1 Introduction Emerging Trends and Technologies... 3 The Changing Landscape... 4 The Impact of New Technologies... 8 Cloud... 9 Mobile Social Media Big Data Technology Challenges Conclusion Spotlight on Technology: Insights from cch s Chief technology officer The future of open systems: Cch Open integration platform Key Findings from the 2012 CCH Technology Survey Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next Introduction The tax and accounting profession has been shaped by many forces, over many years. One of the most powerful and pervasive forces has been technology. On a professional level, technology has fundamentally changed how you work and continues to enhance your efficiency and productivity. On a macro level, technology has changed just about everything in the world in which you and your clients live and do business. And, there s much more to come. Technology, and tax and accounting practitioners purposeful application of it, has been a driving force of change influencing everything from the skills you need to be successful, to how your clients define value in professional services and to how relevant you are to your clients. It s a challenge and an opportunity. Most of all, it s a necessity. That s what tax and accounting professionals are saying nationwide, according to the findings of the new CCH Technology Survey, commissioned by CCH and conducted by ORC International. Today, the technologies you are most focused on are the ones that make you more productive and bring you closer to clients whether near to home, or around the world. Those technologies are Cloud and Mobile. Why? Because they keep you connected to your clients as you advance your business. They provide you with the ability to: work anytime; serve clients anywhere; and improve ongoing client service. These capabilities are at the core of what your clients expect today. In fact, research shows that the top reason clients leave a firm is that the firm is out of touch with their changing needs. By leveraging cloud and mobile technologies, you can get closer to your clients and become a more collaborative and valued partner in their success. Always connected, always there for them.
2 2 Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next In addition to cloud and mobile, there s Social Media. While some professionals are still considering if its huge gains in the personal space can also take hold in the professional world, other firms are jumping in with business in mind. Among the top reasons firms are going social is to Generate New Business and Find New Clients. Firms are embracing the fact that social media is all about relationships and community longstanding pillars in the tax and accounting profession. Now, it s a matter of making it work for you and your clients. Big Data is an important emerging technologyenabled area that the profession is watching closely as it evaluates new ways to deepen customer understanding, enhance client services and create competitive advantages. In fact, research shows that companies using Big Data analytics for a competitive advantage were two times more likely to substantially outperform their industry peers. These findings, and others covered in this white paper, are based on the independently conducted CCH Technology Survey, which explored how technology is changing the tax and accounting profession; how professionals anticipate it will continue to change; and what is needed to compete and succeed in the future. The survey looked at different technologies in the past, present and future and the impact of technology on the profession. What s clear is that it s never technology for technology s sake that makes a difference. It s the right technology applied to the right processes, driving results for you, your firm and your clients. It s innovation and technology that differentiate you and your firm, and help you advance business. Otherwise, it s irrelevant. Firms that leverage the right technology most successfully deploy solutions to complement best processes that deliver greater efficiency and superior client services. But firms say they are still challenged to do this successfully. In fact, an astounding 87 percent of professionals said their firms could be doing more to leverage technology (see Figure 20, page 18) and less than 15 percent are very confident in their firms ability to manage and leverage emerging technologies. (See Figure 2, page 4.) The good news is that the technology you need is here. Everything you need to drive productivity and serve clients successfully, in sync with their expectations, is available today. To succeed, firms need to ensure that you have the right processes in place; that you partner with the right provider who will help you leverage the best technologies to meet your business goals; and that you are open to change. Futurist Ray Kurzweil noted that technological change is exponential rather than linear. As a result, we shouldn t expect to see 100 years of progress over the course of a century it will be more like 20,000 years of progress. This era of technological singularity where technology advancement occurs almost instantaneously may have seemed far-fetched even a few years ago. But it becomes more real every year for every individual in their personal and professional lives whoever you are and whatever you do. How can you keep up? Find a technology partner who is as invested in your success as you are.
