CPAS right now are scared of technology and “are running away from it as fast as they can,” opined an accounting software reseller who is an active CPA in his state society.

The reasons are various, he continued. On the product side, they include worries about regulation. But CPAs are also simply unable to keep pace with the increasing complexity of technology, he continued. It’s not like the old days when it was simply a matter of learning Excel (okay, 1-2-3 originally), or mastering a basic accounting software package that could be easily sold and installed.

There’s always been an element in the accounting community that is technology- averse. Whether this view of CPAs is completely accurate, it has always had some truth to it. But the more important question it raises is, how much should accounting firms know about technology in order to help clients?

Technology continues to become more specialized. But so do other elements in the accounting practice, including niche markets. Firms that want to serve a niche need to learn a lot. Firms that don’t, need to be able to refer clients who need specialized services to others.

The question seems to get down to the basic issue of what does a CPA do when a client has a problem to solve—and that problem is going to be solved primarily through re-engineering a business process and that change in procedure will be made only through the installation of new technology.

If you have clients whose businesses depend on inventory in warehouses and you need to discuss profitability issues, you better understand inventory tracking and at least want to have heard of RFID and its impact. If you serve a business niche, you better be able to talk the talk, recognize the terms, and if you don’t install or sell the technology, you should be able to work with those who do to solve the client’s problem.

Otherwise, you’re just an old-fashioned bean counter. And beans are cheaper than they’ve ever been.

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