Category: Computer Applications

Second Annual CPA Firm Operations and Technology Survey Released

As many of you know, I do most of the data analysis and writing associated with the CPA Firm Operations and Technology Survey published by CPA Trendlines.  My co-authors, Dr. Leslie Garrett and Randy Johnston, and I  released the new 2015 edition of the survey today.  The survey was an 86 question survey, was promoted by most major publications serving the profession, and offers over 180 pages of tables, charts, and analysis about over 600 US and Canadian accounting firms.

The press release issued today follows.


April 09, 2015, Hutchinson KS and Minneapolis, MN – Randy Johnston, CEO and Founder, Network Management Group, Inc., Leslie Garrett, PhD, CEO of Insight Research Group, and Brian Tankersley, editor of the publication announce the release of their 2ndAnnual Accounting Firm Operations and Technology survey eBook. The eBook is published in cooperation with Rick Telberg, President and CEO of CPA Trendlines.

“We are very pleased with this year’s survey participation, we have respondents from all 50 states, and our number of respondents doubled over last year’s results, further validating the data,” said Garrett. The 2nd Annual Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey eBook features results from 86 survey questions presented using bar charts and tables showing last year’s results against this year. Every survey question features a table revealing how firms of different sizes responded which allows readers to benchmark their practice against others of similar size.

The value-added content in the Accounting Firm Operations and Technology eBook includes:

  • Inside the Numbers: For each section of the survey (Demographics, Practice Management, Technology Management, Operating Systems, Computer Hardware, Application Software, File & Date Storage/Management, Remote Access/Internet/Telecommunications, and Technology Decision-making, Annoyances and Trends) our research, analysis and editorial team reports on significant findings in the data. The content in these sections are data-driven based on survey results.
  • Consultants Counsel: For each section of the survey our research, analysis and editorial team provides consulting commentary to help readers understand how they might apply the results to their practice, which aids in planning and future decision-making.
  • Trend Watch: For select results, our research, analysis and editorial team identified trends that seem to be developing, which gives the reader the opportunity to adjust their operations and technology planning accordingly.
  • Thought Leadership: Several of the profession’s most respected thought leaders weigh-in and provide insight into select results. Articles have been contributed by Richard Koreto, Managing Editor of AccountingWEB, Daniel Hood, Editor-in-Chief ofAccounting Today, Jim Boomer, CIO and Shareholder, Boomer Consulting Inc., Gail Perry, Editor-in-Chief of CPA Practice Advisor, Rick Telberg of CPA Trendlines, and Bob Scott, Editor-in-Chief of The Progressive Accountant.


Trend Watch

With two years of data to report on, our team noticed trends developing in certain operational and technology areas. Where trends are apparent, a Trend Watch section appears in conjunction with the bar chart or table, further illuminating to the reader results that are worth paying additional attention to. “After looking carefully at the results, the editorial team thought that identifying trends was important and convenient for the reader,” said Johnston.

Productivity, Profitability, Risk Mitigation Awards

Respondents of the 2nd Annual Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey were asked to identify the accounting practice application software that has had the greatest impact on their firm in each of these three areas: 1) Productivity, 2) Profitability, and 3) Risk Mitigation. Congratulations to the 2015 award-winners:

  • Productivity: Intuit QuickBooks
  • Profitability: CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
  • Risk Mitigation: Thomson Reuters

About the eBook

The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology eBook is 200 pages in length and features 86 survey questions and overall results for each survey question presented in easy-to-understand charts and tables. The eBook also provides survey results by size of firm broken down by solo practitioners, small firms (1 to 10 employees), mid-sized firms (11 to 49 employees) and large firms (over 50 employees).

Media Contact:

Leslie Garrett, PhD, CEO and Founder

Insight Research Group

To secure your copy of the eBook, visit the CPA Trendlines store, powered by Bay Street Group LLC, at


Recent Reading and Writing, March News Update

I’ve been quite busy over the last couple of months, but unfortunately, I don’t have a lot which I can show you, the gentle reader of this blog.  A listing of some of the writings I’ve worked on in the last few weeks is as follows:

I also have been meeting with software publishers and reading voraciously preparing for this year’s tech conferences and seminars, which start for me next week in Philadelphia, and take me around much of the continental US this year.

I hope you’ll plan to attend the 2015 @AICPA Practitioners/TECH+ Conference in Orlando June 7-June 10th. You can save an extra $100 w/code TAC

I share articles which I find interesting on Twitter – I’m @BFTCPA.  Some of the stories I’ve been following include:

I’m sad to see that The Sleeter Group has sold to Diversified Communications, but I know it was an offer which Doug and Sherrill couldn’t refuse.  Congratulations, and we hope to continue to work with you in the future.

Be careful out there, people.  I look forward to seeing many of you on this year’s journey.


