only the Matters with unbilled time or expenses up to the last day of September would be included in my current billing. What a time-saver! I could just plug in the last day of the month, September 30, to get a list of all unbilled time or expenses up to that point! Then I clicked Create Invoices, and within an instant all of the necessary bills for September were created – all I now have to do is just send them out through my Outlook email.

This great feature is probably the biggest time saver for people like me, who regularly send out invoices at the beginning of every month for the previous month’s work. Instead of creating bills one by one and going through the Draft Bill screen, I could quickly create final invoices in one single step.

Just to keep it interesting, there’s another way that Credenza Pro lets me do my billing en masse. I can go to the WIP view of the Billing module that lists all of the unbilled expenses and work in progress, and just click on the Batch Bill button at the bottom of the page. This is a great way to get my invoices out when I bill more frequently than once a month – sometimes it’s just better to get an invoice out to a client as work in progress and expenses warrant it.

In the next blog post, I’ll be writing about Credenza Pro’s Collection Assistant, a useful tool that easily helps me follow up with any client on matters with outstanding balances.

 

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2011

Web-Based Document Management Improves How Teams Work Together

I work with my colleague Jody on pretty well everything, and we share many of our documents. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, except that she works from home much of the time and can’t access any of my documents as I change them.

We work with Credenza Pro, and each time we use it we’re discovering more about what a great solution it is for us. What I discovered the other day is that we don’t have to email our drafts back and forth to each other anymore. Rather than multiple email attachments, we just save our documents to the files we are working on in Credenza. It’s a lot easier. And, since we’re using Credenza Pro, we save all our shared documents as web documents. I’ll explain why that is so helpful.

In general there are three places you can store your documents in Credenza Pro – on your own PC, on your firm’s server, or on the web. The one that I like the best is the third option, and now Jody and I store all of our shared documents as web documents.  For Credenza this means that the latest Microsoft technologies are used to store the documents on a Windows Azure™ “cloud” server with 256-bit encryption, and it’s super-secure. But for me it just means that everything that I put there is safe, and I never have to worry about them. They’re even backed up for me, so no matter what happens to my computer, I know my documents are available and secure. 

One of the best things about sharing documents on the web is that you can have the most recent version regardless of who last edited them or where each member of your team is located. You can access shared documents from a laptop while you’re on the road, collaborate with other professionals who are located in different states, or stay updated on documents that many different users are working on right in the same office. As long as you have an Internet connection, it’s easy to stay updated with your group’s latest projects using Credenza Pro’s web-based document management feature.

Storing all of our documents on the web has really improved how we work together. We both have access to all of our files, and even if we’re working on the same file we know that we’re both going to be updated with the latest version all of the time, no matter who has worked on it. For me this means that I never have to worry that anyone’s changes have been missed.

There’s another little tip that I just discovered today. It’s incredibly easy to save my documents as Credenza web documents, right from inside Microsoft Word. In its “Save” dialog, Word has a list of your “Favorite” places that you save documents. Credenza’s Web Documents appear there as a Favorite – and your full list of client/matter files is available, so you can choose exactly the file to save it to. So right from the standard Word Save dialog you can organize your documents, and make them available online to everyone you’re working with. It really couldn’t be any easier than that.

 

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2011

There's a Billing Program in my Outlook®

Your email program is probably the last place you’d ever expect to do your bills from. But since Outlook is the place where you spend most of your day, Credenza puts all the tools you need into it for you. It’s very easy to open up the Billing module in the Pro version of Credenza and create an invoice for a client right while you’re working on that client’s file – which is also within Outlook.  As well as tracking your time and expenses in Credenza, you can create draft bills, send invoices, track payments, monitor work-in-progress, manage Trust activity and manage collections. This means that you can use the integrated billing features that are built right into Credenza while you are making phone calls, sending emails, or completing client documents – all from within Outlook.

Where billing-related functionality starts for most users is with recording their time and expenses. Credenza has a Time & Expenses module, seamlessly woven into Outlook. It’s easy to complete Time Entries for any of your Outlook activities, as well as for other activities. There are other built-in features that help you record time in Credenza as you work in your practice. You can run a timer on any email that you send, record the time directly from the recorded phone call feature, record time spent on tasks, or utilize the product’s Time Entry Assistant – that makes a list of everything in Outlook that no time entry was done for. The Time & Expenses Module allows you to see and filter all of your time entries and expenses in a single view.

