Editor's Corner: What Happened and What Didn't at PracTechby
It was a year of firsts, of possibilities and absence at this year’s AICPA Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference and I’m going to attempt to share what I thought was there and what wasn’t.
First off, being a combined event has for several years aided in boosting the number of practitioners attending the annual confab – not to mention the level of content overall. Having practice management/development sessions alongside technology-related ones had made sense over the past several years since, increasingly, there’s rarely a firm improvement decision to be made without a technology component tied to it.
This year, a first for the annual confab was the addition of both the Association for Accounting Marketing and the Association for Accounting Administration. All told, it was a 1,000+ attendee event with – more or less – something for everyone.
Another first was the location of the event, which was moved from its long-standing residence in Las Vegas (hotels varied) to Disney World. One of the differences here, aside from the obvious, was that – possibly due to the sheer number of attendees – rather than have the event and participants in one hotel, many had to walk over from a few other hotels nearby.
But this difference was mainly just cosmetic, what did everyone take away? For one, as I mentioned there was something for every facet of firm life – from the latest tax updates to useful regulatory information. Sessions also dabbled with succession planning and M&A and gave some sense of how to market and retain talent, as well as marketing the firm itself. There were even some very practical takeaways on data security and the obligatory roundup on the latest devices, tools and services (thank you, always Randy Johnston and David Cieslak).
So what was missing? Well, again, this was a matter of opinion – the general impression on the tech-related content was that overall the sessions related to useful tech content were few. And what there was either went too far into the weeds, too general or there simply were not enough sessions that spoke directly to what specifically was on the market to solve a firm issue, expand service offerings or just learn more about a particular technology set.
My theory on this is that later in the year the AICPA and, specifically CPA.com will be hosting the Digital CPA event which will likely delve into more of what practitioners are looking for in tech and how to truly evolve the practice from a tech and client services perspective.
In general though, the vibe was positive and strong among attendees and the fact that they were there ready and wanting to hear more about how to change – and not just that change is coming – was welcoming. Practically speaking, few practitioners are going to spend the money to travel to such an event with the intent of their practices remaining the same.
And as with any industry conference – especially those with practitioners and technology in their title – there was a fair share of vendor attendance. Having covered the profession from a technology perspective for the better part of 13 years I hope I don’t sound jaded, but there were few vendors I did not recognize. Still, that didn’t mean there wasn’t anything new to share, if fact there were quite a number of new offerings on the vendor floor this year. Here’s just a few that may be relevant to you or your practice:
- CRM Solutions for Accounting Firms from [email protected]. The initials meaning Client Relationship Management, this recently rolled out product comes from technology consultancy [email protected], the largest Sage partner in North America. What sets it apart from other CRM products on the market, particular those that are (or claim to be) geared towards accountants is that it can be deployed with Sage CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Act-On at the back end. It also has fields and features relevant to a practitioner trying to better manage their practice and their client outreach.
- 1040Bridge. Trying to make a bigger play for the accountant market these guys showed up, booth and all, marketing their core product – a client portal for tax returns – as well as some advanced features. One of note was the ability to “lock” a completed return until payment for services is received. The company is also looking to add more advanced client portal and document sharing functions as well.
- AccountingSuite. This relative newcomer to cloud accounting is now touting a new client accounting services platform designed to enable immediate access to a client’s accounting software or the firm’s internal bookkeeping system, regardless of which computer you are using. They also provide the ability to handle multiple company accounts in real-time and simultaneously with a multi-client access function.
So what do you think of all of this? Did you attend? Do AICPA/CPA.com events have an impact on your practice?