According to a new survey by CPA.com, firms that have embraced new technologies are more likely to change with the most urgency. Early adopter firms - be it technology or practice management innovations - are more likely to enact deeper changes more rapidly than more cautious CPA firms, according to CPA.com's Innovation in Public Accounting Survey.

65 percent of these "early majority" firms urge that's it's necessary to implement changes in the next 12 months “to a great degree,” according to the survey.

“The good news is that a solid majority of CPA firms realize they have to change to stay relevant,” stated Amy Radin, a strategic marketing consultant and innovation expert who helped design the survey, in her keynote speech at the Digital CPA Conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday. “But for the general group of CPA firms, we see a sizeable minority who say change may not be necessary for five years or more, if at all. Beware: clients aren’t likely to be that patient.” 

Survey respondents were asked to select their top three priorities over the next year. Their answers included: 

  • Developing new offerings that expand the value we provide to our existing clients (62%)
  • Implementing a new offering for a specific market segment we believe has growth (50%)
  • Developing new offerings or approaches to the market that attract new clients (46%)
  • Realizing value to the firm from existing innovation investments (41%)
  • Updating current offerings to be more competitive (37%)
  • Deciding and moving forward on what our innovation priorities should be (35%)
  • Implementing a cloud-based accounting system (32%)

“One interesting finding of the survey is that CPA firms, early majority or not, don’t really see a competitive threat from specific challengers,” stated Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com, at the conference. “Only a small percentage of firms said it was a priority to respond to ‘a competitor who is outpacing us.’ The problem is tomorrow’s competitor might be invisible today, and if you aren’t paying attention to client expectations, it can take you by surprise. That’s why we’ve created programs like Digital CPA – to help prepare CPA firms for challenges that may still lie over the horizon.”

The "Innovation in Public Accounting Survey" was conducted online from October 4-23, 2015. A total of 409 firms responded: 178 from the early majority group and 231 from the general group. The early majority group had a higher proportion of larger firms (20% were associated with firms with 100 staffers or more), compared to the broader group (10 percent were from firms with 100 staffers or more).

For the full survey results, view CPA.com's PDF here