Credenza Pro’s centralized billing functionality enables users to optionally include all of their recorded time entries and expenses on client invoices. When it’s time to bill a client, a number of filtering options let users decide what criteria to choose in order to produce a draft bill – as well as what information to include on the bill. Once a draft bill has been checked and finalized, Credenza Pro creates the final bill and then handles emailing it to the client.

When a client emails about the status of their bill, you can find the answers - right from within their Outlook. Within the Billing module, Credenza Pro offers users the option of seeing different financial and Work in Progress information related to their Files. Users can select either the Billing view that shows a history of all invoices and payments, or the Work In Progress view that lists all unbilled WIP time.  And of course track all the payments.

And if clients are slow to pay, there’s another useful tool: Credenza Pro’s Collections Assistant. This handy tool quickly finds all files that have a balance owing and offers the option to create a Late Payment Reminder, making Credenza Pro the complete practice management tool that professionals value to run their practice.

 

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2011

Client Service Gets Cutting Edge with Credenza Pro

Credenza Pro is great when your client calls and you need to know what everyone in your firm is doing on their case. It’s as easy as opening a shared file in Outlook and seeing the whole firm’s work listed and updated in real time, right while you are on the phone with a client. 

Let’s say you are using just Outlook, and your client calls and wants to be updated on their file that has been on the back burner for a while. To refresh your memory, you quickly look to your inbox for recent correspondence from your client. Maybe you moved all the messages for that file to a folder, so you check there. Still nothing new, so you look through your calendar. But it’s hard to tell from there what file each appointment is related to. Now you scan your task list because you remember completing a task recently on the file. Next you put your client on hold and call your partner. You ask her if she has done anything recently on this matter. She repeats this process with her own Outlook, and lets you know of a couple of things that have been happening. It took several minutes and you had to put the client on hold, but you’ve been able to piece together the details – you hope. 

Now let’s say you are using Outlook with Credenza Pro and your client calls in. Without having to hunt for details, you just open the client’s file in Outlook – where you see everything you need to know. You not only see what you’ve been doing on the file, but you can also see anything that your partner or assistant has been working on related to it as well. When files are shared, all of the common information on files is also shared – such as emails that firm members send relating to files, any appointments that are associated to them, or tasks that relate to them. Any changes made to any shared file are immediately updated on everyone else’s Credenza Pro. Unlike the experience above, it didn’t take you any time to get up to date on the file and without missing a beat you can fill your client in on the details.   

Information-sharing with Credenza Pro is both secure and simple to use. Our last blog post described many of the product’s hybrid-cloud features and the security of being hosted in the cloud with Microsoft® Azure. Information-sharing in Credenza Pro occurs when a file is assigned to more than one firm member – it’s that easy. The flexibility afforded by Credenza Pro’s multi-user practice management feature enables sharing with one user or hundreds of users – it’s completely scalable. And Credenza Pro not only facilitates collaboration among people in your office, it also allows your team to work together no matter where in the world they are located.

Shared tasks and notes are important elements of successful collaboration, and with Credenza Pro users can delegate and keep track of the status of everyone’s task completion within their team. Group calendaring is simple in Credenza Pro as well – since appointments associated with a file are shared with all users who have been given access to that file. Each team member’s calendar is visible to other members of the team in that case, and it’s easy to drag-and-drop changed appointments to other users’ calendars to keep everyone updated. 

Credenza Pro not only takes the security of sharing information in the cloud seriously, it takes privacy seriously as well. Any emails, appointments or documents not associated to client files will not be shared with other Credenza Pro members, ensuring that your personal information within Outlook remains completely private. Security access in Credenza Pro is determined on a per client file basis, and files can be marked Private to restrict all information to your own access. This means that with Credenza Pro you can rest assured that not only will all of your clients’ confidential matters remain secure in Microsoft® Azure, your own personal information in Outlook will always remain private.

With the proliferation of professionals working either from home, off-site locations or from offices in different regions, multi-user collaboration on files, tasks, emails and calendaring has become commonplace. Credenza Pro ensures optimal customer service for your client by making it so easy to locate real-time, up-to-date information on a File.

