The Indiana CPA Society has established a CPA Center of Excellence to better prepare CPAs for the challenges of the future.

The effort to establish the new center began in 2010 with the goal of exploring ways in which knowledge could be captured, stored and transferred among CPAs. It evolved to include whitepaper studies of the future of competency for CPAs and the development of CPA core competency descriptors, and to provide a variety of online tools for CPAs in Indiana and across the country.

The center aims to advance the CPA profession's critical success skills and core competencies, and offer various tools, resources and creative educational opportunities that will position CPAs to improve those competencies in order to meet future client, employer and environmental needs and demands. It will emphasize competency-based learning, a concept much different than the current hours-based model.

Knowledge sharing and awareness of emerging trends and issues are other major pieces of the CPA Center of Excellence. The Indiana CPA Society said it believes that in addition to being proficient in several core competencies, CPAs must also share knowledge and maintain an awareness of the trends and issues impacting them to be more agile, adaptive dynamic and resilient.

“The CPA Center of Excellence reflects the future of the CPA profession," said Indiana CPA Society president and CEO Gary Bolinger in a statemement. “It encompasses not only much-needed movement toward a competency-based approach to professional development, but also stresses the career success skills that may be even more vital than technical skills, to position CPAs as trusted business advisors in the years ahead."

The CPA Center of Excellence was developed under the guidance of David Griffiths, a Wales-based international knowledge management and complexity advisor. Nearly 100 INCPAS members have also been actively involved in various capacities as the CPA Center of Excellence came to life.

“The Indiana Society's emphasis on competency-based approaches to training and learning is a major step forward,” said J. Clarke Price, relationship manager for the CPA Center of Excellence and former CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs. “It's something that is unique across the landscape of associations that are focused on the CPA community. The tools, programs and resources available through the CPA Center of Excellence are something that will change how we look at training and the preparation of professionals. It's a great step forward."

The CPA Center of Excellence, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indiana CPA Society. However, its products and services will be relevant to CPAs not only in Indiana, but throughout the U.S. and perhaps even internationally.

Five main components of the CPA Center of Excellence are being released this summer. A new Web site, http://cpacoe.com, is live and open to the public. The site contains descriptions of the components, dates and/or ordering information.

Among the components are an 83-page handbook, “CPA Excellence – A Quick Start Guide to Defining and Mastering Vital Skills for Success,” which contains charts, graphics and frameworks. It provides a step-by-step approach to help individuals and CPA firm HR managers master various critical success skills. Also included are the competency descriptors for seven core competencies. The book is available for $19.95, or $15.95 each if four or more copies are ordered.

The center is also providing online, on-demand interactive courses. The modules can be completed in multiple segments over a 90-day period. Modules on leadership and critical thinking skills are currently available. Five more on decision making, collaboration, entrepreneurship, communication, and knowledge sharing will be released in the coming months. They are priced at $229.

There will also be live events held in a classroom. After a brief introduction, participants go through a live simulation to implement plans and solve real-world challenges. A debrief for reflections conclude the event. Currently three events are scheduled from Nov. 18 through 20. Topics covered will include leadership, communication and critical thinking. The events are priced at $319 for INCPAS members and $469 for nonmembers. More events will be added in the future.

In addition, the Indiana CPA Society has partnered with Cognitive Edge's Sensemaker product to create an competency assessment tool for CPAs, the CPA Core Competency Study. Before competency development can begin, CPAs and their employers need to know where each CPA is starting from, and this tool is intended to provide the answers. A benchmarking survey is being conducted this summer nationwide to give a baseline for CPA competency levels that CPAs and their firms can measure themselves against.

The Indiana CPA Society is also setting up a CPA Center of Excellence Online to provide an online collaboration space for CPAs to connect with each other and share knowledge in a more efficient and effective way than ever before. The CPA Center of Excellence Online, which will include individual profiles, groups, discussion boards, blogs and a CPA resource library, will be available in July. All INCPAS members will have free access.

Online modules will offer the ability to earn digital badges upon completion. These digital badges are contained in a digital backpack, and can be displayed publicly on not only a CPA's CPA Center of Excellence Online profile, but also on LinkedIn pages and other forms of online professional profiles and résumés. They link back to verification of the module completed and signify achievement in the various skills.

Another element of the CPA Center of Excellence is creating awareness of emerging issues and trends, and to that end, a group called the Fusion Network provides weekly blogs and quarterly podcasts on timely topics. The Fusion Network is made up of more than 30 INCPAS members statewide who have volunteered their time and expertise to help fellow CPAs keep up with issues and trends impacting them now and in the future. The blog site called The Smoke Detector is open to the public at http://fusionnetwork.incpas.net.

In support of both collaboration and competency enhancement, the Indiana CPA Society has begun forming member networks as another component of competency development, knowledge management and knowledge sharing. The first group, made up of representatives of about 10 midsize local public accounting firms called the Genesis Network, has been active for more than a year. Other member networks of both public accounting and business and industry members are in the process of being formed.

The CPA Center of Excellence’s slogan is “This is Better" and INCPAS said it believes a focus on competency assessment, competency enhancement and intelligent collaboration are the keys to success in the future for the CPA profession.