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Technology Risks and Rewards: A Balancing Act

Smartphone or data riskThe AICPA has long recognized the impact that technology has on the accounting profession. In fact, for over two decades, we’ve been reaching out to members and key stakeholders to better understand how it can be effectively harnessed through our Top Technology Initiatives Survey.

Back in the early 1990s when the survey debuted, the technologies we take for granted today would have been impossible to fathom. In an era when only early adopters had digital answering machines, the idea of a personal computer, which could obtain almost any piece of information in the world was beyond most people’s comprehension. Now, we carry these devices around in our pockets, take pictures with them and call them phones.

One constant has remained as technology has rapidly developed: CPAs and firms that implement technology intelligently can improve and enhance the services they provide clients. And that means embracing mobile technology through the use of smartphones and tablet computers.

“The ability to tap critical information on the go, virtually whenever you want, is changing the way CPAs do business,” said Anthony Pugliese, CPA, CGMA, CITP, the AICPA’s senior vice president of finance, operations and member value.

The prevalence of tablets and smartphones and related concerns over their vulnerability to data breaches or sensitive data being compromised through the loss of a device need to be reconciled. One of the most important first steps is to put in place effective policies over the control of mobile devices, including password protecting the devices and documents so information cannot be accessed if they are lost.

“CPAs by our DNA tend to be a pretty skeptical group,” said David Cieslak, a principal in the computer consulting firm Arxis Technology and a CPA who holds the Certified Information Technology Professional credential. “We tend to be very cautious. We see the potential of new technologies, but we also want to be certain about their long-term viability and security.”

 A CPA with the CITP credential is positioned to advise companies on these issues, as they uniquely pair financial expertise and a wealth of information technology knowledge with the strong ethics accountants are known for. This skill set best qualifies them to manage the challenging interdependencies of data integrity, risk management and cyber security –whether for their organization or clients.

As Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CGMA, CITP, and chair of the AICPA’s IT Executive Committee states: “By partnering with IT, who provide the technology expertise, CPAs can help their organizations build a good business case that balances the risk of emerging technologies with the potential benefits.” 

Full survey results are available online.

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