 

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2011

Credenza Pro is a Secure Cloud Solution Backed by Microsoft® Azure

There are a number of reasons why some people are choosing cloud solutions. For some, it is the “pay-as-you-go” subscription model that is attractive. For others, it’s the security and data safety considerations that stand out. For still others, the lure of moving to the cloud is having no setup required to get their practice management systems up and running.

Credenza Pro, launched in August 2011, is a new cloud-based practice management system that wins on all three counts. Its central database is securely hosted in Microsoft Azure – and data hosting just doesn’t get any more secure than that. You may have already heard that Credenza Pro is just $24.95/month. And since it’s a cloud solution with its user interface in Outlook® - the program most PC-based professionals already use in their practices - it’s extremely simple to use and doesn’t require any setup!

As a cloud solution, Credenza Pro can be accessed from anywhere in the world using just an Internet connection and Outlook. As long as you have an Internet connection you can use Credenza Pro, and share information with other users.  Users with any questions can contact Credenza’s support department, since all updates and unlimited technical support are included in the Credenza Pro subscription.

Credenza Pro is a new way for professionals to share practice information in the cloud. In Credenza Pro when one person puts information on a File, everyone who is sharing that File information can access it – but the personal information of each user remains private. Whether your team is 2 or 200, you can share documents, billing, execute group calendaring and task delegation, and access common emails on each file without ever worrying that the privacy of your information has been breached.

Most importantly, with Credenza Pro you don’t have to worry about the security of your data at all. The world-leading security of Microsoft Azure guarantees optimum uptime and ensures that all Credenza Pro data is automatically backed up on redundant servers. You can relax in the knowledge that the Credenza Pro database on your own local computer is fully encrypted to protect your information. When you utilize the product’s multi-user practice management feature, Microsoft’s central database enables the synchronization of that information with other users. As a valued provider who supports Credenza’s vision, Microsoft recently produced a case study showcasing Credenza’s use of Microsoft technologies.

Customers call Credenza Pro the best of both worlds, which enables collaboration with colleagues and web-accessible practice management using Outlook when online – while still allowing users to use Outlook with all of their own data when they are offline.

In upcoming blog posts we’ll be highlighting some of Credenza Pro’s other features like multi-user practice management, billing and collections, web-based document management, fast and easy system-wide search, and batch billing. Stay tuned!

 

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2011

What's New - Credenza Basic & Credenza Pro

Our users have spoken and we’ve responded with our new Credenza blog.  Now you can keep tabs on Credenza through regular postings in this blog, which we call “Improve your Outlook”.  We’ll feature tips and tricks on getting the most out of Credenza, industry news, and provide a window into the inner workings here at Team Credenza.

Margaret Khomenko is behind the initiative, and her insight and wit will provide for an interesting read.

We welcome your comments on the blog or you can send them directly to Margaret or anyone on the team at info@credenzasoft.com.  Don’t be shy, we’d love to hear from you.

What’s New – Credenza Basic & Credenza Pro

While the fact that we have a blog is exciting, it isn’t the biggest news around here. More importantly, we just recently announced some exciting changes with the release of Credenza Basic and Credenza Pro. 

Credenza Basic is a powerful FREE product that transforms Outlook into a practice management tool, with organization for email, appointments, tasks, documents, notes, research and phone calls around client matters, files or projects.  Credenza Basic can also track the time spent on each activity, which in turn can be sent to your accounting system.  Credenza basic supports single users.

Credenza Pro takes Credenza to a new level by adding billing, collections and trust functionality.  The billing capabilities mean that you can create bills, send out invoices, track payments, manage trust and retainer balances, monitor WIP, batch bill, and more. Credenza Pro also provides full multi-user practice management, allowing the sharing of practice information with some or all of the members of your firm.  It adds many collaboration tools, internet-based document management and centralized billing for a firm.  Because it uses a secure hosted central database, users can connect regardless of their location.

Visit the new feature tour pages on the site for Credenza Basic and Credenza Pro.  We’ve also added a new comparison chart on our site so you can understand the differences. 

Did we mention Credenza Basic is FREE?

We now have a phone number!

You might also notice a new phone number on our site. You can now reach our sales team at 888-444-1224 or 416-203-9087, or of course via email at sales@credenzasoft.com. Please note that this number does not go through to support – you still need to do an email or online support request for that. We do a great deal of our support by telephone, but we can help our customers better by managing inbound requests through the web.