Opportunity Exists for CPAs to Better Leverage Emerging Technology, AICPA Survey Finds

Proliferation of Mobile Devices Leads to Unease on Data Protection

March 14, 2012

NEW YORK (Mar. 14, 2012) – Like other business professionals, CPAs continue to wrestle with the best strategy to maximize the benefits of emerging technologies, such as mobile devices and cloud computing, according to the 2012 Top Technology Initiatives Survey by the American Institute of CPAs.

Survey takers said they are successfully meeting most of their technology priorities, from information protection and privacy to data management. A majority said their organization has appropriate policies in place to deal with data security concerns, and necessary steps have been taken to insulate IT networks and servers from cyber-attack. At the same time, CPAs were less certain about avoiding a data breach due to the loss of a laptop, tablet or other mobile device.

“The ability to tap critical information on the go, virtually whenever you want, is changing the way CPAs do business,” said Anthony Pugliese, CPA, CGMA, CITP, the AICPA’s senior vice president of finance, operations and member value. “But it imposes new burdens, too. CPAs and the clients and companies they work for need to stay on top of technological shifts, make the right decisions on access, security and privacy, and map out new areas of growth. It’s clear we’re still working our way through these challenges.”

Most survey takers said their firms had the knowledge, financial wherewithal, and access to sufficient staff and training resources to adopt new technologies. Yet they were significantly less confident about developing new revenue streams from those innovations.

“CPAs by our DNA tend to be a pretty skeptical group,” said David Cieslak, a principal in the computer consulting firm Arxis Technology and a CPA who holds the Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) credential. “We tend to be very cautious. We see the potential of new technologies, but we also want to be certain about their long-term viability and security.”

As in past years, the survey measures the anticipated impact of certain issues over the next 12 to 18 months for CPAs and their clients. Topping the 2012 list are 1) information security, 2) remote access and 3) control and use of mobile devices. All three have a bearing on the challenges that stem from the growing ubiquity and mobility of data, and represent a slight shift from last year.

The top three in 2011 were 1) control and use of mobile devices, 2) information security and 3) data retention policies/structure.

This year’s survey asked respondents to rate their organizational goals for technology in the coming year. The leading technology priorities for 2012, and survey takers’ assessment of how well their organizations are meeting them, are: 

  1. Securing the IT environment (62 percent)*
  2. Managing and retaining data (61 percent)
  3. Managing risk and compliance (65 percent)
  4. Ensuring privacy (62 percent)
  5. Leveraging emerging technologies (34 percent)
  6. Managing system implementation (52 percent)
  7. Enabling decision support and managing performance (46 percent)
  8. Governing and managing IT investment/spending (56 percent)
  9. Preventing and responding to fraud (60 percent)
  10. Managing vendors and service providers (56 percent)

*The figure in parentheses is percentage of respondents who felt either confident or highly confident their client or organization is handling the task appropriately.

AICPA’s 2012 Top Technologies Initiatives Survey webcast for members of the profession will be held on April 4, from 2 to 4 pm EDT. CPAs who participate are eligible for credits for continuing professional education.

Donny Shimamoto, chair of the AICPA’s Information Technology Executive Committee, and Janis Parthun, senior technical manager for the AICPA’s Information Technology Division, are available for media interviews about the Top Technology Initiatives Survey and how the profession is adapting to innovation.


The Top Technology Initiatives Survey was conducted electronically among AICPA members from Jan. 17 to Feb. 15. With 2,259 responses, the margin of error was plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. The survey was overseen by the AICPA’s Information Technology Division. Topline results are available online.

About the AICPA

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the world’s largest association representing the accounting profession, with nearly 377,000 members in 128 countries and a 125 year heritage of serving the public interest.  AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education and consulting.

The AICPA sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for audits of private companies, non-profit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination and offers specialty credentials for CPAs who concentrate on personal financial planning; fraud and forensics; business valuation; and information technology. Through a joint venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), it has established the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation to elevate management accounting globally.

The AICPA maintains offices in New York, Washington, DC, Durham, N.C., Ewing, N.J. and Lewisville, Texas.

Media representatives are invited to visit the AICPA Press Center at www.aicpa.org/press.