This past week, InfoTech Partners North America, Inc. had the opportunity to present its 2002 Technology Predictions at Management Summit to over 100 of the leading CPA firms and Associations in the country. Below we have recapped our predictions to share of our view of the year ahead.
- Paperless audit a reality: With firms effectively utilizing Document Container programs, there will a strong transition to paperless audits, which will turn out to be a huge step towards completely digital firms, especially now that there are viable products from CCH, CaseWare, PPC and McGladrey.
- Microsoft owns Us July 31: With new licensing programs and without suitable software alternatives, we will all climb onto the Microsoft bandwagon this summer and firms will standardize on the annual licensing agreement for our desktop software in the same manner as we have with our tax, research and virus applications.
- Suite strategies emerge: CCH, Intuit and the RIA Group want ALL of your business and will provide you with both technical and financial reasons to “keep it in the family.” CCH leads off by expanding their web presence with Global FX and Execusite. Intuit/Lacerte expand connectivity between their accounting products and their NetTax solution (as well as built in depreciation).
The Thompson family (CSI, PPC, RIA, CLR), even though late to the paperless game, will pull it off with their Virtual Office suite integration. In the end, we accountants win!
- Intuit becomes powerhouse: QuickBooks will expand its coverage in both CPA Firms and small business through a combination of traditional and web-based solutions. They have edged into the mid-market and are working with third-parties to develop customized integration for vertical markets. While somewhat early in the process, we think they will deliver and further reduce the accounting choices out there for small business accounting.
- Technology will be underutilized: Despite logic and education, CPA firms will continue to place a low priority on training as we fight short-term profitability concerns. Studies continue to show that training has a very strong corresponding return and the top demand of CPA firm personnel we consult with is to get training… any training!
- CRM=snake oil for most: Customer Relationship Management applications will eat up a lot of time and money in many CPA firms this year. CRM appears to be this year’s buzzword so be cautious and remember the investment that many firms made in contact management applications a few years ago. The majority of those systems failed at that time, because the firm was not willing to change its culture and processes to utilize the applications. CRM applications are vastly more complex and the firm’s owners and staff will have the make a huge cultural transformation to make it effective. Will this happen? NOT!
- PDA Wars ensue: Microsoft’s Pocket PC will expand its foothold causing some unlikely alliances. Even though we love our Palm OS devices, we think they will only dominate the PDA market for another 18-24 months and then the Pocket PC will have adequate battery life and be more cost-effective becoming a viable alternative. Just as Internet Explorer took over Netscape Navigator and the Outlook took over the PIM market, we think that the Pocket PC will dominate PDAs. In the short-run, we are still recommending the Handspring products and feel that the combined phone/PDAs offered by Handspring, Samsung and Kyocera will allow us to eliminate one “tool” from our tool belt. We think the Palm-OS companies will develop ties with telecommunications providers to roll out more product and we would like to see the innovative baby take over the stodgy parent to create a larger more aggressive company.
- Security concerns are notched up: Even with last year’s high profile events, firms will make an effort to improve security, but will only get serious after a major breach. We would encourage all of you to verify your firm is protected and to start using encryption (such as VeriSign Digital Certificates) whenever transferring any confidential data to clients.
- Web fears subside: As the cost to service clients becomes less expensive and more reliable on the web, we will transition applications to the Internet. We feel it is a case of economics and education. Once we can produce a tax return cheaper and with less maintenance via the web and we become comfortable with the reliability of our Internet connection. Firms will start out using these services as a remote access option if they don’t have Windows Terminal Server/Citrix, which will set the stage for others to be confident to try it. In any case, we would encourage you to fill out your OWN organizer online and import it into your tax return.
- Video Conferencing Effective: As bandwidth continues to become cheaper, we will see multi-office firms implement conferencing solutions to reduce travel time and get outside input. With the cost at just over $1,100 for a firm with two locations joined by a broadband connection, we will start implementing IP-based video conferencing to reduce travel time and include other offices in firmwide training.
Personal Bonus: Commercial wireless connectivity: We believe there will be a proliferation of wireless connections in our homes and public businesses such as Starbucks, so we will add this capability to laptop units for those that travel or work in commercial environments. Firms will continue to be slow to adopt wireless connections within their own firms because of security concerns.
This article was written by Roman Kepczyk, founder of InfoTech Partners North America.