Four Fast and Easy Tech Fixes for CPA Firms

How to take quantum leaps, even in busy season.

by Rick Telberg

If your accounting firm or finance department is pushing off technology decisions to the IT department, you may be pushing it off to the wrong people.

Not that they don’t know what they’re doing. But effective technology strategies cannot be pushed off. They must start at the top, with the users and in alignment and constant re-alignment with overall plans and strategies.

The problem is not that IT people may do the wrong things. But without executive-level champions, they may not get the support they need to do anything at all. That leaves accounting offices adrift and falling behind.


Roman Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, is out to change that. As a past chairman of the AICPA IT Executive Committee, a member of the AICPA Special Committee on Enhanced Business Reporting, the AICPA Group of 100, AICPA Best Practices Task Force and one of the charter Certified Information Technology Professionals (CITP) that the AICPA has designated (among other distinctions), he qualifies as a top industry guru.

In a CPA firm, Kepczyk says, “the executive committee shouldn’t push it all off to IT. Leadership must lead.”

Too often, he says, partners and firm administrators don’t trust their own IT people. As a result, the firm falls into an expensive and time-consuming break-fix cycle that could have been avoided if only top leadership had taken some time to understand their firm’s long-term needs and lay out a strategic plan. In a new handbook, Quantum of Paperless: Partner’s Guide to Accounting Firm Optimization, Kepczyk finds 32 areas in which a little knowledge and forethought could save firms big money. Investing a couple hours in this little book with a sharp No. 2 pencil could be the best tech investment you make all year.

Here are some of the fastest and easiest strategies to implement, with the some of the best ROI.

  1. Add a third monitor. Some 90 percent of firms are already using dual monitors for the 2009 busy season, according to an Info Tech Partners North America (ITPNA) survey for the Association of Accounting Administrators. But 37 percent have given at least some people a third monitor, up from 10 percent in 2007. Dual monitors cut task times by 20 percent; the third monitor becomes essential in the paperless office.
  2. Start scanning. Scan everything at the front end and invest in dedicated work stations where administrative staff can handle it efficiently. About 81 percent of firms are already doing it. Kepczyck recommends that accountants look first at market leaders Fujitsu and Canon.
  3. Stop buying desktop PCs. Instead buy laptops. “The professional’s rule of thumb,” he says, “is that everyone who works out of the office one day per week or more should have a laptop as their only machine.” And stick to the name brands — Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba and HP. If you standardize on brands and the business models, your firm could save 26 percent on total cost of ownership.
  4. Move backups offsite. That means uploading to the internet cloud. “The tape drive you have today will be the last one you will ever own,” Kepczyk says. Small firms should start with network attached storage drives (NAS, for short) to consolidate a firm’s data. Then they can choose from Mozy or Carbonite as off-site repositories. Larger firms should look into DoubleTake, Data Domain, Xcentric and TROI.

If you haven’t already done these things, then you’re already losing ground. But if you hurry, you might still have time to do something before busy season gets completely crazy.

Copyright 2010 AICPA.

4 Responses to “Four Fast and Easy Tech Fixes for CPA Firms”

  1. Mike Foster

    Executives-be sure your CPA saw this article.

  2. Bob Davis

    I enjoyed reading your article, “Four Fast and Easy Tech Fixes” As the IT Manager for a mid-sized accounting firm, I can say from experience that when there is top-down support for a project, things happen much smoother with less rumbling and are usually more successful. In your article you say, “If your accounting firm or finance department is pushing off technology decisions to the IT department, you may be pushing it off to the wrong people” and I agree with that statement.

    However, I have also seen where decisions are made without the knowledge of the IT Department only to find out that they either wouldn’t work in the current environment, or that additional costs are needed that were not planned into the project. If you read any new medium-sized or large application that is not SaaS, ASP, or Cloud there are usually minimum technical requirements. Often just sharing this with your IT head will let you know if the existing infrastructure has the capability to support the new application.

    I am of the absolute belief that business drives technology. Unfortunately, many technology people in the past have either not understood this critical philosophy or chose to ignore it and therefore IT is often dismissed because they do not understand the business. There is nothing more important to an IT Manager/Director than understanding the business, where the business is going, and planning for that future. This can not be done by the IT Manager, but has to be done with a collaboration of the firm leadership, the segment leaders, and the technology leader. It is when one makes decisions in a silo that mistakes are often made. This is also true among the segment leaders. If each of the segment leaders is able to make decisions based upon what is best for their segment and not what is best for the firm, then you can have disparate systems that provide no cross-functionality.

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  4. Byron Patrick, CPA.CITP

    Good stuff here, as always! However regarding the triple monitors… I am recommending to our clients to replace the second with a good 24″ or 27″ wide screen. It gives you a large canvas for working on that doesn’t have the rigid limits of the multiple screen segments Also, it eliminates the challenges associated with having the hardware capable of more than 2 screens.