The Top 10 Priorities and Initiatives in Accounting Today

As accountants, we all know that information is the raw material of our industry. It’s certainly no surprise that technology, in all its increasing variations, is becoming the exclusive conduit of that information. To build on this concept and provide information to the accounting profession, the AICPA conducts an annual survey to determine what members see as this year’s top 10 priorities and initiatives in technology affecting the profession.

The 2012 results of some 2,259 respondents can be found in a PDF on the AICPA website, and some interesting things emerge from reading the report. The first one to strike me is that both the top priority and the top initiative are about “information security.” Since we are entrusted with private data, keeping it that way is paramount. However, reading between the lines of all the priorities and initiatives, you can see the respondents’ greater struggle is in sharing and exchanging information through every means possible, yet ensuring the information only reaches the intended recipients when and where they need it.

Digging down even one level further, information expertise is quickly becoming equated with technology expertise – they are no longer separable. But, when you combine the increasing change and volume in information with the increasing change and volume in technology, you can get a recipe for disaster. That’s why I found it interesting that much of the report is written from a risk management perspective; instead of asking how we create technologies ourselves, the report asks how we manage the risks from those that create technology for us.

What does all this mean for the future? To me, it means the clouds are not fleeting. The clouds take information sharing and information security to the next level — information is available when and where you need it, and secured by vendors who are fully focused on delivering it only into authorized hands. When this happens, our internal resources are free to bring the insight to that information, which then triggers beneficial actions by our customers.

I really see the top 10 priorities and initiatives pointing to five new realities of our times, driven by the cloud:

  1. The ability to automate: We don’t need to manually initiate processes, they just happen.
  2. The ability to share: The barriers preventing information flow are getting smaller and smaller.
  3. The ability to leave paper and its constructs behind: Paper is just data in limbo, waiting to move from one system to another.
  4. The ability to integrate: Applications are finally acknowledging that they live in an ecosystem, not their own island, and they are understanding it’s a competitive advantage to work with others.
  5. The ability to access anywhere: Offices are no longer the only place real work can be done. Client sites, coffee shops and soccer fields are now on the grid.

With these new realities, highlighted in the AICPA report and gathering in the clouds, technology really asks us to re-evaluate our whole model. What underlying assumptions are no longer true and should be abandoned, and what previously unimaginable value creations are now possible? As an industry, perhaps that’s the biggest priority and initiative for us to answer.

Editor’s Note: Several of Intuit’s® products are available in the cloud, including Intuit Tax Online and QuickBooks® Online. In addition, Adrian Simmons’ previous article he wrote for Intuit News Central, “How ProLIne Tax Import Helped Our Firm,” is still available for reading.