3 CCHGroup.com 3 Emerging Trends and Technologies The profession may not have yet reached the era of technological singularity where advancements will occur almost instantaneously. However, it s certain that four emerging technologies are rapidly and fundamentally changing the profession and firms. These are: Cloud; Mobile; Social media; and Big Data. In fact, International Data Corporation (IDC) finds that spending on mobile, cloud, social media and Big Data technologies worldwide is growing at 18 percent per year and is expected to account for 80 percent of IT spending between 2012 and The size and speed of this investment level speaks to the growing importance of these technologies today and going forward. Each of these technologies is powerful, but brought together they have a game-changing impact. Professionals will use Big Data analytics to gain a far greater understanding of their clients needs and to deliver greater value, and they will be connected with their clients via mobile devices and cloud-based applications, allowing for real-time, anytime, anywhere decision making. And, even though technologies such as cloud, social media, smartphones and tablets were recently considered emerging technologies, they are rapidly becoming part of firms technology foundation. This is especially true in large firms. (See Figure 1.) This type of rich service and interaction will require firms to partner with providers who have the ability to deliver open, integrated solutions. This is the next level of integrated solutions, delivered through platforms such as CCH s new Open Integration Platform, where firms can bring together the best applications to support their workflow. Solutions won t have to come from one provider to be integrated new open systems will support the range of applications that a firm needs, developed within a firm, or provided by an outside vendor, integrated and delivered on a cloud-based platform supporting the firm s ecosystem. Technologies at the Tipping Point Big Data, cloud computing and tablets are some of the fast-moving technologies featured in Gartner Inc. s 2012 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. They also are technologies that CCH sees playing an important role in firms as they focus on increasing firm efficiency and delivering value to customers. Gartner also identifies certain technologies as reaching the tipping point of widespread adoption, delivering real value-add productivity gains. Among tipping-point technologies are Big Data, cloud computing and natural language question answering. Other emerging technologies include social analytics, crowdsourcing, bring your own device (BYOD), the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications, automatic content recognition and several wireless and mobile technologies. Each of these technologies has important application in the tax and accounting profession, and many are explored in the CCH Technology Survey white paper. Figure 1: Emerging Trends and Technologies (Firms have already or will have implemented within three years) Social media Smartphones Cloud/SaaS Tablets Large firms (50+ 39% 46% 41% 66% 71% 62% 58% 67% Mid-size firms ( % 90% 90% 84% Small firms (1 9 Figure 1: For recently considered emerging trends and technologies, the speed of adoption of some technologies has quickly made them foundational in large firms.
4 4 Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next Emerging Technologies Challenge Firms Today, firms are concerned about their ability to manage new technologies. In fact, less than 15 percent of accountants say they are very confident that their firm is able to understand and manage emerging technology. (See Figure 2.) One significant hurdle is the firms lack of strategy for emerging technologies. Most firms do not have a written strategy for emerging technology. (See Figure 3.) This is most true for small firms, where only 4 percent have such policies. This alarmingly low percentage indicates small firms are missing a big opportunity. Employing many emerging technologies today does not require significant technology infrastructure investments. As the playing field becomes more level with cloud solutions, agile small firms can take advantage of this. As a first step, firms of any size need to articulate their emerging technology strategy and tie it to their business strategy. Without this alignment, firms risk making the wrong investments, or even failing to invest at all because they lack focus and direction. Figure 2: Very Confident in Firm s Emerging Technology Management Understanding of how emerging technology will benefit firm 13% Skill resources to ensure staff capable of leveraging technology 13% Resources to manage system implementation 11% Figure 3: Firms with Written Technology Strategy Covering Emerging Technologies Large firms (50+ Mid-size firms (10 49 Small firms (1 9 Agility needed to quickly implement 14% Figure 2: Less than 15 percent of accountants are very confident in their firm s ability to understand and manage emerging technology. 4% 35% 46% Figure 3: Large firms are more likely to have a written policy covering emerging technologies; still, less than one-half do. The Changing Landscape Technology has been one of the most pervasive forces in shaping the accounting profession. In fact, when professionals were asked as part of the CCH Technology Survey what three trends have had the biggest impact on the accounting industry, two of the top three trends were related to technology. They reported the greatest impact from: Regulatory complexity; Workflow automation; and Mobile/remote connectivity. Looking to the future, regulatory complexity will continue to affect the profession, but high on the list for most professionals are many technology-related trends. (See Figure 4.) Where once there was technology advancement followed by a period of stabilization, we are now in an era of pervasive change where advancements quickly follow one another or even happen simultaneously. And, the importance of technology and the velocity of change is only expected to increase. In this era, technologies that once seemed a fad quickly become the way people work. In fact, accounting professionals reported that smartphones were among the top three technologies they once thought were irrelevant and now find indispensable. Today, given the importance of mobile devices and capabilities, it s hard to imagine that just a few years ago people thought these devices were irrelevant to their work. (See Technologies That Make a Difference, page 6.) Internet s Role in Fueling Change from Dot-com to the Internet of Things Exactly when technological change became constant is hard to pinpoint, but the Internet has been a primary driver. In fact, the Internet tops the list of the most impactful technologies over the past 15 years. According to accounting professionals surveyed, the technologies with the most impact over time have been: 1. Internet; 2. ; and 3. Paperless technologies.
