Despite a stunning number of CPA firms not having a dedicated technology partner or even formalized IT plans for their practices, many still allocate at least 5-10 percent of their annual budgets on IT spending, according to a recent Accounting Today survey.

Some 65 percent of CPA firms polled revealed that they did not have a dedicated IT partner, while a stunning 82 percent admitted to not even having a formalized or written IT strategy in place.

In the survey, Accounting Today polled more than 160 CPA firms -the majority with less than 25 people - on a number of IT issues, including overall spending and technology purchasing decisions.

While responses on IT spending - including hardware, software and peripherals - ranged anywhere from 1 percent to over 10 percent of firms' budgets, 28 percent of firms indicated that they earmark a minimum of 10 percent or more for technology, while 39 percent responded that their tech expenditures ranged between the 5-10 percent range.

At the same time, 67 percent of respondents expected their IT spending to remain the same over the next year, while 30 percent were projecting an increase.

Among respondents with a staff of 10 or less, some 81 percent were without a dedicated IT person, and usually relied on the managing partner to make IT-related decisions.

Not surprisingly, the percentage of firms with dedicated IT personnel on site increased with firm size. Specifically, firms with from 25 to 250 employees - which comprised more than 17 percent of total survey respondents - had all IT decisions made by a dedicated IT partner, an IT director or by committee.

When it came to specific software purchases, the most common software deployed at CPA firms was tax prep (81 percent), with payroll (70 percent) and client write-up (61 percent) rounding out the top three.

Business intelligence (13 percent) and customer relationship management (17 percent) were reported as the least-used applications at the surveyed firms. Of the few firms that did indicate that they used BI applications - often considered a tool for larger organizations - a surprising 70 percent were small firms with staff of 24 or less.

Among the applications under consideration for purchase was document management software, with 41 percent of all firms stating they would look into buying DM tools. Data storage and security solutions were also high on firms' list of software considerations over the next year, with 32 percent indicating that they might make such a purchase.

Other key findings of the poll, which will be published in future issues, addressed the use of cloud-based applications, how firms gathers technology information, and how often they review their current software.

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