The mobile revolution has brought both opportunities and change to CPAs at increasing rates. It is also revealing responsibilities in everything from politics to attestation.
In the past two years, the smartphone and tablet have overtaken the desktop and laptop as the device of choice for many. Today, 29 percent of adults in the U.S. own a tablet or e-reader compared to 2 percent only 3 years ago. According to Morgan Stanley Research, 953 million of the 6.1 billion global mobile phones are smartphones. This presents management issues for firms, businesses and organizations that are struggling with BYOD (or "Bring your own device") policies and procedures to the office, yet there are far more important issues regarding opportunities, capabilities and responsibilities. This requires thought and then action, unlike the typical response of action and then thought.
Mary Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, recently noted in her "All Things Digital" presentation that now is the time for re-imagination. Re-imagination is a process by which you think about how things have always been done and now how they are being done due to technology and the mobile environment. She provided over 50 examples in her presentation. I will provide 12 examples that impact CPAs both personally and professionally.
1. Electronic signatures. DocuSign is an example of how firms are reducing the turn-around time in getting clients and partners to sign documents. Documents that require multiple signatures are a good place to start. Sadly, the Internal Revenue Service is behind the times on Form 8879, but that should change in the future. The uses I hear from firms justify implementation now.
2. Aggregation of data/information. Zite, Flud and Flipboard are all great examples of applications that automatically gather articles and information that you are interested in and present the information in a pleasing and timely manner. Hopefully the consumer market will drive this format to research platforms in tax and accounting.
3. Cash registers to mobile point-of-sale devices such as Square. Visit an Apple store if you want to see a demonstration of efficiency and the highest sales per square foot in retail. Mobile devices are being used to access and manage inventory, as well as record sales and payments. Think of how your firm needs to re-imagine its pricing, billing and collection process.
4. Personal services and meshing. The mobile platform provides an entire range of personal and professional services. Everyone can afford to have their personal assistant in today's mobile environment. Check out eLance, 99Designs and Fiverr.
5. Telephone and video conferencing. Skype and Facetime are bringing video conferencing to the desktop. Microsoft Lync is getting rave reviews from firms using MS Office 365. These apps are improving communications and reducing the volume of e-mail.
6. Sports news. Follow your favorite teams via Bleacher Report or Sportacular. This is another example of the power of aggregation and the ability to have real-time information pushed to your mobile device.
7. Restaurant reservations. The old way was to have your assistant call to make reservations. Open Table has improved the reservation process, making it faster and easier.
8. Recruiting and hiring. Human resources used to place advertisements in the newspapers. Today, LinkedIn and other Internet employment sites provide rapid access to entry-level as well as experienced talent. The reverse is also true in that sites like Glassdoor, Robert Half and GoingConcern.com provide candidates with a wealth of knowledge. Remember you cannot control, but you can influence, social media.
9. Notetaking with a pencil and paper. Evernote and OneNote are great apps that provide access from any device, as well as search capabilities. Both work on Windows and Mac devices. They are also free or included in your existing Microsoft licensing.
10. Television. The trend is to watch what you want when you want to watch it. Mobile apps allow live TV on mobile devices. One of the best devices is Apple TV. This device in the conference room will allow presentations from iPads without any cables and utilize the speakers in the room. It works with flat-panel TVs as well as projectors. If your projector doesn't have an HDMI connection, you can purchase an HDMI-to-VGA cable.
11. Books are heavy, old-school and expensive. The Amazon Kindle application changed the landscape for bookstores and publishers, as well as the consumer. The search capabilities and version controls are much improved. Think about how your firm can publish policies and procedures to mobile devices, rather than paper.
12. Hand-written diaries and timesheets. Mobile devices can capture both personal and business records. Path is a relatively new iPhone app that allows the use of the camera built into the mobile device. Another application is Expensify, which allows you to capture receipts and aggregate expenses from your credit cards. It reduces the time spent in completing expense reports and timesheets.
Faster, better, cheaper and easier is the motto of the mobile environment. The magnitude of the coming change is dramatic - and yet neither government nor politics is driving this mobile revolution. In fact, our biggest risk in the U.S. is the fact the government currently spends 57 percent on entitlements, 20 percent on defense, 6 percent on interest and 16 percent on other. At the current rate, entitlements and interest will equal revenues by the year 2025. Technology and entrepreneurism are our great hope as a country, as well as globally. Technology is solving water, energy, health and food distribution problems globally.
Technology has improved the lives of CPAs and most people living on the planet. With the advancement in technology have come opportunities and responsibilities. The CPA is conservative by nature, but, more important, is trained in financial issues. Therefore, I believe that as CPAs we have a responsibility to get engaged in politics, educate the public with 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, support entrepreneurism, fight increased regulation, and make sure financial information is presented accurately.
Gary Boomer, CPA.CITP, is the president of Boomer Consulting, in Manhattan, Kan.
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