5 CCHGroup.com 5 Professionals also identified the three technologies providing the biggest gains as: 1. Electronic scanners; 2. Multiple monitors; and 3. Electronic document management software. Internet-enabled technology changed how firms operate, and there s much more to come as the Internet of Things becomes a reality. The Internet of Things changes the traditional pathways of information. With sensors embedded in objects and connected to the Internet, these objects become both tools and communicators; in many cases without human intervention. Its potential to change professional and personal lives is equal to or greater than the impact of the Internet today. In the future, firms will operate in the midst of the Internet of Things. No longer will it simply be laptops and smartphones or portals and that keep people connected, but all types of devices so that connectivity is continuous, ubiquitous and immediate. The New CPA Skillset: Leveraging Resources, Adapting to Change, Using Data Analytics It s little surprise that 9 out of 10 professionals believe that technology has changed the skills needed by practitioners, according to the CCH Technology Survey. Respondents said that in the past, math and financial acumen was the top skill required. Now that software automates these functions, other skills have become more important. Today, and into the future, the ability to leverage resources is seen as the most important skill for professionals. (See Figure 5.) What has remained of high importance over time are analytical and problem-solving skills. With the automation of low-end data entry and informationcompiling work, the demand for analytical services will grow. Accountants will increasingly need to understand how to mine the vast amount of data available to them and to leverage tools that can help them with data analysis and modeling. This also will lead to entirely new types of client and consulting services and new areas of growth as accountants position themselves to help clients better understand their businesses and improve decision making. Figure 4: Trends Having a Future Impact on the Accounting Industry Regulatory complexity IT security/privacy Mobile/remote connectivity Workflow automation Cloud computing Globalization Changing demographics Big Data/data analytics Social media Consumerization 59% 58% 67% 93% 91% 89% 85% 78% 75% 75% Figure 4: Technology-related trends will have the biggest impact on the future of the profession. Figure 5: Three Most Important Skills for Accountants PAST 1. Math/financial acumen 2. Subject matter expertise 3. Analytical/problem solving PRESENT 1. Ability to leverage resources 2. Analytical/problem solving 3. Subject matter expertise FUTURE 1. Ability to leverage resources 2. Adaptive to change 3. Analytical/problem solving The emergence of Big Data the techniques and technologies that make capturing value from data at an extreme scale economical, as defined by Forrester Research will cause transformational change for firms and the clients they serve. In fact, an MIT Sloan Management Review study found that
6 6 Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next Technologies That Make a Difference They may have seemed questionable at first. But professionals say the three technologies they once thought irrelevant and now find indispensable are: Electronic scanners; Multiple monitors; and Smartphones. Looking forward, professionals say they are most excited about: Cloud computing We can access the company data anywhere, anytime which can help improve our productivity and efficiency. Enables me to communicate better and share more with my clients. Tablets Tablets really allow you to take computing mobile. Imagine interviewing clients with your tablet and real-time documenting information you are receiving, taking pictures of workflow processes and having access to all the information you need. Tablets are the natural evolution of laptops and will continue to get more powerful. Wireless technology/mobile Freedom to be onsite with clients and to receive information from clients. I think it is easier to access data and communicate with the office. It will be more efficient, convenient and secure than removing files (paper or electronic) from the office. Voice recognition More security for programs, increase productivity. Hands-free operation will be more productive and less distracting. Touch screen Ability to work directly on documents making notations. Save time and money with simple, on-screen menus that can reduce training time. Source: CCH Technology Survey organizations across 120 countries using analytics for a competitive advantage were more than twice as likely to substantially outperform their industry peers. Enhancing data analytical skills and investing in technologies and practices to leverage Big Data will clearly be an important part of the accounting profession in the years ahead. Being adaptive to change is another important future skill, according to accounting professionals participating in the CCH Technology Survey. Today s emerging technologies will quickly be replaced with new technologies; companies will expand into new areas and be affected by new regulations; firms will continue to grow, consolidate and adapt to market demands; and clients expectations will continue to evolve. Accounting professionals need to be prepared to adapt to these changes to succeed. What Accountants Say: Changing Skillset Years ago, being good in math was important. Today, the computations are all computerized. However, being able to analyze the data and interpret it for the client is important. Transformation of know-how into an algorithm has allowed the professional to do less, and think more. Source: CCH Technology Survey
7 CCHGroup.com 7 The New Firm: Technology with a Service Purpose Historically, technology was looked at as something inside the firm back-office applications to improve efficiency and productivity. Increasingly, technology is extending outside of the firm and is customer facing for example, portals, where the technology-enabled workflow reaches the client and clients directly interact with the firm s technology. When it comes to client-focused technology, the accounting industry may be out in front. In business overall, when asked how they plan to innovate this year, 49 percent of CIOs indicated they would make business processes more efficient; 46 percent said they would introduce new IT-led products and services for their customers; and 40 percent said they would get better business intelligence to more employees, more quickly, according to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 survey. Among accounting professionals, however, enhanced client service is the top priority when firms are making technology-related investments, according to the CCH Technology Survey. Firms reported that the top considerations that drive technology investments are: client service; staff productivity; and practice management/profitability. (See Figure 6.) However, given the undisputed importance of technology, it s concerning that firms don t believe they are very effective at managing key areas of their technology infrastructure. (See Figure 7.) For example, only one in four professionals (26 percent) report their firm is effective at managing and retaining data. Emerging technologies such as social media, mobile, cloud computing and processes related to leveraging Big Data such as managing knowledge and enabling decision support are also areas firms struggle with today. (See Figure 8.) As firms technologies become more public and externally facing, they must ensure they are managing them very effectively to secure clients confidence. As firms look to leverage technology even more, they also need to more clearly align their technology with their business strategy. According to the CCH Technology Survey, many firms are struggling to achieve this clear link. Figure 6: Considerations Impacting Technology Investment Decisions Enhance client service Enhance staff productivity Improve practice management/profitability Figure 6: Improving client service, staff productivity and practice management/profitability are key considerations impacting technology investments. 64% 59% 56% Figure 7: Importance to Firm to Leverage Technology Large firms (50+ Mid-size firms (10 49 Small firms (1 9 64% 96% 91% Figure 7: For large and mid-size firms, leveraging technology is seen as important. Small firms also can differentiate themselves and even the playing field by leveraging technology to advance their business. Figure 8: Few Firms Manage Technology Very Effectively Managing/retaining data Managing risk/compliance Managing firm/ practice performance Managing knowledge Enabling decision support Leveraging cloud computing Leveraging mobile technology Managing system implementation Leveraging social media 6% 12% 10% 9% 18% 17% 16% 16% 26% Figure 8: In most instances, fewer than one in four firms report they are very effective at managing core technology areas.
