by John M. Covaleski

"No matter what the American Institute of CPAs Council votes - if they should say they don’t want the CITP designation - it does not matter, because I know we can manage to keep it going ourselves,” said Susan Bradley, a member of the CITP Retention Committee and a founder of both the Web site created for CITP holders, www.citponline.com, and the CITPTalk listserv discussion platform.

Bradley, a partner with Tamiyasu, Smith, Horn and Braun Accountancy Corp., in Fresno, Calif., and one of the first Certified Information Technology Profession holders, would prefer that the AICPA retain management of the credential and get a strong dose of support from CITP holders.

But if that doesn’t occur, she likes her alternatives.

They include linking the designation to another trade organization, such as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association of Rolling Meadows, Ill., which sponsors a similar designation, the Certified Information Systems Auditor, or the Information Technology Alliance, a consortium that includes some of the most successful technology practices affiliated with CPA firms.

If a third party isn’t brought in, Bradley says that CITP holders could manage the designation themselves. They already have a head start with the CITPonline Web site. Its features include a “Promotional Materials” link that offers a PowerPoint demonstration regarding what the designation means, and marketing materials such as downloadable CITP logos and a template of a press release that members can use to tell local media they are CITP holders. The site also includes many resources for conducting CITP-related work, multiple chat rooms and published news about CITP members.

CITP holders say that there’s growing market demand for the skills that a CITP designation represents. The designation is for CPAs who are involved in information technology strategic planning, implementation, management, and IT business strategies, according to CITPonline.com. The site’s “White Paper” report said that the designation denotes that the holder “serves as the bridge between business and technology.”

However, Bradley and other credential holders seem most hopeful that the AICPA will continue to oversee the designation with added help from CITPers themselves. That would also require the AICPA to accept a large amount of input from the holders in determining the credential’s future.

Bradley and fellow CITP Retention Committee member Mike Dickson said in June that they were preparing a business plan for how the designation could be kept by the AICPA with added support from CITP holders. At the time, they said that the plan called for creating additional marketing literature and tools for CITP holders, while also making the designation program “break even” financially in three years.

More recently, Dickson said that he could not comment on the contents of the plan that was submitted to the institute’s National Accreditation Commission. Bradley indicated that it could require a “slight” increase in fees from CITPers, who now pay an initial fee of $500, and $250 for subsequent annual renewals.

Demand for the CITP is being driven by businesses’ increased reliance on more sophisticated technology, Bradley said, citing tech industry analysts Gartner Inc. A Gartner survey earlier this year of chief information officers at some 620 companies around the world found that, more than ever before, “CIOs must bridge the gap in their organizations between business and technology.”

Demand for CITP skills could be further driven by technology-related requirements in the Sarbanes-Oxley law governing financial reporting, added Dickson, who’s also chairman of the Ohio Society of CPAs and an AICPA Council member.

Boston-based AMR Research, another industry analyst, has reported that Sarbanes-Oxley technology requirements have set the stage for a surge in information technology implementations that could be comparable to the Y2k compliance buying craze of the late 1990s. An AMR survey found that 39 percent of companies facing Sarbanes-Oxley-mandated IT changes “will evaluate existing features and functions of applications and platforms already in place, and more than 40 percent [of companies] are evaluating their enterprise performance initiatives” — areas where CITP skills could be used.

Dicskon also noted that CITPers could be instrumental in further rolling out XBRL, the Internet-based programming code developed by a consortium led by the AICPA. Because XBRL provides more rapid access to very detailed bits of financial report information, some authorities predict that it could play a big role in IT systems as regulators require more scrutiny in business reporting.

John Woodburn, a St. Louis Park, Minn.-based CPA and technology consultant, who plans to soon register to become a CITP, said, “I know that some way it has to continue because it has validity. The market needs CITP skills.”

However, Woodburn said that the CITP may overlap areas covered by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association’s Certified Information Systems Auditor certification. The ISACA did not respond to a request for comment.

Information Technology Alliance president Ron Eagle also did not return a call seeking comment, but in the past he has said that the ITA would like to handle the CITP if the AICPA ceases its involvement.

If the AICPA does cease its involvement, Bradley said, “That’s their loss. We’ll go on without them.”

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