We concluded another successful AICPA/CPA.com Executive Roundtable on Jan. 21-22, an event Seth Fineberg of AccountingWEB rightly called the “U.N. of accountant-focused tech companies.” It’s a unique crowd and each year I come away with fresh perspectives on what’s brewing in the technology companies that serve CPA firms and their small business clients. Here some themes I took away from the 2016 Roundtable:
- Call it – the cloud debate is over. Attendee after attendee said it’s no longer a question of moving to the cloud and adopting new technologies. Firms and their clients now simply ask, ‘How?’ That’s an important change in mindset. The tech community recognizes its responsibility to make systems easy to setup and to help with the transition from on premise to the cloud.
- Automation in accounting is becoming more sophisticated, but a human touch is still required. The concept of the Trusted Business Advisor will always be in vogue, as long as CPAs continue to acquire new skills and develop an ease in wielding technology.
- No magic bullet yet for practice management woes. Vendors are working on many exciting ways to help CPA firms manage their clients and improve productivity. There seems to be general consensus, however, that there isn’t a single practice management solution that solves every problem. Many participants say there is still too much time wasted with duplicate entries and other software integration hiccups.
- A shakeout is coming in some vendor categories. There are a lot of innovative companies in expense management, payroll, billing and other fields, and many vendors predict significant consolidation over the next few years. That’s good news for practitioners, as it indicates continuing development that ultimately should lead to better product offerings.
- Training and strategic planning must evolve. CPA firms need to realize that innovation is a firm-wide initiative, not just the province of senior leadership or the IT department. Don’t place this responsibility on one person in the firm, but create a team composed of staff from various levels of responsibility.
- Cybersecurity and risk aren’t just topics to keep you up at night. AICPA executives Ash Noah and Sue Coffey underscored that, when it comes to assurance, these categories represent significant opportunities for CPAs in management and public accounting.
Over the next few months, we’ll be releasing videos of conversations with some Executive Roundtable participants, and we hope you’ll visit CPA.com to watch and respond to them. Let’s continue the conversation.