8 8 Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next Firm Forward Focus Getting technology right is now more important than ever. It s increasingly not only being used to improve back-office efficiency but also for delivering client-facing solutions. For firms that understand how to leverage technology to deliver greater value to their clients, the opportunities are exhilarating. Firms also must be adaptive to change so they can leverage new technologies, understand how technology is changing what they can deliver to clients and shift from lower-end services to higher-end value-added services to increase their relevancy to customers. (See Technology Challenges, page 18.) The Impact of New Technologies Across industries, around the world, the consensus is clear: cloud, mobile and Big Data are the top technology priorities for businesses over the next few years. In fact, a Gartner survey of more than 2,300 CIOs across 45 countries and all fields, rated these as the three highest priorities for (See Figure 9.) As it relates to IT spending, IDC finds that these three, along with social media technologies, will account for 80 percent of IT spending across business from 2012 to Each of these technologies has a clear purpose that can be directly aligned to most firms growth strategies improving client service and firm operations.
9 CCHGroup.com 9 And, the accounting industry is already moving in this direction. The CCH Technology Survey sheds light on what firms are doing today and what they will focus on in the future. Cloud It is estimated that overall, 80 percent of commercial enterprise applications worldwide will be developed in the cloud in Most large accounting firms already are leveraging, or plan to leverage the cloud but less than one-half of small firms have done so. (See Figure 1, page 3.) The benefits for those who are working in the cloud are clear, as reported by professionals participating in the CCH Technology Survey: The ability to work anytime, anywhere; The ability to serve clients in any location; Improved security and backup procedures; and Improved collaboration with clients. Other top benefits reported included lower costs and greater value to clients. Additionally, across small, mid-size and large firms who have yet to adopt cloud computing, it is seen as one of the most critical technologies not yet implemented, according to CCH Technology Survey findings. Cloud solutions will allow for every imaginable type of interaction. It s already driving collaboration and greater interaction with clients, for example, with portals that store information in the cloud securely accessible to both the client and the firm. It s allowing for real-time reporting, anytime, anywhere. No longer are firms compiling monthly reports for waiting clients; with the right applications, it s all there in the cloud when it s needed. But for cloud solutions to realize even greater potential, it will take an entirely new type of approach from technology providers. It will require an open system that offers the ability to bring together bestin-breed solutions using an open platform allowing Figure 9: Top 10 Technology Priorities for CIOs ( ) TECHNOLOGIES Analytics and business intelligence 1 Mobile technologies 2 Cloud computing (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) 3 Collaboration technologies (workflow) 4 Virtualization 5 Legacy modernization 6 IT management 7 Customer relationship management (CRM) applications Enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications Security 10 RANKING Figure 9: Ranking of technologies CIOs selected as one of their top three priorities. Source: The 2012 Gartner CIO Agenda Report. for seamless integration of applications from across different sources. This is the foundation of the CCH Open Integration Platform. (See Out with the Old, In with the Open, page 24.) Firm Forward Focus With the benefits of cloud computing established and as staff and clients become increasingly mobile, ready access to the information and applications they need to work is a basic expectation. Firms should evaluate cloud computing options as part of their technology reviews. This should include assessing various cloud-based solutions for tax, practice management, document management, workstream management and portals. 8 9
10 10 Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next What Accountants Say: Cloud Computing Cloud technology and all of the aspects inherent in it will be the future of all business enterprises, be it accounting firms or otherwise. The potential for using this technology for instant communications and storage capabilities is unlimited and exciting for the future. The benefits are reduced hardware costs, improved mobility, and access to any information anywhere. It expands our geography and increases efficiency and security. Source: CCH Technology Survey Mobile Mobile Workforce Cloud computing combined with the proliferation of mobile devices is significantly shaping the changing workforce landscape making work more fluid across work/life and geographical boundaries. By 2015, the number of mobile workers in North America and Latin America is expected to exceed 212 million and make up 75 percent of the mobile workforce worldwide. And, the mobile workforce is growing across the world, in Asia/Pacific, particularly in the fast growing economies of China and India, as well as in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Among accountants, mobility also is on the rise. Today, 81 percent of accounting professionals report they work some time outside the office. The number of