New client services top list of CPA firm priorities

Practices that have adopted or investigated cloud-based technologies are more likely than other firms to perceive a need for faster innovation.
By Jeff Drew

New client services top list of CPA firm priorities
Photo by Denis_prof/iStock

CPA firms across the board see new client services as their top innovation priority for the next 12 to 18 months, but firms that have embraced cloud technologies see more urgency in making those additions.

That is one of the key findings of the Innovation in Public Accounting Survey, the results of which were unveiled at the Digital CPA Conference in Las Vegas in December. is the for-profit arm of the AICPA.

A total of 409 firms responded to the survey, which was conducted online Oct. 4—23, 2015. Of those firms, 178 were identified as early majority, which defines as firms that have either launched a cloud-based accounting practice or made advancements in client advisory services. The remaining 231 firms were deemed to be in the general group. The early majority group had a higher proportion of larger firms (20% were associated with firms with 100 staffers or more), compared with the general group (10% were from firms with 100 staffers or more).

Firm innovation priorities: Early majority
Firm innovation priorities: General group

Asked to name their top innovation priorities, firms in both categories placed highest importance on the development of new service offerings for clients (see the charts "Firm Innovation Priorities: Early Majority" and "Firm Innovation Priorities: General Group"). Early majority firms, however, see greater urgency for deeper and faster change than firms in the general group (see the charts "Timing of Change: Early Majority" and "Timing of Change: General Group").

Timing of change: Early majority
Timing of change: General group

"The good news is that a solid majority of CPA firms realize they have to change to stay relevant," said Amy Radin, a strategic marketing consultant and innovation expert, who helped design the survey and discussed some of the results in her keynote speech at the Digital CPA Conference. "But for the general group of CPA firms, we see a sizable minority who say change may not be necessary for five years or more, if at all. Beware: Clients aren't likely to be that patient." 

Firms in both categories ranked time and talent concerns as their biggest barriers to innovation. Those in the early majority, however, view processes as a bigger challenge than strategy to their innovation efforts, while firms in the broader group place a greater priority on strategy issues.

"One interesting finding of the survey is that CPA firms, early majority or not, don't really see a competitive threat from specific challengers," said Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of "Only a small percentage of firms said it was a priority to respond to 'a competitor who is outpacing us.' The problem is tomorrow's competitor might be invisible today, and if you aren't paying attention to client expectations, it can take you by surprise."

Jeff Drew is a JofA senior editor. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact him at or 919-402-4056.

AICPA resources


  • 10 Steps to a Digital Practice in the Cloud: New Levels of CPA Firm Workflow Efficiency, Second Edition (#PTX1401P, paperback; #PTX1401E, ebook)
  • 2015 innovation survey results (PDF available at


  • Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference, June 5—8, Las Vegas
  • Digital CPA Conference, Dec. 5—7, Las Vegas

For more information or to make a purchase or register, go to or call the Institute at 888-777-7077.

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The Information Management and Technology Assurance (IMTA) division serves members of the IMTA Membership Section, CPAs who hold the Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) credential, other AICPA members, and accounting professionals who want to maximize information technology to provide information management and/or technology assurance services to meet their clients' or organization's operational, compliance, and assurance needs. To learn about the IMTA division, visit Information about the CITP credential is available at


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