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What is a ‘Digital CPA’?

Digital CPA

There’s no question technology is having a huge impact on how CPAs and their clients conduct business, but the adoption rate isn’t uniform within the profession. Some practitioners are taking a wait-and-see approach. Others are sticking their toes in the water. And still another group is fully embracing technology and all that it promises—integrating innovation throughout their firm’s processes and workflows and becoming digitally present in today’s online world.

At CPA2Biz, we use the term ‘Digital CPA’ to describe the latter category. The Digital CPA harnesses the power of the cloud, the broad use of mobile devices and a carefully calibrated online presence to attract clients and build new service lines. It’s inevitable the entire profession will arrive at this same place one day – and that day isn’t far off.

The Digital CPA concept extends well beyond productivity improvements. It’s about reconstructing how you think about your practice—the way you interact with clients, the range of services you can provide to them.  The compliance areas (tax and audit) will always be staples for CPA firms and technology has, and will continue to, drive meaningful efficiencies in these areas.  However, the Digital CPA also sees technology bringing about growth and reinvention in new areas.  Perhaps nowhere is there more evident than with client accounting services, an increasingly strategic service for your small and midsize business clients, one that reaffirms your standing as most trusted business advisor.

In a nutshell, several key concepts come to mind when I think of a Digital CPA:

  • Harnessing the Power of the Cloud.  If you have a personal online banking account, you’re in the cloud. But the tools designed for use at the firm level are much more robust.
  • Mobile. I’m not breaking any news by saying consumer experiences are driving client expectations in business right now. If you love using mobile devices and tablets for home use, you’re going to want to tap your business applications on them, too.  With the right cloud solutions, your clients will be able to approve bill payments on their smartphone, or get a simple, easy-to-grasp report on their cash flow situation on their iPad. CPAs can – and should - be the conduit for providing those services.
  • Digitally Present. Next-generation clients look for information on the web first. And changing dynamics—from eased CPA mobility rules to globalization –make geographic considerations less important than they once were.  Bottom line: You need to have a strong digital brand.
  • Mindful of Managing Data Security. In this profession, we build our reputations on reliability. When the AICPA asks members about their top technology concerns each year, data security always tops the list. So the cloud solutions we employ not only have to work well, they have to be secure. Choosing the right cloud and mobile partners is critical.

The number of Digital CPA firms is growing rapidly, and I urge you to seek out early adopters in this field to see how it can lift your practice. We’re near an inflection point on technology in the profession, and the best is yet to come.   

Erik Asgeirsson, President & CEO, CPA2Biz, the technology subsidiary of the AICPA. Erik is regularly listed in Accounting Today’s annual Top 100 Most Influential People in the CPA Profession, and is a member of the DigitalNow Advisory Group, which counsels association leaders on opportunities in the digital age. Erik holds an MBA from The New York University Stern School of Business and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University. Early in his career, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania.

Futuristic display via Shutterstock.

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