The automation of tax workflow, a slower adoption of Microsoft's new Vista operating system and the ongoing rivalry between veteran QuickBooks and Microsoft's relative newcomer Office Accounting are expected to be among the top technology trends affecting the accounting profession in 2007.In a recent online session hosted by the Association of Accounting Administration, noted technology consultant Roman Kepczyk, CPA, CITP, unveiled a checklist of technology trends that he predicts will dominate the CPA user community in the ensuing year.

"Two years ago, the outsource tax providers really hit in on the concept of tax workflow being fully automated," said Kepczyk, who also heads Phoenix-based consultancy InfoTech Partners North America Inc. "We think these outsource providers really built on the concept of tracking in meticulous detail all the items that have to go in the tax return."

Despite a number of benefits, including arrow interface, scrolling windows, an ability to customize search criteria, a Google-like desktop and better security, Kepczyk said that Microsoft's Vista faces incompatibility with standard anti-virus and anti-spyware software. "This is why our IT departments will be slow to push Vista out," he explained, adding that the product will be kept in a pilot format for the first six to eight months of the year.

With regard to Microsoft, Kepczyk opined that 2007 might be the year that its Office Accounting may finally pose a challenge to segment-leading QuickBooks.

The former Small Business Accounting, which has been rebranded Office Accounting 2007, now touts integrated source documents and integration with Office, while also offering a 100-percent conversion utility for QuickBooks users.

Security concerns will continue to drive user trends, as "phishing" and similar breaches have prompted CPA firms to implement encryption tools for hard drives and e-mail.

Meanwhile, Kepczyk said that as document management grows in use, Web storage should gain in popularity, as many of the vendors specializing in DM are including the capability to give clients Web access to documents and to store files as part of their services. "The [Web storage] pricing model is going to be totally turned upside down this year," Kepczyk said.

Web-based applications will take off. Many firms are already using third parties for banking, payroll and research; next up they will bring customer relationship management, logistics and human resources benefits onto online applications.

"Rather than you going through the hassle of building a SQL server in your firm, you outsource it to a third party just because it's much easier, more stable, and we think eventually the cost will come down," Kepczyk said.

Other predictions to keep an eye on: the standardization of broadband cellular use for remote access to firms for auditors in the field, and the death of the personal digital assistant. Though Kepczyk has a number of his own PDAs, "The integration with phone systems has become so standardized that there's no reason to carry two devices."

Kepczyk's Top 10 in Tech

1. Tax workflow with intelligent scanning, organization and input will have a significant impact on redefining the tax production process.

2. Firms will be slow to adopt Windows Vista and Office 2007.

3. MS Office Accounting may be able to compete with QuickBooks.

4. Firms will adapt to knowledge management with the use of SharePoint.

5. Web storage becomes standard as its cost decreases.

6. Display technology takes off.

7. Security concerns push firms to implement encryption tools for hard drives and e-mails.

8. Broadband cellular becomes the standard for auditors in the field.

9. Increased use of Web-based applications and hosted solutions by third parties.

10. The death of the PDA.

Source: Roman Kepczyk, CPA, CTIP

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