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Managing the Risk of Emerging Technologies

Emerging-technologiesIt is likely that we have all been told to get our heads out of the clouds at one point in our lives. However, emerging technologies are now forcing us to get our heads into the “cloud” and our hands on our mobile data.

Mobile computing, remote computing, social media, big data and cloud computing have enabled CPAs and others to access, use and manage information most anywhere, at any time.  

While these technologies are expected to drive 90% of the growth of the IT market from 2013 through 2020, determining out how to best leverage them is a hot issue for the accounting profession. In fact, the issue of leveraging emerging technologies ranked among the top ten technology initiatives in both the U.S. and Canada according to the AICPA's 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey results. 

The unprecedented access to information and other benefits of emerging technologies allows organizations to operate more efficiently, with the information they need at their fingertips – all the time. Technological advances create new revenue streams for CPAs, for example, in consulting, information analysis and controllership work. As a result, it is important that CPAs consider ways in which they can assist organizations with the identification and capitalization of opportunities, in the wake of these technological advances.

While working “in the cloud” generally connotes a “better” way to work, it does not come without its challenges. Not only must CPAs understand and keep abreast of advancements in emerging technologies, they must also be prepared to assist their organizations in developing policies and procedures for their management, including security and privacy protections.

Although the issue of leveraging emerging technologies ranked at the lower end of the top 10 in 2013 (ninth out of 10 in the U.S. and eighth out of 10 in Canada), these low rankings may be due in part to the following:

  • Cautious about adopting emerging technologies until they have a clearer understanding of the opportunities and risks.
  • Concerned with addressing other technology issues before they devote attention and resources to the adoption of emerging technologies.

Either way, confidence levels in this area are low. In fact, only 27 percent of U.S. survey respondents, and 22 percent of Canadian respondents, said that they were confident or highly confident in the ability of their clients’ organizations or their organizations to address these initiatives for 2013. While confidence levels may be low, rest assured that you can effectively manage the risk.

While it is no secret that emerging technologies are driving change and innovation across markets, industries and organizations worldwide, it does not come without its challenges. The challenge for both CPAs and the organizations they serve is first to understand the risks in technologies that, by definition, are continuing to evolve. This in turn, enhances an organization’s ability to develop plans, policies and procedures to manage these risks and train staff in the use of these technologies.

Organizations also can establish revenue-generating opportunities from these emerging technologies.

Results of the 2013 Top Technology Initiatives Survey, conducted jointly by the AICPA and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, discuss the U.S. and Canadian top technologies initiatives rankings and perceived confidence levels.

You can learn more about managing the risks of emerging technologies in “A CPAs Introduction to Mobile and Remote Computing Security Considerations” available to IMTA Section members. Additional resources on cloud computing can be found on AICPA.org.

Susan Pierce, CPA/CITP, CGMA, Senior Technical Manager – IMTA, American Institute of CPAs. Susan drives the strategic mission of providing value to the IMTA professional, the CITP credential holder and the technology engaged CPA.

Emerging technology image via Shutterstock

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