CPAs prioritize security, unsure how to best leverage new technologies


CPAs are confident that their organizations can secure their IT networks and manage data, but they doubt whether their employers will be able to generate revenue streams and other benefits from emerging technologies such as cloud computing and mobile devices, the AICPA reported Wednesday in releasing the results of its 2012 Top Technology Initiatives Survey.

The survey found that CPAs, both in public practice and in the business and industry sector, ranked “securing the IT environment” as their top technology priority for 2012. More than 60% of those CPAs also indicated that they were confident that their organizations were doing a good job in this area.

CPAs were less certain about their organizations’ ability to “leverage emerging technologies,” with only 34% saying they were confident in how that task was being handled. More than half of the CPAs surveyed also doubted that their employers could leverage technology for “enabling decision support and managing performance.”

“CPAs by our DNA tend to be a pretty skeptical group,” David Cieslak, CPA/CITP, a principal in the computer consulting firm Arxis Technology, said in a press release. “We tend to be very cautious. We see the potential of new technologies, but we also want to be certain about their long-term viability and security.” 

CPAs who participated in the online survey were confident that their organizations were meeting most of their technology priorities, from information protection and privacy to data management. More than half of the respondents also indicated that their employers have adequate policies in place to protect IT networks and servers from cyber-attacks and data breaches. CPAs were less certain about data security in the event a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other device was lost or stolen.

This year’s survey asked respondents to rate their organizational goals for technology in the coming year. Below are the top 10 responses. In parenthesis is the percentage of survey respondents who are confident or highly confident that their organization is handling the task appropriately:

Top Tech Priorities 2012

  1. Securing the IT environment (62%)
  2. Managing and retaining data (61%)
  3. Managing risk and compliance (65%)
  4. Ensuring privacy (62%)
  5. Leveraging emerging technologies (34%)
  6. Managing system implementation (52%)
  7. Enabling decision support and managing performance (46%)
  8. Governing and managing IT investment/spending (56%)
  9. Preventing and responding to fraud (60%)
  10. Managing vendors and service providers (56%) 

As in prior years, the survey asked CPAs which tech initiatives would have the most impact over the next 12 months. Information security moved back to the top spot after slipping to No. 2 last year. Remote access was second on the 2012 initiative list, followed by the control and use of mobile devices, which was No. 1. on the 2011 list.

“The ability to tap critical information on the go, virtually whenever you want, is changing the way CPAs do business,” Anthony Pugliese, CPA/CITP, CGMA, the AICPA’s senior vice president–Finance, Operations & Member Value, said in the release. “But it imposes new burdens, too. CPAs and the clients and companies they work for need to stay on top of technological shifts, make the right decisions on access, security, and privacy, and map out new areas of growth. It’s clear we’re still working our way through these challenges.”

The Top Technology Initiatives Survey, overseen by the AICPA’s Information Technology Division, generated 2,259 responses from AICPA members from Jan. 17 to Feb. 15. The survey’s margin of error was 2.1 percentage points.

Click here to access the topline survey results.

Public Accounting and B&I Results

This year’s survey also broke out separate results for CPAs in public accounting and CPAs in business and industry. More than 40% of the survey respondents said they work in public accounting, compared with 33% who work in B&I. The remainder work in nonprofits (5.5%) government and military (5.4%), consulting and law (4.5%), education (3.7%) or other (4.8%).

The charts below list the top 10 tech priorities as reported by CPAs in public accounting and B&I, respectively. The number in parentheses is the percentage of respondents who are confident or highly confident that their organization is handling the task appropriately.

2012 Top 10 Technology Priorities (public accounting)

  1. Securing IT Environment (52.6%)
  2. Managing and Retaining Data (57.1%)
  3. Ensuring Privacy (58.4%)
  4. Managing Risk & Compliance (59.8%)
  5. Leveraging Emerging Technologies (32.9%)
  6. Preventing & Responding to Fraud (54.7%)
  7. Governing & Managing our IT Investment/Spend (51.7%)
  8. Managing System Implementations (46.4%)
  9. Enabling Decision Support and Managing Performance (42.8%)
  10. Understanding IT Impacts of Legislation, Regulations, and Standards (33.9%)

2012 Top 10 Technology Priorities (B&I)

  1. Securing IT Environment (70.9%)
  2. Managing Risk & Compliance (75.3%)
  3. Managing and Retaining Data (65.7%)
  4. Managing System Implementations (59.9%)
  5. Enabling Decision Support and Managing Performance (52.2%)
  6. Leveraging Emerging Technologies (37.0%)
  7. Governing & Managing our IT Investment/Spend (62.9%)
  8. Managing Vendors & Service Providers (60.2%)
  9. Ensuring Privacy (67.1%)
  10. Preventing & Responding to Fraud (68.1%)

Jeff Drew ( ) is a JofA senior editor.

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