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 fourth blog entry in the series addresses the findings of the workstation related questions.

Kepczyk’s View: Firms should standardize on laptops if there is an inkling that the individual will work outside of the office even if only one day per week, and especially if the firm is in a high-risk disaster area, which would allow them to “grab and go” if bad weather is in the forecast.  In addition to standardizing on Windows 10 and Office 2013, firms should standardize on i5 or i7 processors, Solid State Hard Drives, and at least 8Gb of RAM on every new computer (unless they are going completely into the cloud where 4Gb is adequate).

Workstations: Dell still leads the pack for desktop brands with 62% of respondents making them the first choice followed 23% by HP and 9% by Lenovo.  Studies done in the past pointed to a 26% reduction in the total cost of workstation ownership when firms standardized on one primary model.  For laptop brands, Dell (58%), HP (20%), and Lenovo (17%) continued to be the major brands.  The most popular laptop configuration was a 15” with full keyboard including a full ten key pad at 59% of respondents followed by 25% of firms buying 17” models as their standard, compared to only 11% selecting the smaller and lighter 14”-15” laptops without an integrated ten key.

Workstation Software:  It comes as no surprise that Microsoft Windows is the dominant operating system (with no responding firms standardizing on Apple iOS).  Windows 7 was the standard in 86 firms (75%) followed by 16 firms using Windows 8.x and 12 listing Windows 10.  The survey also found that more than one third of the respondents already had or were planning on transitioning to Windows 10 in 2016.  68% of CPAFMA respondents utilized Internet Explorer as their browser followed by 26% utilizing Google Chrome and 3% using Mozilla FireFox.  Microsoft Office 2010 was the dominant version of Office with 59 respondents (51%) followed by 45 firms on Office 2013 (39%) and seven firms on Office 2007 (6%).  Four firms had transitioned to Office 2016, which we anticipate will begin the transition of Microsoft software to more annual subscription based pricing.  Adobe continues to be the dominant PDF program with 59 firms (53%) standardizing on Adobe 11 followed by 31 firms (27%) using Adobe 10.  Seventeen firms (15%) had transitioned to Adobe 12/DC, which we expect the five firms that were still utilizing Adobe 9 will have to transition to this year.

Monitors: The survey specifically asked for the standard tax desktop setup which pointed to 54% (61 firms) utilizing Triple monitors as the standard.  This was followed by 22% (25 firms) using Dual Oversize monitors greater than 20” and 19% (22 firms) using Dual Standard monitors less than 20”.

Tablets: 34% of peer firm provided tablets to all partners and 10% provided them to all managers, but only 3% provided them to all staff.  The survey found that two out of three tablets purchased were Apple iPads with the remaining third being Android (Dell, Samsung, Motorola) and Windows (Microsoft Surface) variations.

Smartphones: 60% of peer firms provided all partners and 24% provided managers with Smartphones, with the majority (79%) being Apple iPhones and the remainder being Android (Primarily Samsung Galaxy) smartphones.  44% of firms provided a stipend which varied greatly between firms.


The CPA Firm Management Association ( 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.