IT Credential to Help CPAs Make Business Sense Out of Technology

BY NANCY COHEN

Aimed at CPAs involved in information technology, strategic planning, management and implementation, the new certified information technology professional (CITP) designation the AICPA introduced in May was designed to leverage the CPA’s abilities as a strategist and general business adviser.

“Market research reveals that business owners and executives need impartial guidance in making strategic technology-related decisions,” said Gary Boomer, founder and CEO of Boomer Consulting and former chairman of the AICPA information technology executive committee. “Currently, no particular professional owns this space. This is where the CPA with the CITP accreditation will provide a valuable service.”

“The accreditation is squarely on target with the CPA Vision and the Institute’s efforts to stretch the CPA brand and expand the market’s perception of the CPA’s expertise,” said Dominic Tarantino, chairman of the AICPA national accreditation commission and a former board chairman. “CPAs holding the CITP designation will be instrumental in fostering the success of this program as they promote the credential to employers and clients.”

The program, which the IT executive committee will administer, is available to AICPA members with a wide range of skills in all disciplines. Business executives and IT professionals who were surveyed in focus groups identified these skills as necessary for IT-accredited CPAs:

  • Creative thinking and vision.
  • An understanding of project management.
  • Familiarity with IT and business processes.
  • Competence in technology.
  • Comprehensive business experience.
  • Ability to communicate clearly, appropriately and thoroughly.
  • Industry-specific knowledge and experience.
  • Unbiased perspective.
  • Proven track record.
  • Extensive and effective people skills.

Those surveyed said they would be more likely to hire an IT professional who was also a CPA because they expected such an individual would outperform an IT professional who was not a CPA in business acumen, breadth of education and depth of experience.

“More and more companies are turning to their CPAs to act as interpreters between them and computer service providers,” said James Metzler, the current committee chairman and a partner in charge of marketing and information technology at Gaines, Metzler, Kriner & Co. “They are looking for a trusted business adviser who can provide stability and confidence in the volatile computer services marketplace,” he said. “And they have an increasing need for technology services that will give them a competitive edge.”

CASE STUDY

How the Point System Works

C PA Jane Smith is interested in obtaining the CITP designation. She applies for the designation by completing the online assessment tool. A summary of her business experience, lifelong learning and examination credits follows.

Smith worked for three different employers during the initial three-year period. The first year, as an internal auditor at J&J Industries, she was involved in technology-related services approximately 150 hours, earning 5 points in business experience. While at J&J, she got her designation as a certified information systems auditor from the Information Systems Audit & Control Association, which earned her 10 lifelong learning points.

In the second year, Smith switched jobs to work as a senior manager in Alliesam CPAs, where she logged 300 hours in technology-related services, earning 15 points in business experience. During this period, she enrolled in a course, “Structured Business Information Systems,” at a local university for three semester hours earning 15 lifelong learning points. She also attended two technology-related conferences, for 24 CPE hours, which earned her 8 more lifelong learning points.

In the third year, ABC Software Consultants hired Smith as a project manager; there she provided 600 hours of technology-related services, earning 20 points in business experience. She also received her MCP designation from Microsoft for 10 lifelong learning points. At the time she was reading a technology-related trade publication, an hour each month for a total of 12 hours or 4 lifelong learning points. In addition, Smith spent 6 hours mentoring a new employee on the proper disaster recovery procedures to follow, earning 2 more lifelong learning points.

In summary, over the three years, Smith earned 40 points in business experience and 49 points in lifelong learning for a total of 89 points, falling short of the 100 points needed for the designation. However, she passed the computer-based examination, which gave her 40 points, bringing her total points to 129 and thereby earning her the CITP designation.

CPAs who earn the CITP designation can assist clients and employers with a variety of information technology needs, which include selection and installation of computing hardware and software, monitoring and updating of systems and advice on upgrades. Additional IT services may encompass data processing operational and control review, accounting systems evaluation, IT training and assessment, long-range information systems selection, and Web site design and development.

The accreditation covers all the major areas in which an IT professional might work, including the following:

  • IT strategic planning.
  • Information systems management.
  • Systems architecture.
  • Electronic business.
  • Security, privacy and contingency planning.
  • Systems development, acquisition and maintenance.
  • Systems auditing/internal control.
  • Databases and database management.
  • Trends—emerging technologies and business processes.

