Opportunities Exist for CPAs to Better Leverage Emerging Technology

By AccountingWEB Staff
 
Like other business professionals, CPAs continue to wrestle with the best strategy to maximize the benefits of emerging technologies, such as mobile devices and cloud computing, according to the 2012 Top Technology Initiatives Survey conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
 
Survey takers said they are successfully meeting most of their technology priorities, from information protection and privacy to data management. A majority said their organization has appropriate policies in place to deal with data security concerns, and necessary steps have been taken to insulate IT networks and servers from cyberattacks. At the same time, CPAs were less certain about avoiding a data breach due to the loss of a laptop, tablet, or other mobile device. 
 
"The ability to tap critical information on the go, virtually whenever you want, is changing the way CPAs do business," said Anthony Pugliese, CPA, CGMA, CITP, the AICPA's senior vice president of finance, operations, and member value. "But it imposes new burdens, too. CPAs and the clients and companies they work for need to stay on top of technological shifts; make the right decisions on access, security, and privacy; and map out new areas of growth. It's clear we're still working our way through these challenges." 
 
Most survey takers said their firms had the knowledge, financial wherewithal, and access to sufficient staff and training resources to adopt new technologies. Yet they were significantly less confident about developing new revenue streams from those innovations. 
 
"CPAs, by our DNA, tend to be a pretty skeptical group," said David Cieslak, CPA, CITP, and a principal in the computer consulting firm Arxis Technology. "We tend to be very cautious. We see the potential of new technologies, but we also want to be certain about their long-term viability and security."  
 
As in past years, the survey measures the anticipated impact of certain issues over the next twelve to eighteen months for CPAs and their clients. Topping the 2012 list: 
  1. Information security
  2. Remote access
  3. Control and use of mobile devices
All three have a bearing on the challenges that stem from the growing ubiquity and mobility of data, and they represent a slight shift from last year. 
 
The top three in 2011 were:
  1. Control and use of mobile devices
  2. Information security
  3. Data retention policies/structure 
This year's survey asked respondents to rate their organizational goals for technology in the coming year. The top ten technology priorities for 2012, and the percentage of respondents who felt either confident or highly confident in how their client or organization is handling the tasks appropriately, are: 
  1. Securing the IT environment (62 percent)
  2. Managing and retaining data (61 percent)
  3. Managing risk and compliance (65 percent)
  4. Ensuring privacy (62 percent)
  5. Leveraging emerging technologies (34 percent)
  6. Managing system implementation (52 percent)
  7. Enabling decision support and managing performance (46 percent)
  8. Governing and managing IT investment/spending (56 percent)
  9. Preventing and responding to fraud (60 percent)
  10. Managing vendors and service providers (56 percent)
The AICPA's 2012 Top Technologies Initiatives webcast for members of the profession will be held on April 4, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. ET. CPAs who participate are eligible for CPE credits. 
 
Methodology
The Top Technology Initiatives Survey was conducted electronically among AICPA members from January 17 to February 15, 2012. With 2,259 responses, the margin of error was plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. The survey was overseen by the AICPA's Information Technology Division
 
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