hours professionals say they work remotely per week ranges from 5.8 hours for mid-size firm professionals to 8.6 hours for large-firm professionals. (See Figure 10.) Most often, professionals working remotely are visiting clients either locally or out of town. Additionally, many report working from home, particularly among professionals at large firms. (See Figure 11.) Today, many professionals still view the office as a distinct place and office hours as specific times of the day. But the office of the future will be entirely different. Mobility is allowing firms to attract clients and firm talent across the country and beyond; younger workers adept at virtual workspaces and integrated work/life arrangements are establishing themselves in the workforce; and technologies for virtual connections are expanding, allowing for clients and staff to connect whenever and wherever it s needed. (To read more on Figure 10: Average Number of Hours Per Week Accountants Work Remotely Large firms ( Mid-size firms (10 49 Small firms ( Figure 10: Professionals work between nearly six and nine hours per week outside the office.
11 CCHGroup.com 11 new professionals, see Younger Generation: More Social, More Global, page 16.) With this transition under way, most firms report that the number of their staff working remotely will increase (see Figure 12), with professionals clearly seeing benefits to mobility, including: Improved client service; Improved productivity; and Work/life benefits. In addition, mid-size and large firms in particular say their mobile workforce offers opportunities to: work onsite with customers; increase billable time with greater use of staff; and attract and retain employees. It s little wonder the use of mobile devices is skyrocketing. Mobile Devices Nowhere is the effect of consumerization more apparent than in how professionals are leveraging mobile devices bringing devices primarily intended for their personal use into the professional environment. The days of IT departments controlling the type of smartphones employees use are dwindling. Firms that try to clamp down on this may not only be fighting an uphill battle, but also alienating the new generation of workers who have blurred the line between work and personal time. However, bring your own device (BYOD) also brings with it increased complexity and security concerns. In fact, the #2 and #3 trends accounting professionals see as having the biggest future impact on the accounting industry are IT security/privacy and mobile/ remote connectivity. (See Figure 4, page 5.) The two go hand-in-hand. As a result, firms need to be proactive and put in place policies to manage personal mobile devices and their inherent security risks. Whether using firm-provided or personal devices, there s no question that mobile devices will continue to proliferate. In fact, it s expected that by 2015 more Internet users in the United States will access the Internet via mobile devices than PCs or other wireline devices. Accounting professionals at mid-size and large firms are most likely to rely on mobile devices Figure 11: Reasons for Working Outside the Office Visiting clients locally Visiting clients out of town Working from home office Visiting other offices Professional education 52% 40% 29% 38% 28% 23% 6% 22% 29% 32% Large firms (50+ 39% 52% Mid-size firms ( % 67% 74% Small firms (1 9 Figure 11: Visiting clients is the most common reason for working outside the office; working from home is cited as a reason by more than one-half of professionals working in large firms. Figure 12: Projected Increase of Mobile Staff Over the Next Three Years Large firms (50+ Mid-size firms (10 49 Small firms (1 9 17% 54% 64% Figure 12: Professional staff working away from the office over the next three years is expected to increase across all firms, most significantly among mid-size and large firms.
12 12 Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next professionally, with smartphones being the most widely adopted. (See Figure 13.) Today, the most common uses of mobile devices professionally according to accountants participating in the CCH Technology Survey include: ; Text messaging; and Corresponding with clients. Figure 13: Mobile Devices Used Professionally Large firms (50+ Mid-size firms (10 49 Small firms (1 9 Smartphone Tablet/iPad Both Smartphone Tablet/iPad Both 31% 48% 45% 5% 14% 9% 28% 7% 19% Smartphone Tablet/iPad Both Figure 13: The majority of employees in large and mid-size firms are utilizing smartphones, tablets or a combination of the two. The average number of mobile apps accountants say they use professionally ranges from just two for smallfirm professionals to more than five for large-firm professionals. (See Figure 14.) Among firms of all sizes, Apple devices are the most commonly used mobile devices, followed by Android. Few accounting professionals report using Blackberry or Windows -based devices, according to the CCH Technology Survey. (See Figure 15.) As more business apps are introduced, smartphones and tablets are becoming indispensable throughout the business day as they integrate seamlessly into the professional s workflow. One in four professionals at large firms also report using their mobile devices to engage in work-related social media. All of this means that professionals are able to work more efficiently and serve their clients better. In fact, professionals participating in the CCH Technology Survey reported the following as the top three benefits of using smartphones and tablets: Improved client service; Improved support for mobile workforce; and Increased efficiency.