Objectives and benefits

The CITP program has four goals:

  • To achieve public recognition of the CPA as the preferred IT professional in the business community.
  • To promote IT-accredited members’ services through the creation of a CITP expertise database and through development of appropriate marketing materials.
  • To enhance the quality of IT services members provide.
  • To create economic benefits for AICPA members in the form of business opportunities in public practice and enhanced career progress for CPAs employed in business and industry, education, government and other areas.

The designation distinguishes CPAs with IT competence and provides several forms of support.

Practice building. CITP holders will receive free membership in the AICPA information technology membership section, which will help them stay abreast of IT issues, trends and developments. CITP designees will also have access to the CITP Information Center Web site, which contains products and services of special interest.

Promotional materials. Designation holders will receive marketing support in the form of a resource kit with camera-ready advertisements, a speech, PowerPoint presentation, press releases, sample client newsletters, testimonials, white papers and advice on dealing with the media. They also will receive a logo developed for the use of CITP designees as well as a certificate and lapel pin to identify themselves as a “CITP.CPA.” In addition, each CITP will be listed on a national personnel database.

Requirements

The AICPA will grant the CITP designation to anyone who is an AICPA member in good standing and who also

  • Holds a valid and unrevoked CPA certificate.
  • Pays a $500 fee, which covers initial accreditation and materials.
  • Submits a written statement of intent to continue to comply with all the requirements for reaccreditation and payment of an annual renewal fee.
  • Qualifies under the point system (detailed below) by accumulating at least 100 verifiable points.

The point system

IT accreditation is on a “point system,” designed to allow both new and seasoned CPA IT professionals to enter the program. It is based on business experience, lifelong learning and an examination. There are minimum requirements for both the business experience and lifelong learning areas; the examination is required for those who do not achieve sufficient points through experience and lifelong learning.

Business experience requirement. To be awarded the CITP designation, candidates must earn a minimum of 15 points in business experience in the three years preceding the application date for certification. They must complete an online application that evaluates their technology experience. A maximum 25 points is awarded for each year of 800 or more hours of experience. Examples of such experience include the following:

  • Managing the control, security, implementation or business application of IT systems, applications or networks.
  • Advising or instructing on the management, use, security, control or implementation of IT systems, including the analysis of issues, identification of options and recommendation of solutions.
  • Assessing internal technology skills and training requirements.
  • Assisting in the development of standards and policies (for example, for e-mail, Internet, virtual office, operating systems and front and back office applications).
  • Auditing aspects of either existing IT systems or implementation of new IT systems.
  • Facilitating the development of a strategic technology plan, a technology budget and a disaster recovery plan.
  • Teaching of information technology and information systems courses.
  • Giving instruction on the implementation of IT systems, including the analysis of an issue, identification of options and recommendation of solutions.

Lifelong learning. To be awarded the CITP designation, candidates must earn a minimum of 30 lifelong learning points within the three-year period preceding the application date for certification (with at least 5 points earned each year). The program was designed to help people maintain their competency by requiring them to update their technology knowledge and skills. The following categories of lifelong learning are eligible for a maximum of 70 points:

  • CPE. Self-study or group study courses in topics relevant to the body of knowledge.
  • Traditional course work. Approved courses at an accredited university or college in topics relevant to the body of knowledge.
  • Nontraditional learning methods. On-the-job training; mentoring; self-directed reading of professional journals, technical bulletins and releases; research projects; and Internet research—all relevant to the body of knowledge.

The following category is eligible for a maximum of 30 points:

  • Presenting. Instructors receive credit for both preparation and presentation.

The following category is eligible for a maximum of 25 points:

  • Other certifications. Ten points are awarded for each approved technology-related certification received or renewed during the past three years.

The following category is eligible for a maximum of 15 points:

  • Writing. Writers of published articles, books or CPE programs will be given credit for their research and writing time if their endeavors increase professional competence.

Examination. Applicants who do not have sufficient points in business experience and lifelong learning must take a computer-based examination which will test for professional competency in IT core areas. The passing score for the examination is 75 and is worth 40 points. The key to passing the exam is the candidate’s broad-based knowledge in IT-related services. Self-study review courses, as well as a live training course, will be offered to members who want to brush up on their technology knowledge before the exam.

Rollout dates

Applications will be accepted starting in August, and the first examination is slated for November for those members who do not have the required number of points. More information is available on the Web at http://citp.aicpa.org . Information kits are available by e-mail at citp@aicpa.org .

—Nancy Cohen is a technical manager in the AICPA information technology division. She is an employee of the American Institute of CPAs and her views, as expressed in this article, do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA. Official positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.

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