Nearly 40 percent of CPAs perceive themselves as catalysts for innovation for their clients, while the majority of CPAs believe they have a role to play in their clients’ adoption of technology, according to a new survey.

The survey, by the American Institute of CPAs, found that only 17 percent of CPAs say they play a minimal role or no part in helping clients embrace cloud, mobile and other emerging technologies that can improve business decision-making.

The survey was released Wednesday at Digital CPA: 2012 CPA2Biz Cloud User Conference, an event hosted by CPA2Biz, the technology subsidiary of the AICPA. The conference showcases strategies for firms looking to deliver accounting services and back office operations through the cloud.

“We’re at a defining moment in the accounting profession,” said CPA2Biz president and CEO Erik Asgeirsson in a statement. “It’s now possible for small- and medium-sized businesses to tap powerful technologies that make them more productive and offer faster, better insight into financial decision-making. But most of these companies need a tech-savvy business advisor to help them take advantage of these opportunities, and that’s a role CPAs are uniquely qualified to fill.”

Approximately 11 percent of CPA firms already operate completely in the cloud, according to the survey, and thus have a strong incentive for getting their clients to use digital technologies. The survey polled 624 AICPA members representing a mix of small to large public accounting firms from Sept. 12-28. Another third of the poll respondents said they use professional-grade cloud technology—such as bill management, accounting or payroll applications—in some parts of their practice.

The largest barriers to cloud adoption remain security concerns, change management and skepticism about the technology’s value proposition, the survey found. Respondents were also asked to list the biggest benefits. In order, they are:

1) The ability to work virtually or expand beyond current geographic reach
2) No worries about software updates, maintenance or troubleshooting
3) Better assurance of business continuity and disaster recovery
4) Productivity improvements
5) The ability to offer new service lines to clients
6) Better visibility into CPA firm and client finances

The first day of the Digital CPA conference featured a discussion of the economic outlook for small businesses by William Dunkelberg, chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Business, as well as post-election analysis by political commentator George Will. Thursday’s highlights will include keynotes by Asgeirsson, AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, and Geoffrey A. Moore, business strategist and bestselling author of “Crossing the Chasm.” Moore will discuss original research he conducted on the cloud and client accounting services. For more information, visit www.digitalcpa.com.