The American Institute of CPAs has published a new book that offers advice to CPA firms on how to use cloud computing.

The how-to guide, “10 Steps to a Digital Practice in the Cloud: New Levels of CPA Firm Workflow Efficiency,” is written by John Higgins and Bryan Smith, a pair of CPAs who also hold the Certified Information Technology Professional credential.

Firms need to have a comprehensive technology plan, according to Higgins, because “it’s very easy to invest in the wrong solutions at the wrong time.” That can be expensive, both in terms of dollars and staff time lost, he added.

“The accounting profession has developed a good understanding of the concept of cloud computing, but not its value proposition,” Higgins said. “Firms often have difficulty seeing the strategic value of technology.”

In the book, the authors describe the 10 steps for getting a digital practice up and running:

1) Get the right technology infrastructure to leverage the cloud.
2) Provision enough Internet bandwidth, both wired and wireless, to operate effectively.
3) Select the right mix of desktops, laptops, mobile devices and software—what the authors call a “CPA technology toolkit” —to function in a productive, cost-effective way.
4) Install the right scanning systems to aid the shift to a paperless office.
5) Deploy a document management system to maximize efficiency with digital records.
6) Use trial balance working paper software, if the firm performs many of these engagements.
7) Transform the firm’s Web site into a full-fledged client portal.
8) Maximize productivity with workflow software.
9) Offer clients cloud-based accounting systems.
10) Have the right plan and tools in place to ensure data security and speedy disaster recovery.

Higgins will discuss topics from the guide in a session of The Digital CPA: 2012 CPA2Biz Cloud Users Conference, to be held Oct. 28-30 in Washington, D.C. The book is available from CPA2Biz, the AICPA’s technology subsidiary.