13 CCHGroup.com 13 Firm Forward Focus The Internet is not only significant for what it built, but for what it tore down. No longer are professionals tethered to their desktops. The work is where they are and their workflow can move seamlessly with them. For the full benefits of mobility to occur, firms need to embrace the technologies, yet understand the risks and put in place policies that mitigate them. Firms also need to understand the mobile worker and client. The new generation of workers and clients grew up differently. They re adept at online learning and accessing information from their mobile devices; they identify work as something they do, not a place where they go; they move seamlessly from focusing on work tasks to focusing on personal tasks. Firms need to leverage and learn from these new professionals so they can best deploy mobile solutions for how professionals work, and how they want to interact. Figure 14: Average Number of Apps Accountants Use Professionally Large firms (50+ Mid-size firms (10 49 Small firms ( Figure 14: Accountants at large firms tend to use more than twice as many business apps as professionals at small firms. Apps can include tools for checking status of filed returns, reading professional journals or employing practice management solutions. Figure 15: Mobile Device Operating System ios/apple Android Blackberry OS Microsoft Windows 10% 5% 9% 9% 11% 8% Large firms (50+ 29% 31% Mid-size firms ( % 44% 51% 53% Small firms (1 9 Figure 15: Apple devices are most common among accountants, although professionals at small firms are nearly as likely to use Android devices. Social Media Across much of the profession, social media is still in its infancy as firms explore how to best leverage the collaborative, interactive environment to their benefit. In The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees, Gartner identifies one of the biggest benefits of social media to be mass collaboration extending beyond social media to enable employees, customers and suppliers to participate directly in the creation of value. Many individuals and organizations aren t there yet. But crowdsourcing is becoming increasingly common, and its potential is significant. Firms have the opportunity now to unleash this power by encouraging social media usage among staff and establishing an active presence.
14 14 Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next Figure 16: Average Number of Hours Per Week Spent Using Social Media Personally Professionally 1.8 Large firms ( Mid-size firms ( Small firms (1 9 Figure 16: Among professionals using social media, those at large firms report using it most. They spend nearly six hours per week using social media professionally. Figure 17: Social Media Tools Used Professionally by Individuals LinkedIn Facebook Twitter Professional online communities Blogs 9% 21% 28% 19% 16% 23% 10% 12% Large firms (50+ 42% 50% Mid-size firms ( % 64% 61% 74% 70% Small firms (1 9 Figure 17: Among those using social media professionally, LinkedIn and Facebook account for the majority of usage. Social Media and the Professional In January 2012, Facebook visitors worldwide spent an average of almost seven hours on the site, well ahead of the 17 minutes on LinkedIn and 21 minutes on Twitter. Among accountants who use social media, the number of hours using social media personally ranged from three hours for professionals at small firms to nearly seven hours a week for those at large firms. Professionals at large firms who said they use social media also were considerably more likely to spend more time using it professionally, 5.6 hours compared to just 1.8 hours for professionals at small firms. (See Figure 16.) The most popular social media destination for accountants was LinkedIn, with Facebook following close behind. (See Figure 17.) Professionals participating in the CCH Technology Survey reported that the benefits they realize professionally from social media include: Knowledge sharing; Interacting with other professionals in accounting; Generating new business; Finding new clients; and Interacting with other professionals who can support the firm. However, they also expressed concerns, most notably related to security and privacy and keeping their professional and personal lives distinct. (See Figure 18.) Figure 18: Biggest Concerns with Social Media Professionally Security/privacy Keeping personal/professional distinctions clear Distraction from other professional responsibilities Posting something you may later regret Distraction from personal time Lack of ROI 29% 28% 24% Figure 18: Security/privacy tops the list of concerns for using social media professionally. 49% 46% 58%
