As computers become more and more an integral part of an accounting practice, David Primes couldn’t be happier. “There isn’t a choice anymore about getting [CPAs] involved with technology-you just have to,” he insists.
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Primes, CPA and shareholder of the Los Angeles-based Sobul, Primes & Schenkel, is a self-avowed “tech geek.” He started as a part-time computer programmer and software writer during college, but later switched his major to accounting. He joined Sobul, Primes & Schenkel in 1981 and has been a shareholder since 1984. As the firm’s technology leader, he is responsible for overseeing the automation needs both of clients-primarily professional service companies-and of Sobul, Primes & Schenkel itself.
His love for technology and how it drives the accounting process has made him a prominent speaker at industry trade shows and conferences, and has helped to establish his firm as a regional leader in accounting technology.
Primes will be facilitating the February 2004 program, “PDA RAM”, for the CalCPA Los Angeles tech group. The title reflects his involvement in so-called RAM sessions, conducted over a list server, of technology users who are members of the California Society.
He is a staunch advocate of tech groups, at both the state and local chapter levels. For one thing, such a periodic scheduled gathering can serve as “a forum for me to interact with a peer group of CPAs that are interested in the use of technology. We can share ideas of what is new and useful, and have a resource for discussing challenges with software and hardware issues,” he says. Tech groups are also a place for early adopters to display the “arrows in their backs” and learn from those experiences.
Another potential advantage of these gatherings is to make converts of those users who are considerably less comfortable with technology. “I encourage them to use the tools that are available. [Such a group meeting]-because of the audience, size and makeup-provides a forum for vendors to show how new products and technologies can help their firms and clients,” notes Primes.
Sobul, Primes & Schenkel was founded 22 years ago. It is a general accounting firm with 22 employees and six partners, and annual revenue of approximately $4 million.
In addition to spreading the word about technology, Primes keeps his firm apace with the automation curve internally.
In the early 1980s, Primes led the charge to automate the firms’ workpapers. At that time, the software was called ACE (Automated Client Engagement) from Sequel/McGladrey. The automation process involved training staff to use the tools in the software to replace pencil and paper activities in the work files.
Primes believes some of the benefits that moved the firm forward include these: (1) time was saved updating workpapers and balances, (2) the readability and consistency of workpapers across the firm improved, (3) it saved reviewers time while increasing the time available to perform analysis in the field, and (4) it created a digital record that became part of the firm’s normal backup.
Primes notes that “we still call it ACE internally,” even though the package was sold a couple of times and now carries the brand of New York-based RIA’s GoSystem Audit. The practice, however, will soon be phasing this out. Primes explains, “Since [Chicago-based CCH’s] ProSystem is our tax vendor, it is logical to look at their [fx Engagement] product. What we like is the Microsoft Office roots and the overall organization of the product.”
Primes cites fx Engagement’s “sophisticated” organization of workpapers, and intends to use it as the cornerstone of the firm’s document management system. Although only in the early stages of planning, Primes says of the proposed document management system: “We want to make it a part of our backup procedure-fault tolerance wherever we can [implement] it.”
Besides the security benefit, such a system would allow for all client-related data to be in an online document store and “available in an organized fashion from wherever we can get connected to our system,” notes Primes. He is counting on the firm’s tax and practice management vendors to help with providing a suitable indexing mechanism. He points out; “That [tax and PM] software has a client database in it already that we are careful to maintain.”
Carly Lombardo is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.