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Rick Telberg

CPA Workforce Goes Mobile

Personal productivity and client satisfaction boosted. How CPAs stay connected: Join the study; get the answers.

March 3, 2008
by Rick Telberg/At Large

Accounting professionals love working out of the office. The vast majority of accountants do it to some extent, and some even spend more than 40 hours per work week working at client sites, while commuting, on business travel or in their homes on weekends and in the evenings.

And there’s a good reason for it: More than half of finance and accounting professionals tell us that working out of the office increases their personal productivity and improves client and stakeholder satisfaction.

The Smartphone — which adds e-mail, Web access and document management to the traditional voice-only cell phone — is emerging as the linchpin of mobile connectivity for CPAs. Many CPAs say they rely on their smartphones like umbilical cords connecting them directly to colleagues, clients and family. And almost as many are seeking more powerful devices and more reliable phone service.

How much time do you spend working out of the office?
How do you like it?

Join the conversation. Take the survey. Get the answers.

(Free. Confidential.)

Gary Scott, managing partner of GCS Financial Services in Philadelphia, Pa., has the following wish: “Hire a driver, so I could be even more productive while in transit.”

Devoted smartphone user Jim Kach, a CPA firm partner in Bannockburn, Ill., clamors for “the ability to use a keyboard during meetings.”

Kach is among the 87 percent of accountants in our latest CPA Insider reader study who place high importance on being able to work out of the office. In fact, nearly two out of three said the ability to work remotely was “very” important, while only three percent of those surveyed said that it was not important.

While just as many CPAs in public practice work out of the office as those in industry, public practitioners are far more likely to work at least 20 per week out of the office. More than three percent of public practitioners surveyed work in excess of 40 hours per week out of the office.

And, while 65 percent of accountants from all walks of the profession rate working out of the office as “very important,” a slightly higher percentage of public practitioners gave the same rating.

Here’s why.

Throughout the profession, 55 percent said that working out of the office improves their personal productivity and that it also improves client service and satisfaction. And 39 percent said it improves their work/life balance. That means properly overseeing and managing out-of-office work processes may become a key issue for businesses and firms scuffling to retain top accounting talent.

The profession, according to our reader survey, sees some serious shortcomings in its out-of-office technology and processes.

Public practitioners’ out-of-office management concerns include working with clients to make the accountants’ onsite work more accommodating. Several practitioners complained that client sites often lack broadband or wireless connections. Joe Bruce of Schneider Downs & Co. in Pittsburgh, Pa., noted that his firms’ VPN is not accessible from some of his clients’ networks.

Accountants from other areas want management to address security concerns linked to out-of-office work. A senior executive at a nonprofit complained that he’s unable to remotely access his organization’s accounting and subsidiary ledger software because of an IT department policy against such access. He added, “Personally, I think they just don’t want to spend the resources to make it happen.”

That, clearly, would be a mistake. Some 42 percent of small-business owners already spend about a third of their time out of the office. Shouldn’t you too be able to connect from anywhere?

JOIN THE SURVEY: How do CPAs stay connected? Get the answers.

COMMENTS: Questions, rants or raves? Write Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2008 Bay Street Group LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.