15 CCHGroup.com 15 It s important that professionals learn best practices in how to engage in social media so they have the confidence to do so and generate the best results. Firms need to set policies and train staff on how to effectively leverage social media for professional use. They also need to understand the generational differences among professional staff and leverage these capabilities across the firm. (See Younger Generation: More Social, More Global, page 16.) Social Media and the Firm The greatest benefits professionals say the firm overall realizes from social media include: Improved client service; Increased profitability; and Improved support for mobile workforce. Overall, large firms are more likely to leverage web and social media compared to small firms. But firms are still under-leveraging the collaborative power of social media, with only about one-third of firms maintaining involvement in professional online communities. (See Figure 19.) Firm Forward Focus Social media can play a powerful role for both professionals and the firm. At its most basic, it provides a marketing tool for the firm and its expertise. But its greater power comes from engaging with clients to strengthen relationships. As more professionals become increasingly familiar with social media, targeted online communities will become a more important part of professionals daily work. Leveraging social media as a resource for Big Data analytics also will become more important in the future. Firms should foster this collaborative framework, encouraging professionals to expand their social presence and providing them with the training and background to do so. Figure 19: Firms Use of Social Media Firm Facebook or other social page Firm LinkedIn Firm Blog(s) Firm presence in professional online community Firm Twitter 24% 15% 23% 35% 35% 16% 4% 27% 13% 33% 23% 6% 0% Large firms (50+ 51% 51% Mid-size firms (10 49 Figure 19: Facebook and LinkedIn are dominant social media used by large firms. What Accountants Say: Social Media Analytics It helps to gather more clients and build business. Small firms (1 9 Easy to use, innovative cutting-edge technology for [the] next generation. Source: CCH Technology Survey
16 16 Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next Younger Generation: More Social, More Global Generation Y is a growing part of the workforce. They bring with them unique perspectives, innate abilities and new expectations to incorporate technology into their lives. Firms need to listen to these digital natives to ensure they understand their needs and are using their expertise to better leverage technology across the firm. Social media and globalization are two areas Gen Y appears to be more tapped into than the rest of the workforce. For example, the CCH Technology Survey found: Gen Y, more than all other generations, feels that social media is the one technology their firm has not yet implemented that is critical. Younger generations realize the business benefits of social media more than older generations do. In fact, 83 percent of Gen Y see the biggest benefits of using social media professionally as generating new business and finding new clients. Younger employees are more likely than older employees to feel that globalization will have the most significant effect on the accounting industry in the next five years. Specifically, 42 percent of Gen X and 61 percent of Gen Y believe globalization will have a significant impact. This compares to fewer than 30 percent across those in older generations. Big Data Being able to analyze data and solve problems has been a trademark of the accounting profession from the outset. But it s more important now than ever before. The volume of data in 2012 will grow to 2.7 zettabytes worldwide, up 48 percent from 2011, and will grow to 35 zettabytes annually by 2020, according to IDC. To put this in perspective, a zettabyte is equal to 1 billion terabytes. And, as more transactions happen digitally and more information is online, this number will continue to grow exponentially. Big Data is changing the business need for deeper data analytics. And it s fueled by many of the emerging technologies discussed in this white paper. For example, there s no question that social media is contributing to the demand for better data analytics. Facebook has more than 1 billion users and Twitter can easily exceed more than 400 million tweets in a given day. That s a lot of data, but only a limited amount is relevant. The challenge is finding the information that leads to valuable, profitable insights. Retailers are using this information to provide targeted offers to online shoppers, and mobile and cloud technologies are allowing it to be made available to sales forces and business executives so they can make on-the-spot, informed decisions. Big Data is industry agnostic, offering promise for businesses of all types. In fact, according to a 2012 study by the consultancy firm NewVantage Partners, 85 percent of Fortune 1000 companies surveyed already have Big Data initiatives planned or in progress. Big Data in the accounting profession, for example, means that CPAs will be able to look at their clients finances alongside other information to make realtime decisions. Many lower-level tasks today could be further automated. For example, an accountant could use a bot to scour the Internet for a client s financial transactions and pull that detail into their tax return. The biggest challenge companies have today is how to mine all that data to better and more profitably serve their customers. In that same NewVantage study, nearly one-half of respondents said they don t have the right internal talent or resources to drive their data analytic initiatives and 70 percent stated they plan to hire data scientists, but are struggling to find qualified candidates.
