The AICPA released its 25th Anniversary Top Technology Initiatives (TTI) Survey this spring, and part of the research effort looked at the issue of managing outsourced services, a subject of great interest to advocates of cloud accounting.
The TTI survey looks at the top priorities for North American CPAs in technology, and also explores how confident accounting professionals feel about meeting those goals. Data security, for example, almost always tops the list. And while it gets less attention, the category of “managing vendors and service providers” invariably makes the cut of top 10 concerns, too. In fact, in the current survey it ticked up a notch to No. 9 for U.S. respondents. (It stood at No. 9 for Canadian survey takers, too.)
In our view, given the growing acceptance the cloud in accounting and finance, this task will only grow in importance.
So how do CPAs feel they’re doing in managing vendors and service providers? Overall, 48 percent of survey takers in the United States said they were confident about meeting the challenge. Some 52 percent said they were performing the right amount of due diligence before hiring an IT partner, although less than half said they were confident about making sure IT service providers were in compliance with service level agreements (SLAs).
The authors of the TTI survey commentary make it plain that key issues regarding risk should be fully negotiated before SLAs are signed.
“Successful organizations should work to fully understand SLAs and insist that contracts are flexible enough to allow the organization to exit the relationship,” the report states. “Exiting a service relationship can be a huge issue, and organizations should focus on getting their data back in a usable format, and on planning a cooperative cut-over to any new provider.“
But CPA firms – and their clients – need to know that one of their core duties going forward is managing vendor relationships and ensuring the success of any IT partnerships. At CPA.com, we are focused on assisting with this by taking some of the guesswork out of choosing vendors through our Partner Solutions program, a lineup of best-in-breed providers in the client advisory services space, collecting reviews and feedback from practitioners to share with the profession, and offering classes like “How to Evaluate Software” at our 2015 Digital CPA Conference (DCPA15). Use these resources to help you manage your vendor and service provider relationships.