SURVEY: The New Software Scramble

Server rack floating on a cloudFirms switching programs more often than ever. But is that a good thing?

Sample finding: The number of firms subscribing to Office 365 is increasing 20% a year.

By Randolph P. Johnston and Leslie Garrett
The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey

We are seeing a high level of dissatisfaction among most firms with their software, and more firms have been changing software in the last three years than all of the switching we have seen in the previous three decades combined.

MORE FROM THE SURVEY: Operating System Updates Cause Headaches | Accounting Firms Add New Service Lines | Why Every CPA Firm Is a Tech Company at Heart
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We are concerned that many firms are signing long-term contracts for desktop solutions at the same time that some software is migrating to being hosted online.
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SURVEY: Four Computer Hardware Issues to Master

technology eye Digital Plus 11 related key findings.

91 percent now work with two or more monitors

By Randolph P. Johnston and Leslie Garrett
The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey

While many people believe that computer hardware is a commodity, the quality of the hardware and the way you deploy the devices can make a significant difference in how well your firm works.

We will discuss here four issues associated with computer hardware: replacement cycles, the brand of the PC you purchase, monitor trends and scanner software.

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SURVEY RESULTS: Windows 7 and Windows Server 2012

Abstract illustration of binary data flowTips for minimizing the damage, especially from "upgrades" you weren't expecting.

Key Findings

  • Thirty-two percent use Windows Server 2012, and 24 percent use Windows Server 2008, which is an 8 percent decrease in the use of Windows Server 2008 over prior year results.
  • Sixty percent are using Windows 7 (64-bit) as their primary desktop operating system, 17 percent are using Windows 8 and 12 percent are using Windows 10, which is used most commonly among solo practitioners (27 percent).

By Randolph P. Johnston, Leslie Garrett and Brian F. Tankersley
The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey

Choosing an operating system for your firm’s computers has a number of implications; it is not as obvious as one might think.

MORE FROM THE SURVEY: Accountants Quit Trying to Manage IT Themselves |Workflow Management Concerns Many Firms | Accounting Firms Add New Service Lines | How Top Tech Vendors Are Failing CPAs in the Cloud | Master Change, Master the Future | Why Every CPA Firm Is a Tech Company at Heart
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There are issues surrounding your choice of an operating system that may be surprising to those who have not been following the IT trade press, including the following:
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SURVEY RESULTS: More Accountants Turning to Experts for Tech Management

Young businessman drawing computer network against server backdropTablet and portal use rises.

By Randolph P. Johnston and Leslie Garrett
The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey

Over the last 25 years, managing technology has become an increasingly important part of managing a firm. Today’s staff members have video meetings with clients and team members around the world without the other party knowing whether they are wearing a suit in the office or wearing slippers in their living room.

MORE FROM THE SURVEY: SURVEY RESULTS: Workflow Management Concerns Many Firms | SURVEY RESULTS: Accounting Firms Add New Service Lines | SURVEY RESULTS: How Top Tech Vendors Are Failing CPAs in the Cloud | Master Change, Master the Future | Why Every CPA Firm Is a Tech Company at Heart
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Just as it is not a good use of an entrepreneur’s time to try to learn the tax law, buy software and prepare all of their own tax returns, it is not a good use of a practitioner’s time to work on IT issues. Given the value of an accountant’s time performing client work, it makes little, if any sense to manage it yourself.
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SURVEY RESULTS: Today’s Top Productivity Strategies

Weekly time sheet

Workflow issues and process management rank as top concerns.

By Randolph P. Johnston and Leslie Garrett
The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey

Workflow issues and process management rank as a top concerns for all segments, and practitioners have a new wave of workflow automation tools in early 2016, including Karbon, Pascal Workflow, and Scalus, which have just emerged from beta testing, while other new products such as Intapp have entered the accounting profession after focusing in other professional markets.

MORE FROM THE SURVEY: SURVEY RESULTS: Accounting Firms Add New Service Lines | SURVEY RESULTS: How Top Tech Vendors Are Failing CPAs in the Cloud | Master Change, Master the Future | Why Every CPA Firm Is a Tech Company at Heart
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While innovation is good, we caution users to run pilot projects for a period of time on any workflow system before you implement.
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SURVEY RESULTS: Accounting Firms Add New Service Lines

Chart of increases in firm administratorsThe 7 most popular services, with payroll on the rise.

By CPA Trendlines Research
The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey

The 3rd Annual Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey provides a look inside the medicine cabinets of firms of all sizes.

