The 4 best technologies for CPAs

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. In your opinion, what are the top three or four technologies CPAs should be using?

A. There is no question in my mind that Microsoft Excel is the greatest tool ever designed for CPAs. Having started my career on green columnar paper using a Pentel (mechanical pencil), Microsoft Excel has helped me get my work done faster and better — and organize my personal life as well. In particular, Excel's Data commands, PivotTables, and IF function are the most useful aspects at our disposal. This is because Excel's Data commands make it easier for us to write formulas accurately; PivotTables make it easier for us to slice, dice, and mine data; and the IF function allows us to introduce logic into formulas and calculations. I wouldn't want to be a CPA today without having the latest edition of Excel and the knowledge of how to properly use this tool readily at my fingertips.

My second favorite technology is the internet. Having the bulk of all the answers you might possibly want to find available at your fingertips is a game-changer. It's less important today to know the correct answers off the top of your head than to know where to find them. A good working knowledge of how to navigate and research the internet, and verify the information you find, is an essential skill that makes the world far easier to negotiate.

My third favorite technology is my smartphone because it allows me to stay connected to those I work with and also those I love. Equipped with a camera and a wide assortment of apps, my smartphone makes my life far easier most of the time, though I could certainly do without those annoying robocalls.

My fourth favorite technology is GPS, which has made my life immensely easier. Gone are the days of following poorly written directions or old paper maps. Whether it involves client locations, friends' homes, or faraway vacation spots, GPS technology helps me navigate the world more smoothly. For those youngsters who don't know what it's like trying to find a remote CPE venue in the Wisconsin countryside well past midnight without GPS navigation, especially with a 7 a.m. CPE presentation looming — you'll just have to take my word for it that it's not much fun. In addition, and as a bonus, GPS technology makes it easier for me to track and locate my favorite fishing spots along the ocean and rivers surrounding Jekyll Island and Cumberland Island in Georgia.

Aside from the four technologies mentioned above, email, text messaging, tax preparation software, accounting systems, word processing applications (like Microsoft Word), and presentation software (like Microsoft PowerPoint) are useful tools as well. When self-driving cars, time travel, and holodecks (like the holodeck featured on Star Trek: The Next Generation) become a thing, I'll add them to this list, too.

About the author

J. Carlton Collins, CPA, ( is a technology consultant, a conference presenter, and a JofA contributing editor.

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