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Technology and International Opportunities Key to Future, Say AICPA Members

One of my greatest joys is talking to members and sharing with them how the profession is evolving. Whether at state CPA societies, conferences or other events, members and I often engage in dialogue about trends and the profession’s path to maintain relevance in an ever-changing marketplace.  

Over the last few months, as part of my presentation, I’ve asked firm leaders, state CPA societies and members of our governing Council a series of poll questions, intended to gauge what members are seeing and experiencing in the marketplace. Are CPAs and the profession’s stakeholders affected by the convergence of macro trends? Do they capitalize on opportunities enabled by technology? What are they doing to attract and retain a talented and diverse workforce? Is their business crossing borders more than ever before?

The answer in each case was a resounding ‘yes.’ Below is a summary of some of the questions and analysis of what the results mean for our profession.

“By 2020, where do you think the profession needs to be on the technology adoption curve?” and… “Where are you on the curve?”

The technology adoption curve was made popular in the 1990s by Dr. Geoffrey Moore and was later referenced again in a whitepaper called “Accounting Services: Harness the Power of the Cloud,” which was based on research conducted by Dr. Moore. Barry polls

When asked where our profession needed to be on the technology adoption curve by 2020, two-thirds (65%) of those polled said CPAs needed to be either Early Adopters or Innovators of new technology. Another 30% said we must be in the Early Majority. Combined, 95% of respondents believe CPAs must be quick to embrace new technology and the capabilities that come with it.

Technology has always been a great force in overturning the status quo, but never more so than today, thanks to the sheer ubiquity of technology in our lives and the accelerated pace of change. After the invention of the telephone, it took more than 50 years for half of American homes to have one. Change happens much quicker today. Facebook attracted six million users in its first year; that number multiplied 100 times over the next five years.

Technology allows businesses to launch and grow with stunning speed while using little capital. Entrepreneurs and start-ups now frequently enjoy advantages over large, established businesses because they can be more nimble and quicker to adapt. The furious pace of technological adoption and innovation is in fact leveling the playing field.

To stay ahead of change and capitalize on technological opportunities, the AICPA is currently working on several strategies to improve the profession’s core services. These efforts include developing guidance for the provision of meaningful assurance services around cybersecurity; helping firms transmit audits, reviews, compilations and tax information to users of client information in a secure process; and evolving peer review to utilize technology to help enhance overall quality.

Your business, clients and employees all expect you to be on the same technological plane as they are. So the question is, “what incremental changes can you make now, to be ahead of those expectations in the long run?”

A new tool we’ve recently released may be a helpful. The Tech Success Tracker provides CPAs with a more complete picture of the role of technology in their organization or firm and the value that IT can provide. The tool will also provide data that allow you to compare your metrics to those of your peers, and help understand the value that organizations and firms are expecting and realizing from their technology projects.

“Compared to the Boomer generation, how much more or less important do you think an international mindset will be to Millennials and future generations?”

Here again, members have a good understanding of the new normal. Businesses and people are crossing borders more than ever. Trade and finance used to be made up of direct lines that connected trading hubs in North America and Europe, but today the global trading system is a more complex and intricate web. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that 70% of the world’s purchasing power is located outside the U.S.

Within the U.S., CPAs’ clients are taking advantage of international opportunities. In fact, the National Small Business Association reported that in 2013, 64% of small companies sold merchandise or services to a customer outside the U.S., a 12-point increase from just three years earlier. All it takes is a website or a presence on social media.

CPA firms are increasingly seeing the possibilities of expanding into international markets as well. A recent AICPA Private Companies Practice Section survey revealed that 79% of respondents project international growth in the next five years. 

Regardless of whether you or your clients operate in the international space, chances are good that your future employees will want to operate in that space. The results of a PwC study of its employees found that 37% of Millennials said they would like overseas career opportunities (vs. 23% of non-Millennials).

What changes can you make today that will better position you for success tomorrow?

Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA, President and CEO, American Institute of CPAs.

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