While my misadventures with home improvement are well-documented, I'm admittedly not much better with all things technological. That includes any and all maintenance applications or security prevention measures thereof.Before my family and I finally disposed of our six-year-old PC, the machine was riddled with more viruses than a petri dish in a Michael Crichton thriller. My foray to the Apple side of the equation didn't fare all that much better. Less than a year after its purchase, the screen images began to resemble free TV circa 1970 and the "snow" that followed the nightly playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

But I digress.

I'm often reminded while attending various conferences how much technology has shaped the accounting profession. One could make a cogent argument that the way CPAs conduct business changed forever when IBM unveiled the PC back in 1981.

As a result of my past IT fumbles, I tend to pay a bit of attention each January when the American Institute of CPAs releases its annual Top Technologies survey, hoping to gain some insight into the segment that has tormented me for so long. In the annual poll, the institute asks members of its IT unit to rank 39 technologies they feel will most influence the profession over the ensuing year.

Not surprisingly, information security garnered the most votes for the fourth consecutive year. That broad-based topic includes the requisite hardware, software, processes and procedures to protect information systems from internal and external threats. From a personal standpoint, that was about six years too late. But security threats have grown exponentially in both sophistication and in scope. Want proof? Attend any technology conference and count the number of sessions devoted to this area.

Occupying the second and third slots, again to no one's amazement, were assurance and compliance applications (which is tech-speak for tools that enable users to navigate regulatory mandates such as Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404) and disaster and business continuity planning - the importance of which was somberly illustrated by the disasters that befell the Gulf Coast during an endless string of hurricanes last year. The latter half of 2005 demonstrated in graphic terms and heartbreaking images the effect that natural disasters, as opposed to man-made ones, can have on the infrastructure of a city, let alone a business.

The fourth slot, or "clean up" for aficionados of the national pastime, was IT governance, a new entry this year, which the institute defines as a "structure of relationships and processes to direct and control the enterprise in order to achieve the enterprise's goals by adding value while balancing risk versus return over IT and its processes."

Rounding out the list were, in order, privacy management, digital identity and authentication technologies, wireless technologies, application and data integration, paperless digital technologies, and spyware detection and removal - another new category.

I'll leave it to far brighter minds than myself to rank various profession-shaping technologies. I'm hoping that someday, maybe a portion of it will sink in. For greater detail than I could competently provide here, read our story on the Top 10 Technologies on page 1.

Now, if I can just stop confusing those delete and return buttons ... .

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