The increased use of mobile devices in the workplace has emerged as the top business technology concern for CPAs and financial executives, according to a new survey by the American Institute of CPAs.

The survey, of nearly 1,400 CPAs specializing in information technology, found mobile devices ranked ahead of information security this year.

The use of mobile devices and related technologies can reduce expenses and generate revenues, noted Joel Lanz, who co-chairs the AICPA’s Top Technology Initiatives task force, which produces the annual survey. “Clients look to us for guidance on how they can deploy this in a secure way, and in a way to do what they do better,” he said. “CPAs can provide a unique perspective if firms take the time to understand the issues.”

The ranking of top business-related technology challenges that CPAs across the country are helping clients and executives address are, in order:

1. Control and use of mobile devices;
2. Information security;
3. Data retention policies and structure;
4. Remote access;
5. Staff and management training;
6. Process documentation and improvements;
7. Saving and making money with technology;
8. Technology cost controls;
9. Budget processes; and,

10. Project management and deployment of new technology.

Lanz, a sole practitioner, and task force co-chairman Ron Box found that these technology initiatives applied to CPA firms as well as the businesses they serve. Box believes that CPAs in business and industry are in a unique position to help their companies take advantage of these trends.

“Businesses are seeking technology advice from CPAs, and one solution to a lot of these issues revolves around the business and industry CPA being able to provide these services internally to their employer,” said Box.  “And if I’m a CIO, I want to make sure my company is aligning myself with everything that’s relevant here. These results give us all guidance on at least how to begin considering these technologies that can make us more productive and produce revenue. That’s the overarching message here.”

Ranked just below the surge in mobile device usage is CPAs’ concern for security and control. The survey asked CPAs to identify the top technology questions asked by audit committees, chief financial officers and chief information officers. The top five most likely questions are:

1. Is our information security policy adequate?
2. Are we ensuring that our data and technology resources are protected against hacking, viruses or other compromises?
3. Are our current internal controls and IT governance policies and procedures effective?
4. How can we best implement document retention and e-discovery policies?
5. Can our data remain safe if we utilize cloud computing or Software as a Service?

CPAs were also asked to predict the technologies they foresee rising in importance. These include:

• Touch-screen technology;
• Implementation of voice recognition ;
• Deployment of faster 100 gigabyte local area networks;
• High-performance supercomputing;
• Digital signage and displays; and,
• Introduction of Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6.

The complete survey results are available at http://www.aicpa.org/InterestAreas/InformationTechnology.

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