The CPA Firm Management Association recently conducted its first comprehensive technology survey tailored specifically to member firms with the goal of identifying the applications, products and processes utilized by peers. Where possible, the survey attempted to identify which applications firms are moving to in the cloud compared to traditionally on-premise managed solutions. The survey was conducted in January 2016, with 140 members participating, 90% of which had between 11 and 149 personnel and almost half being multi-office. Survey results have been broken into the five following technology components: Tax, Audit & Accounting, Administrative, Workstations and Infrastructure. This second blog entry in the series addresses the findings of the audit and accounting related questions.
Kepczyk’s View: The standard industry combination of CCH Engagement with PPC Smart Practice Aids is changing as firms successfully adopt a single audit suite approach (CCH Engagement/KnowledgeCoach vs. PPC Smart Practice Aids/AdvanceFlow). Auditing more through the computer is driving firms to adopt not only the data extraction and analysis tools, but also the encrypted email and portal solutions that promote secure transit of data. As the Internet becomes more ubiquitous, more firms are centralizing their audit production on firm servers via remote access in lieu of checking out and managing individual audit binders.
Audit and Accounting Applications: The survey targeted assurance and accounting services to identify adoption of the following applications and utilities:
- Audit Binder: The dominant engagement binder application utilized by firms was CCH Engagement with 74 firms. Within these CCH respondents 14 firms stated they hosted their binder in the cloud, which would point to firms hosting their networks with Citrix or Windows Terminal Server as this is not anticipated to be part of the CCH Axcess suite for another two years. Sixteen firms utilized Caseware (with five also cloud hosted) and Thomson’s Engagement was utilized by 13 member firms, with one utilizing their new cloud-based AdvanceFlow application which is part of Thomson’s web-based audit suite.
- Data Extraction: While being touted by digital audit pundits for the past decade, only 20 firms utilized IDEA for data extraction (with only two utilizing the competitive ACL product). The vast majority of peer firms (50 responses) listed Excel as their data extraction tool and fifteen firms had transitioned to the ActiveData Excel add-on which appears to be the rising star.
- Client Payroll: While 20 firms outsourced payroll to ADP, 17 to QuickBooks Online, and four to Paychex, the majority still produced internal payroll primarily with QuickBooks (40 firms) and Thomson’s CS/MyPay products (22 firms).
- Depreciation: CCH Fixed Assets was selected by 53 firms followed by 36 utilizing Thomson’s Fixed Asset CS. Interestingly, eight CCH firms stated their depreciation was cloud-based, which would point to them being hosted by a third party, whereas Thomson had eleven firms using cloud based depreciation, which could be either hosted by a third party or their own Virtual Office. The other three products mentioned by peers were BNA FAS (10 firms) and AssetKeeper (7 firms).
- Remote Access Tools: Microsoft Windows Terminal Server/RDS was utilized by 51 firms (47% of respondents) followed by 42 firms (40%) utilizing Citrix for remote access. The remainder of firms either did not have a remote access tool or utilized VPN, GoToMyPC, or LogMeIn. The survey found that only four firms had more than 80% of their employees telecommute one day per week or more. Eleven firms estimated between a quarter and half of their staff worked remotely at least one day per week, and 25 firms stated that between 5%-25% telecommuted weekly, pointing to this being a distinct recruiting advantage to those firms that allow it.
The CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA.com formerly known as the Association for Accounting Administration) is comprised of over 1,000 members of CPA firms with a focus on improving the management and production capabilities of today’s accounting firm.
About the Author
CPA Consultants Alliance member Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP is the Director of Consulting for Xcentric, LLC and works exclusively with accounting firms to implement today’s leading best practices and technologies incorporating Lean Six Sigma methodologies to optimize firm production workflows. Roman is also the author of “Quantum of Paperless: A Partner’s Guide to Accounting Firm Optimization” which includes the results of the 2015 CPAFMA Paperless Benchmark Survey.