[IMGCAP(1)]A modest array of product announcements and partnerships came through last week yet did little to overshadow the larger, tech-related themes of interest to accounting and consulting professionals coming out of the 2013 AICPA Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Conference.
As many are aware, the conference was last week and was attended by likely over 1,300 practitioners, vendors and other individuals interested in improving their practice or serving their clients through technology, best practices, or marketing.
However, I've attended it from a technology perspective on and off for over a decade and that's always been the primary focus and I would like to offer, what I feel, were the main takeaways from this year's event.
One of the standouts has always been from technology guru Randy Johnston, who will often be product-heavy rather than trend focused in his technology overviews for the next year and beyond. Regardless, his sessions often set the technology tone for the conference and give attendees a good sense not only of what they are going to hear over the next two to three days, but what they can expect in terms of technology trends -- hardware and software -- for the foreseeable future.
This year, as expected, Johnston focused -- as did the conference in general -- on cloud, mobile and security-related themes. Practitioners seem to be getting their minds around where the tools that are going to help run their practice and better serve their clients are going to reside. And, more importantly, exactly when they come around to the adoption side of the coin may even determine how well they fare in business.
Security, in and of itself, seemed to be an undertone of the conference. Those who are further along in cloud and mobile usage made the move because they are accepting those platforms hold more security measures than those that reside in their four walls. Or, in some cases, they end up adopting new technology in order to work more efficiently. At the end of the day all anyone wants to do is have a perfect marriage of security and convenience, but it's not clear that anyone in this profession has really found that just yet.
Right now it seems practitioners are in a state of flux and there's a duality going on. Security has been one of the main reasons why practitioners have been hesitiant to adopt new technology platforms such as cloud and mobile, yet at the same time it is the very reason others are doing so.
Getting back to Johnston -- who has rarely endorsed Microsoft for much -- he has come around to touting Windows 8 which many have already panned. From a user point of view, it is comparatively more complicated than Windows 7, which many practitioners only recently got around to installing and learning. Johnston, however, feels for anyone concerned about security Windows 8 -- particularly Pro and Enterprise versions -- is worth a second look as it, in his words "makes the most sense for accountants and for security, the antivirus is becoming fairly ineffecltive so you should consider running them on firewalls if you have a Windows 8 environment."
As for mobile security, there are no four letters more synonymous with where the trend is now than BYOD. Allowing employees to work on the device of their choice may not effect everyone, but as practices grow it can and will become more of an issue. CohnReznick's CIO Marc Staut took the task of spelling out why these four letters are even in our vocabularly these days, and what everyone should be aware of. I don't think he summed it up any better than stating BYOD is “a cost-savings issue as well as about keeping employees happy. But, ultimately it’s about productivity and what we have to remember is people are just trying to do their jobs.”
I have to echo Staut's sentiment, because upon leaving the conference I may not have learned anything new so much as reiterated some of my own thinking.
These top trends, issues, technologies and what have you that we're all hearning about now are not going away. And while everyone will accept and incorporate them at their own rate and in their own way, they will do so to be more efficient or save money and try to make themselves and their staff happy in the tasks they need to accomplish. I will add though, if they can do all of the aforementioned securely, or as securely as possible, things will progress even faster than it seems they already are.
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