Microsoft and the AICPA

Microsoft and Institute Join Forces

B ill Gates, chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft, announced that his company and the American Institute of CPAs are forming an affiliation to help CPAs learn more about information technology and expand their services as technical advisers. Microsoft is already involved in helping state CPA societies with work on the Internet (see JofA, Oct. 96, page 4).

In the first half of this year the AICPA and Microsoft will host a conference designed to educate managing partners about business systems consulting. CPAs will get the details on how to build a technology consulting practice, with emphasis on how a CPA with both business knowledge and technical skills can provide small businesses with the advice they need. "The strategic alliance with Microsoft builds on our complementary strengths, ensuring greater recognition for our members as strategic business advisers and information professionals for their clients and employers," said AICPA President Barry Melancon.

Helping CPAs shape the future
"Consulting services are the next big revenue pool for CPAs, but the infrastructure is not in place," Matt Davis, Microsoft's marketing manager for the accounting profession, told the Journal. By "infrastructure," Davis was referring not just to hardware and software but also to training and a change of mind-set. He said large firms were getting more of their revenue from consulting engagements than any other practice segment and that small firms, in an era of flat growth for many traditional CPA services, should consider increasing their consulting practices. "I believe 90% of all business problems have at their core a solution that involves technology," he said.

Long-term goals: more for all
Although many small firms already offer some consulting services, most are not realizing their potential, according to Davis. He said Microsoft's objective is to have 20% of all CPA firms derive more than a third of their revenue from business systems consulting. These firms would then be able to get their clients up to speed, creating a wave of technologically sophisticated small businesses. "We will work with the AICPA to develop a program with technology support, marketing assistance and education. We will develop and deliver the infrastructure in 1997."

What's in it for Microsoft? "The more businesses there are using information technology, the more customers there are for Microsoft," said Davis, who again emphasized that Microsoft's competitors could also reap rewards from an increased customer base. "We're growing the pie for CPAs, for ourselves-for everyone."

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