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Rick Telberg
Rick Telberg

Savvy CPAs Seek More Tech Upgrades

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November 6, 2008
by Rick Telberg/For the Finance Executive

If you have the feeling that your office is not as up to speed with technology as it needs to be, you may have plenty of company.

There seems to be a consistent sense of frustration among accountants — in both public practice and in business and industry — that their organizations are falling behind the technology curve and shrinking their bottom lines by failing to move fast enough to the newest efficiency-enhancing systems.

To be sure, the CPA profession is among the most technologically advanced professions in the American economy. But sometimes senior management’s unwillingness to address technology issues can be the biggest hurdle. And with the economy in crisis, finance and accounting workplaces could suffer.

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“Since many senior managers are not hands-on when it comes to computers, they don't recognize the time and money loss that goes with less than high-performance computers and systems,” says a senior staffer CPA in business and industry. “We are consistently told by management we are in ‘high-performance positions,’ however there is nothing high performance about the equipment in our offices — most of us have better computer setups in our own homes.”

A partner at an Illinois accounting firm who is trying to get his fellow partners to buy into enhancing the CPA firm’s data storage capability, lamented, “A couple of traditionalist partners don’t understand the value of reinvestment in the firm.”

“We continually increase our paper storage. If we start storing digitally — going forward only — over time our space needs will diminish. From that perspective, we've already wasted the last five years” by not having the data storage systems, he said.

Enhancing organizations’ technology systems may require shaking both management and the rank-and-file out of a false sense of complacency.

“We tend to love the technology and are fine with making initial financial investments, but we need to realize that technology requires attention beyond that,” said a firm administrator in Napa, Calif. “I would like to see our firm develop an ongoing strategic plan, with the commitment to continual maintenance and replacements.”

An Oklahoma City practitioner wants to bring all members of his CPA firm “to a certain technology level,” while a senior CPA in Sacramento, Calif., simply wishes “that all members of the firm would just take advantage of the technology we have in place today.”

Moving organizations ahead in technology will also require shaking up organizations’ complacency with their vendors.

A managing partner in Bucks County, Pa., wants his firm to have “everything integrated with the best applications, not just what is available from one vendor.” He notes that his firm typically beats out the smaller competitors in its suburban Philadelphia market, but is grappling to compete with larger regional competition.

A senior finance executive with an insurance agency in Wellesley, Mass., wants the company to adopt a new operating system.

“We embraced terminal-server technology for consistency and to resolve costly upgrades to each PC, however, compatibility with some applications has been a problem,” he says. “My wish would be to have an operating system that was truly robust, easy-to-maintain and did not require costly IT monitoring.”

Though times are tough, they could get tougher. But keeping up with technology is not optional in today’s business environment. It’s a necessity for long-term survival.

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Copyright 2008 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All rights reserved. First published by the AICPA.

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.