17 CCHGroup.com 17 The role of data scientist is a natural fit for accountants and plays right into one of their strongest skills. According to the CCH Technology Survey, analytical and problem-solving skills are among the top skills for CPAs in the future. Clearly, accounting professionals have a great opportunity and natural ability to leverage Big Data and data analytics to enhance services to their clients. Firm Forward Focus New technologies and new methods of collecting and analyzing data will enable accounting professionals to offer new higher-end, valueadded services to current clients, as well as attract new business. It also opens new types of services firms can provide with chief data scientist for certain areas of their clients operations being a new potential role to fill. What Accountants Say: Big DATA We are optimistic about our approach and expect to leverage Big Data to improve client services and attract new business. Identifying patterns and correlations within data can help effectively optimize all aspects of our operations. I believe it will make it easier to aggregate data, making our firm more productive; as well, it will enhance productivity for our clients. Source: CCH Technology Survey
18 18 Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next TECHNOLOGY CHALLENGES As firms increasingly turn to technology to improve their performance and create better connections with clients, they also report that they experience challenges in implementing the right technology at the right time. In terms of new technologies, less than 15 percent of accountants are very confident that their firm is able to understand and manage emerging technology, and the majority of firms do not have a written strategy covering emerging technologies. (See Figures 2 and 3, page 4.) In terms of technology overall, the majority of firms of all sizes also believe their firm could do more to leverage technology. (See Figure 20.) What s stopping them? Firms report the top three challenges they face in effectively leveraging technology include: Lack of understanding; Lack of IT staff or skills; and Outdated technology and lack of investment. (See Figure 21.) Figure 20: Firms Could Do More to Leverage Technology Firm is leveraging technology as much as it should Firm could leverage technology more, 87% 13% } Figure 20: Most accountants believe their firm could do more to leverage technology. What Accountants Say: Challenges in leveraging Technology [We] discuss paperless environment but top management is reluctant so no progress. Same with website, social media, and client portals, etc. Management prefers paper in hand. Managers are too into the weeds and not looking at big picture. Cloud technology should be implemented sooner than planned to stay competitive. There is a lack of knowledge about how to leverage technology and not all our technology is current. Limited IT skills can be a problem for us. There are several new technologies out there that I believe we could implement [to] make us more productive. Too focused on day-to-day deadlines, not enough planning. Not investing in social media as I think we should. Not investing in business and data analytics as much as we should. Should invest in a more hybrid cloud or off-site private cloud. The firm needs to invest in new technology to help staff improve their efficiency and accuracy. Source: CCH Technology Survey
19 CCHGroup.com 19 Notably, many firms also acknowledge a disconnect between their technology infrastructure and business strategy, according to the CCH Technology Survey. Today, just 11 percent of professionals surveyed said their firm s technology and business strategies were very well aligned and more than one in four firms (26 percent) do not have technology very well aligned or aligned at all with their business strategy. (See Figure 22.) Across firms of all sizes, there is a gap between their current rate of adoption of new technology, and the adoption rate they believe is needed for future success. In fact, among small firms, only 6 percent report their firm is first to adopt a new technology, although more than three times as many (21 percent) say being among the first to adopt new technology will be necessary for their firm to succeed in the future. Among professionals at large firms, more than one-half (53 percent) believe being first to adopt will be essential for their firms to succeed in the future, while only 41 percent report they are first adopters today. (See Figure 23.) Professionals clearly recognize the importance that technology plays in their future. They need to close the gaps and address the disconnect between their current technology profiles and the profiles they need to succeed. Figure 21: Challenges in Leveraging Technology Figure 23: Firms Technology Culture Lack of understanding 40% Lack of IT staff/skills 39% Outdated technology and lack of investment 37% Technology not aligned with business strategy 10% Figure 21: Accountants generally attribute their firm s technology challenges to a near-equal combination of lack of understanding, skill and investment. Figure 22: Alignment of Technology and Business Strategies Large firms current technology adoption rate Large firms needed future technology adoption rate Mid-size firms current technology adoption rate Mid-size firms needed future technology adoption rate 41% 56% 3% 53% 45% 2% First to adopt Tend to wait Last to adopt 23% 61% 16% 46% 54% First to adopt Tend to wait Last to adopt Aligned, 63% Not very well aligned, 19% Not at all aligned, 7% Very well aligned, 11% }26% Small firms current technology adoption rate Small firms needed future technology adoption rate 6% 81% 13% 21% 75% 4% First to adopt Tend to wait Last to adopt Figure 23: Most professionals view their firm as having a tendency to wait to adopt new technology, although many realize the importance of being first to adopt. Very well aligned Aligned Not very well aligned Not at all aligned Figure 22: While most accountants generally believe their firm s business and technology strategies are aligned, more than one in four (26 percent) don t believe the two are aligned.
20 20 Technology in Tax & Accounting: Then, Now and Next Conclusion Over time, technology has been one of the most powerful and pervasive forces influencing the tax and accounting profession. Today, this is truer than ever. Firms seeking opportunities to increase relevancy, build better business performance, enhance service capabilities and improve efficiency need technology to drive results. Important technologies they are turning to include: Cloud; Mobile; Social media; and Big Data. Each of these is powerful, but brought together, they will have a game-changing impact on the profession. It s clear the capabilities technology offers the profession today are big, and the possibilities even bigger. The CCH Technology Survey provides a window into the challenges and opportunities that accounting firms face as they engage with technology. Understanding the role of technology and implementing the right solutions is key to each firm s continued success. Everything you need to serve your clients successfully, in sync with their expectations, is available today. To succeed, you need to ensure your firm has the right processes in place; you partner with the right provider who will help you leverage differentiated technologies to meet your business goals; and you remain open to change. One emerging capability allows an accountant to go to the cloud to aggregate a set of services customized to the accountant s workflow. This can include a combination of applications and services from providers and from the firm itself. This idea of an open system, enabled by cloud, supports a firm s entire ecosystem and facilitates professionals need to work in a more open and collaborative way. CCH s new Open Integration Platform can serve as the aggregation platform to bring together different services to support the custom workflow of the accountant.