The AICPA’s Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Conference was recently held (June 5-8, 2016) at the ARIA Resort in Las Vegas to educate CPAs on the latest accounting profession trends and the information technology impacting their firms. Each year, attendees can find “golden nuggets” of information, technology, and processes that were not previously known and they are provided fresh looks at trends not previously considered. Below are a handful of takeaways garnered at this year’s conference with the hope that some may strike a chord with you and make you think in a different way.
- “Gig” Workers: AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, discussed the evolution of the “gig” worker during his Professional Issues Update keynote and how the informal work sector is changing the way people look at employment. This term was initially used to describe people such as Lyft and Uber drivers that did additional contract work or “gigs” outside of their traditional day job utilizing on-demand applications to make use of their personal availability at their own discretion. Since then, this term is also applied to people that do a variety of different “gigs” in lieu of a traditional 9 to 5 career. Think about how “gig” workers could impact the accounting profession and be a possible solution to workload compression! Imagine having multipliers that increase the billing rate not only of part-time ‘gig’-employees, but also encourage clients to deliver their tax source documents earlier during busy season to take advantage of lower production rates!
- Fourth Industrial Revolution: During his Technology Update, Randy Johnston highlighted the advances in robotics, drones, self-driving cars, big data, and artificial intelligence that are melding together at an unprecedented rate to create the fourth Industrial Revolution. This integration, particularly in regards to big data and artificial intelligence, could possibly eliminate traditional services for accountants such as bookkeeping, payroll processing, and simple tax return preparation in the near term. This will push CPAs to focus on the higher value consultative roles with clients that take advantage of the unique experiences, knowledge and intuition the accountant has garnered over their career (which is discussed next with Level 5 Service).
- Tribal Knowledge: Edi Osborne discussed CPAs focusing on their specific consultative roles during her Level 5 Service: Making the Transition From Compliance to Reliance session with an emphasis in helping clients identify and understand the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that optimize their business. Edi provided all attendees with a copy of her book “Firm Forward” which outlines a straight forward process to teach firm members how to improve their consulting relationship with every client by moving them up one level at a time to get to Level 5, which is being the most trusted business adviser. She also introduced the term “tribal knowledge” which is the unique knowledge of a person to run or manage a process within a business that must absolutely be documented if the business wants to grow or expand. Without this “tribal knowledge” being captured, the firm is at serious risk of failure if that person is no longer available and no one knows how to resolve the problems of the process they manage. PCPS members may also be interested in the Trusted Client Adviser Workshop or related toolbox which also highlights insights from Edi.
- EULAyzer: What would you do if you received a letter from a law firm (possibly offshore) stating that you had to prove all your Microsoft licenses are valid or you will be sued? The law firm might ask you to run Microsoft’s Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit which will document all the Microsoft software it thinks is loaded on the network. According to “Are You Ready for a License Audit” session, presenter Brian Tankersley says this tool is “notoriously inaccurate,” often showing each engagement binder implementation as being a separate SQL server. Microsoft and Adobe have become increasingly aggressive at pursuing software piracy and CPA firms have become a target for these software audits. Firms that fail to respond timely can be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars so these audits should be taken seriously. While most firms can pull together a listing of their purchased licenses, this may not represent everything on their network, particularly if the firm has merged with other firms that may not have been as diligent. Brian recommends that firms document all their software licenses and review the End User License Agreements (EULA) annually, and shared a tool called EULAyzer (Brightfort.com) that firms can use to understand those lengthy license agreements before clicking the accept button.
- Digital Badges: James Brackens presented a session on Enhancing Audit Quality and the investment the AICPA is making over the next year including webcasts, an auditor toolkit, and “digital badges” to promote competency and ongoing learning. The first digital badge designations will be for single audits, employee benefit plan audits, not-for-profit certification, and for completing the CGMA Financial Performance Management Program. These badges can be displayed on your website, email signature, or other digital media and are linked to the AICPA website to validate the recipient has earned the badge and to describe the competency that is represented.
- AICPA ENGAGE: The final takeaway from the conference is that next year the AICPA will co-locate five popular AICPA conferences into one including: Practitioners Symposium and Tech+, Advanced Estate Planning, Advanced Personal Financial Planning, Tax Strategies for High Income Individuals, and the Advanced Accounting and Auditing Technical Symposium. This new conference is called AICPA ENGAGE and will be held June 12-15, 2017 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV allowing for a broader choice of educational opportunities than any AICPA conference ever held. Attending this program next summer will allow time for participants to implement what they learn before their next busy season kicks in.
Attending professional conferences provide a great opportunity to be exposed to the latest information and firm resources as well as to network with experts and peers on a broad range of accounting and technological topics. To get the optimum benefit from any conference, attendees should target a handful of best practices, tools, and process changes to implement as soon as they get back to their firms. Successful implementation of those things learned will be a catalyst for firms supporting you to go back the following year!
Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP is the Director of Consulting for Xcentric, LLC and works exclusively with CPA firms to implement today’s leading best practices and technologies.