Most CPAs see role in helping clients adopt technology, AICPA survey finds

BY JEFF DREW

Nearly 40% of CPAs see themselves as catalysts for their clients’ adopting innovative technologies such as cloud computing and mobile devices, according to survey results released Wednesday by the AICPA.

The survey of 624 AICPA members in public accounting found that an additional 43% of CPAs will respond to clients’ requests for assistance in assessing and implementing emerging technologies that can help business leaders make better decisions. Only 17% of the survey respondents, representing a mix of small to large firms, said they play a minimal role, or no role at all, in assisting their clients with technology adoption.

The survey results were unveiled on the first day of the Digital CPA: 2012 CPA2Biz Cloud User Conference in Washington. CPA2Biz is the AICPA’s technology subsidiary.

“We’re at a defining moment in the accounting profession,” Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA2Biz, said in a news release. “It’s now possible for small and medium-sized businesses to tap powerful technologies that make them more productive and offer faster, better insight into financial decision-making. But most of these companies need a tech-savvy business adviser to help them take advantage of these opportunities, and that’s a role CPAs are uniquely qualified to fill.”

Eleven percent of the survey respondents, who were polled in September, said that their firms exclusively use cloud-based applications, infrastructure, and platforms for their technology needs. Another 33% said that they use business-grade cloud solutions—such as accounting, bill management, or payroll applications—in certain areas of their practice. Nearly 10% of those not using cloud services are actively planning to adopt cloud technology, while 46% are planning to remain cloud free.

Asked what they see as the biggest barriers to adopting or expanding cloud technologies, more than 60% of the survey respondents pointed to security concerns, although more than 85% said they were very or reasonably confident in their cloud vendors in the event of a data breach or security problem. The next most frequently cited cloud concerns were change management (43%) and skepticism about how much value the cloud provides (42%). Rounding out the list were client acceptance (33%), upfront costs (29%), and not having the right staff or training programs in place (27%).

Respondents were also asked to rank the biggest benefits of the cloud. The results, ranked in order of popularity, were:

  • The ability to work virtually or expand beyond current geographic reach (65%).
  • No worries about software updates, maintenance, or troubleshooting (57%).
  • Better assurance of business continuity and disaster recovery (53%).
  • Productivity improvements (36%).
  • The ability to offer new service lines to clients (24%).
  • Better visibility into CPA firm and client finances (20%).


The survey also found that automated online backup, cloud-based email, workflow applications, and payroll management are the most commonly used cloud services.

Jeff Drew ( jdrew@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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