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2013 TTI Survey Lists Top 10 Technology Initiatives in U.S. and Canada

TechnologyTechnology allows CPA firms to better understand, manage and grow their practices. Yet, it can come with its own set of challenges when trying to manage and retain data, secure IT environments and stay in compliance, according to the latest top technology initiatives survey from the AICPA’s Information Management and Technology Assurance Division.

The 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey, conducted jointly by the AICPA and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, asked accounting professionals in public accounting, business and industry, consulting, government, not-for-profit and other organizations about their top 10 technology initiatives in 2013. Here's the top 10 in the U.S. and Canada:

United States

  1. Managing and retaining data
  2. Securing the IT environment 
  3. Managing IT risks and compliance 
  4. Ensuring privacy
  5. Managing system implementation
  6. Preventing and responding to computer fraud
  7. Enabling decision support and analytics
  8. Governing and managing IT investment and spending
  9. Leveraging emerging technologies
  10. Managing vendors and service providers

Canada

  1. Managing and retaining data
  2. Securing the IT environment
  3. Enabling decision support and analytics
  4. Managing IT risks and compliance
  5. Governing and managing IT investment and spending
  6. Ensuring privacy
  7. Managing system implementation
  8. Leveraging emerging technologies
  9. Preventing and responding to computer fraud
  10. Managing vendors and service providers

Confidence Levels Declining in U.S.

In addition to being asked to prioritize this year’s technology initiatives for 2013, North American survey respondents were asked how confident they are that their clients’ organizations (or their own) are addressing this year’s top technology initiatives.

The top technology initiatives survey showed that confidence levels, which ranged from 22% to 57%, were mostly down across the board from 2012. The highest levels of confidence were only 55% in the U.S. and 57% in Canada for what respondents in both nations saw as the top priority: managing and retaining data. Both also agreed that they had the least amount of confidence in leveraging emerging technologies – the U.S. at 27% and Canada at 22%.

So, if technology is “better,” why are confidence levels so low and declining? According to Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, CGMA, managing director of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies LLC, and chair of the AICPA’s IMTA Executive Committee, organizations may be re-assessing their goals. He said:

“The decline in confidence levels may mean professionals are making more knowledgeable assessments of the ability of organizations to achieve technology goals. This more realistic assessment indicates that the goals may be more challenging than originally thought, and that organizations must have the focus, commitment and drive to achieve them.”

Managing and Retaining Data: The Top Priority

While technology has enabled organizations to make more effective use of data in advising clients and making business decisions, the explosive growth in the volume and complexity of information has increased the risks in managing and retaining data. As demonstrated in survey results, both U.S. and Canadian professionals ranked Managing and Retaining Data as the highest technology priority and noted the following key risk factors and key risk management factors as posing the greatest concern amongst  practitioners:

Key Risk Factors

  • Data management is integral to an organization’s ability to mitigate risks.
  • An organization whose data management policies and procedures are insufficient or ineffective is exposed to the consequences of poor data management.
  • Business decisions or client advice may be based on incomplete or inaccurate data.
  • Data may be stored in outdated or incompatible formats for retrieval or improperly backed up, resulting in irrevocable loss of data.

Key Risk Management Factors

  • An organization needs to develop a strategic plan for managing data in order to realize the most value from its investment in data acquisition and usage.
  • It must develop policies and procedures to meet the internal, legal and compliance-related requirements for data retention and usage.
  • It must be able to back up data and restore data in the event of a data loss (or a need to access historical data). 

The heightened risks have made it all the more important for organizations to develop strategic plans and implement policies for data use, management and retention.

Results of the 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey discuss U.S. and Canadian Top Technology Initiatives rankings and perceived confidence levels, compare this year’s U.S. survey rankings and confidence levels with the 2012 U.S. results and examine the risks and opportunities for public accounting firms and businesses in managing each initiative. The AICPA will be hosting a webinar, 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Webcast, to be held 2 to 3:15 p.m. ET on July 16.

Jocelyn M. Woodard, Manager IMTA, American Institute of CPAs. Jocelyn is a technology risk and assurance manager assisting AICPA committee and task force members with the planning and implementation of initiatives that will better aid CPAs in understanding and utilizing information management and technology assurance tools and concepts.

Technology image via Shutterstock

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