The CPA Firm Management Association 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 fifth (and final) blog entry in the series addresses the findings of the network infrastructure, communications, and IT Governance related questions as well as training resources recommended by respondents
Kepczyk’s View: We find it increasingly hard for CPA Firm IT personnel to keep up with the latest server advancements enough to implement them successfully the first time on their own. Our recommendation for firms that want to install a new technology is to work with an experienced integrator to get the implementation completed optimally the first time. We also see the expansion of cloud providers and applications reducing the internal IT needs of firms pushing internal IT personnel into more of a project management roll, or the firm outsourcing their higher level IT support.
Network Utilities: The CPAFMA technology survey also identified various systems and maintenance applications utilized by peers:
- Antivirus/Malware: 17 firms (15% of respondents) stated they had been impacted by a virus, malware or ransomware that caused significant downtime in the past twelve months. The two top antivirus solutions utilized in firms were MacAfee (32 firms) and Symantec (29), followed by ESET (8), AVG (7), TrendMicro (7), Vipre (4) and Barracuda (3) with roughly one-third of respondents opting for the cloud-based products which are trending.
- Backup Options: While 12% of respondents still utilized tape backups, 48% backed up to hard disks, which we have seen to be more reliable and easier to restore files when needed. Half of member firms backed data up offsite via Internet-based solutions.
- Data Backup/Archival Solutions: Member firms are using a wide variety of data backup applications with no one product garnering any significant lead. This is evidenced by the top ten products; Datto (8 firms), VMware Veeam (7), Dell AppAssure (6), Acronis (5), Symantec/Veritas BackupExec (4), Mozy (3), EVault( 2), Carbonite (2), Arcserve (2), and ShadowProtect (2).
Email/Groupware: Microsoft continues to be the dominant Groupware product utilized by 79 firms internally and by 37 firms that have transitioned to cloud based versions. In our consulting, this is one of the primary applications that firms transition to the cloud when they consider the cost of building and maintaining their own servers. Interestingly, four peer firms have moved their groupware to Google’s platform. The survey also asked about the standard mailbox size that was allocated to users and found it fairly equally distributed: 23 Firms allowed 1Gb or less, 25 firms allowed between 1Gb and 5Gb, 16 firms allocated 5Gb, and 42 firms allocated more than 5Gb, which we see being due to Microsoft’s hosted Exchange providing 50Gb to start.
Collaboration/Instant Messaging: Microsoft’s Skype for Business (formerly Lync and Office Communicator) was the dominant application in this space with 28 member firms using it (15-cloud, 13-on-premise). There were also thirteen firms using IM through their phones with the most prevalent being ShoreTel (5 firms) and Mitel MiCollab (3 firms). Three of the four Google groupware users from the previous question also utilized Google Plus for their Instant Messaging.
Video Calling: 55 peer firms were using video calling with Microsoft Skype for Business/Lync again being the dominant product (22-cloud, 21 on-premise responses). Firms with dedicated video conferencing products listed LifeSize (4 firms), Zoom (2), Mitel (2), Vidyo (2) and five firms utilized GoToMeetings video calling capability.
IT Governance: The vast majority of peer firms (95 firms representing 83% of respondents) utilized a technology budget that was reviewed at least annually. Surprisingly, only 54% (61 firms) had a designated IT Committee. Of those that did have an IT Committee, 39% met monthly, 31% met quarterly, 22% annually/as needed and 8% met at least every other week.
IT Training Resources: The final technology survey question had respondents list the best training resources with the most firms selecting the accounting vendor user conferences: CCH (31 firms), Thomson Reuters (10), Xcentric (6), Sleeter (3), XCM (2). This was followed by 16 firms listing the CPAFMA National Symposium and/or Technology Fly-in and the AICPA TECH/Practitioners Symposium.
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.