2016 CPAFMA Technology Survey Findings-Administrative Technology

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 third blog entry in the series addresses the findings of the administration-related questions.

Kepczyk’s View: Internal administration is often a secondary priority in firms as partners have become comfortable with things running as they always have and focusing more investments on the tax and audit production side. Today’s practice management applications are incredibly robust and have added many features which firms are not aware of so we suggest firm’s attend their providers annual user conference to see first-hand how other firms are utilizing these new features.  Also, every aspect of back office administration has seen significant evolutions towards digital processes so anyone seeing a piece of paper come out of administration should ask the question of “what’s the most effective way to process this digitally today?”

CPA Practice Applications: Below we summarize the administrative applications which CPAFMA peer firms utilize to run their internal operations.  The number of firms selecting either on-premise or cloud applications have been identified where possible.

  • Practice Management: 86 firms (52% of respondents) utilized CCH’s Practice Management of which 14 were in the cloud either privately or through their Axcess Suite. Thomson Reuters had 43 peer firms using their Practice CS application, of which 15 firms were in the cloud or hosted in Thomson’s Virtual Office. OfficeTools also made a good showing as it was selected by 23 firms, evenly dispersed across the spectrum of firm sizes.
  • Payroll: For producing firm payroll, 35 firms utilized Paychex, followed by ADP (23 firms) and Intuit (12 Online and 4 QuickBooks internal). Seven firms utilized Thomson’s Accounting CS and two utilized their MyPay solutions.
  • CPE: Practice Management applications are also the tool of choice for CPE Tracking with 42 firms utilizing CCH and 33 utilizing Thomson Reuters’ tools (of which 23 utilized Thomson Learning/Virtual Office and 10 used their on-premise Practice CS. Not surprising was that a significant number of firms (25) continued to utilize Excel spreadsheets for tracking CPE.
  • HR: HR Management is another area where there was a wide variety of applications with no one product being dominant. ADP’s HRIS was used by nine firms, followed by Bamboo with six firms, and then Halogen, Paychex, and Paylocity each had three firms. Fifteen other products were utilized by peer firms.
  • Intranet: Microsoft SharePoint was the most dominant tool used by firms (27 firms) for intranet development followed by WordPress (five firms). Our consulting with CPAs has found that many firms still utilize an administrative drive or their document management application which was not reflected in the survey question.
  • CRM Tools: Practice Management was the most dominant tool utilized for Customer Relationship Management with 58 firms using CCH and nine using Thomson Reuters, followed by 15 other distinct applications.
  • Website Maintenance: While a large number of respondents maintained their own websites with local providers, CCH Sitebuilder led the survey respondents with 12 firms, followed by CPA Site Solutions (four firms) and WordPress and Thomson Web Builder CS utilized by two firms each.
  • Internal Accounting: On Premise QuickBooks continues to be the dominant accounting product utilized by firms with 66 firms, followed by Sage/MAS with nine firms and Thomson CS with seven firms. The number of firms utilizing cloud providers for running their internal accounting was centered around QuickBooks Online/RightNetworks at 16 firms and Intacct with five.
  • Accounts Payable Management: QuickBooks was also the primary tool used for managing payables with 59 on premise users and 14 in the cloud, followed by cloud-based Bill.com with 11 respondents. The second and third most prevalent products were Sage/MAS with nine firms and Thomson Reuters CS with four firms.
  • Expense Reports: 15 firms utilized their Practice Management application for inputting expense reports which is a recommended practice with time entry. Surprisingly, only nine firms stated they utilized cloud based expense products [Tallie (4 firms), Expensify (2), Concur (2) and Bill.com (1)].
  • Scheduling: Excel continues to be the dominant tool utilized for scheduling staff with 23 firms reporting they do so. This was followed by firms using Practice Management scheduling components [CCH (22) and Thomson (4)] or Outlook (four firms primarily between 11 and 24 members).  ProStaff was utilized by 16 member firms which placed it at the top of the dedicated internal products and XCM Schedule was the most utilized cloud application with 11 firms using 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:

RomanCPA 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.