MORE FROM THE SURVEY: Master Change, Master the Future | Why Every CPA Firm Is a Tech Company at Heart
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In mapping trends, increases were seen in both service offerings and firm administrators.
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Hey You, Get onto My Cloud!

Cloud strategies mean different things to different people.

By Randy Johnston
Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey

I can make this very simple. Do you or your clients need to work someplace other than the office? For most of you, this answer is simple. Yes!

The next question is also pretty simple. Do you need to run traditional desktop solutions, or is a solution available that runs in a web browser?

MORE TECH:  Soloists, Small Firms Must Take Software Seriously  |  How the Smallest Firms Can Make Better Technology Decisions  |  Soloists, Small Firms Cite Tech Challenges  |  Soloists, Small Firms Cite Top Challenges

 

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If everything in your world runs in a browser, then any computer will work, and you can be done reading this blog post. However, if you have any desktop solutions that you need to run remotely, you will need a hosted option for that application. You can host applications privately or publicly. READ MORE →

NOW AVAILABLE: The 3rd Annual Accounting Firm Operations & Technology Survey Results

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Full-size softcover plus free ebook edition.

Randy Johnston, Chairman and CEO, Network Management Group Inc., and Leslie Garrett, PhD, CEO of Insight Research Group, are the principal authors of the Annual Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey Report. Available as softcover and ebook, published by CPA Trendlines, available at store.cpatrendlines.com/shop/afot.  

The report provides easy to understand bar charts and tables featuring three consecutive years of data which highlights trends in the profession. The survey results book also provides tables where survey respondents are segmented by size of firm, making it easy for accounting and tax professionals to benchmark their firm against others of the same size.

“This year we focused our efforts on increasing participation from mid- and large-size firms, we achieved success in this initiative,” says Garrett. This information-rich resource provides partners, owners, shareholders and IT Professionals with insight into how the profession is moving in terms of operations, technology, and practice management.  “It is our goal to provide an unbiased valid resource that aids firms in decision-making for the next 12 months,” says Johnston. READ MORE →

Soloists, Small Firms Must Take Software Seriously

Johnston, Garrett, Tankersley
Johnston, Garrett, Tankersley

Subscriptions and the cloud may not work for everyone. But proper licensing does.

By Randolph P. Johnston, Leslie Garrett, and Brian F. Tankersley
The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey

Software is the reason that firms make investments in computer hardware, yet many firms seem to avoid upgrades until they are forced to make a change. For example, when asked to identify their preferred word processing application,

  • more than 50 percent of respondents in both groups are using a version of the software that is over five years old (e.g. Office 2010 or earlier), and
  • a significant number of solo practitioners are using Word 2007, which is eight years old as of June 2015.

RELATED: Soloists, Small Firms Need Tech Update Plans | Soloists, Small Firms Cite Tech Challenges | An IT Department of 1? Soloists, Small Firms Relate

While we do not think that practitioners should jump the newest version of a product immediately, we also do not think they should be more than two releases behind the current version of their applications for an extended period of time.

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How the Smallest Firms Can Make Better Technology Decisions

Johnston, Garrett, Tankersley
Johnston, Garrett, Tankersley

That means hardware, OS and licensing (hello, audit!). BONUS CHECKLIST: Business vs. home computer models.

By Randolph P. Johnston, Leslie Garrett, and Brian F. Tankersley
The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey

Computer hardware and operating systems provide the foundation from which firms and their staff members manage their work tasks every day. While some practitioners focus more on the brand of the system rather than the quality of the components it contains, we believe that all of the major hardware manufacturers make some excellent, business-grade hardware, and they all also make some low-cost, low-quality items targeted at home users that are not appropriate for use in a business environment.

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Soloists, Small Firms Cite Tech Challenges

Johnston, Garrett, Tankersley
Johnston, Garrett, Tankersley

Cost, keeping up with new software among reasons some balk at investing in better tools.

By Randolph P. Johnston, Leslie Garrett, and Brian F. Tankersley
The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey

The planning and execution of the firm’s technology strategy is one of the areas where solo practitioners and small firms struggle the most. Thirty-two percent of solos and 24 percent of small firms were very concerned about “understanding the technology options and selecting the right ones for the practice.” Additionally, 26 percent of solo practitioners and 16 percent of small firms reported “staying informed about current technology” was a major concern of theirs.

MORE: An IT Department of 1? Soloists, Small Firms Relate

Unfortunately, most firms are not using basic management tools like preparing a budget so that resources can be conserved to replace the hardware and applications when necessary. While practitioners like to complain about the cost of their technology tools, compared to not having the tools, the return on investment in technology is significantly better than that of hiring additional employees.

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