Recent Software Company M&A Activity

As readers of this blog know, the only constant in the accounting technology space is change itself.  With that in mind, I wanted to let you know about some recent acquisition announcements in the accounting space.

SAP to Acquire Concur– Enterprise software giant SAP announced after the market closed last Friday that they have an agreement in principle to acquire the outstanding shares of Bellevue, Washington based Concur Technologies.  Concur provides tools for managing the expense reimbursement process in small companies (with a SaaS offering) and with an on-premises expense management toolkit for enterprises.  (Source: @WSJ)

Sage to Acquire PayChoice  – Small and mid-sized business management company Sage has announced an agreement to purchase PayChoice, a provider of payroll and HR services for small businesses over a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform.  Sage’s press release described PayChoice as follows:

Founded in 1990, PayChoice is headquartered in New Jersey with 260 employees and 16 offices across the US.  PayChoice provides full-service and self-service payroll and HR services to more than 100,000 SMBs in the US, through a direct sales force and third-party licensee channel.  PayChoice’s revenue for FY13 was US$38.9m.

PayChoice has developed a next generation, cloud-based payroll and reporting platform called ENCORE.  The platform, which was launched in September 2011, encompasses both mobile and web-based payroll applications, operating from a single codebase for both its direct and licensee clients.  ENCORE supports the needs of businesses with self-service solutions through to more complex full-service solutions on the same platform, supporting the needs of SMBs as they grow.

The release also disclosed that consideration for the purchase was approximately $157.8M (converted from GPB at a rate of 1:$1.628)

From the release:

“PayChoice is an excellent business, with a strong management team, attractive cloud platform and a proven business model based on supporting the needs of small and medium-sized businesses and licensees,” said Pascal Houillon, president and CEO, Sage North America.  “We are excited about the growth opportunity that the combination of Sage and PayChoice creates in this market and delighted to welcome the management and staff of PayChoice to Sage.”

Payroll and compliance with constantly changing employer regulations are two consistent challenges for SMBs.  This acquisition will enable Sage to provide intuitive payroll solutions as well as integrated ancillary services such as tax filing and direct deposit as part of the company’s core offerings, making it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to consolidate and review business data, manage relationships, and simplify day-to-day operations.

Infor Completes Acquisition of SalesLogix – Infor announced earlier this month that they have completed their acquisition of the assets of the SalesLogix CRM application from Swiftpage.  Readers may recall that Sage spun off both SalesLogix and Act! to Swiftpage in early 2013. as part of a series of deals which included spinning off Sage Non-Profit Solutions (now called Abila) to a private equity group run by KKR-Accel.

Consideration was not disclosed by either party, but Infor did mention that SalesLogix is used by 70,000 customers at 1,700 organizations who use SalesLogix.  300 of these companies use both SalesLogix as well as one of Infor’s solutions.  Infor plans to incorporate the product into Infor CloudSuite, a set of cloud applications which run on Amazon to meet the needs of specialized industries.


Shocker: TrueCrypt Discontinued, Official Page Says It Has Security Issues

Open source drive encryption tool Truecrypt announced that the product is discontinued on its main website today, and the official website has been replaced with directions for getting any encrypted data moved to Bitlocker-protected drives. The website says that “Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues”

Story from Ars Technica:

Directions for Getting Data Out:

Coming on the heels of the OpenSSL vulnerability, this may shake the confidence which businesses have in the reliability of open source software. Although the purchase price seems right for open source (free), the cost of unexpected announcements like this, the lack of professional management, and other issues with the practical maintenance and implementation of such products makes commercial software look better all of the time.

If you are using TrueCrypt as your hard disk encryption tool, we recommend that you transition to Windows Bitlocker, PGP Whole Disk Encryption, or another solution ASAP.

Update 6/4/2014

A group of developers has set up a website for a new “branch” of TrueCrypt development.  While this new group may do a great job, disk encryption is not a place where you should cut corners.  I’d stay away from TrueCrypt and go with commercial solutions – we need some answers on why the first group shut the project down and what the code audit has discovered before it gets back onto my “safe” list.  (I’m using Bitlocker in W81 Pro).

Update 3/30/2018

A branch off of the TrueCrypt code has been launched called VeraCrypt.  You can learn more about it at their website,

It’s Time for Two Factor Authentication, SaaS Vendors. NOW, not later.

You’ve heard about the security issues at a number of organizations in the last few weeks.  Thankfully, there haven’t been any breaches at software companies who serve professional accountants (except maybe for Evernote – although I don’t know that I would put HIPAA or taxpayer data in that service).  One of the important things that is coming out of this is that major software vendors like Evernote and Google are planning to implement a security approach called “Two Factor Authentication”.  While I won’t go into much detail on how it works (although there’s a good Wikipedia article here), the basics are as follows:

Security tokens, like the RSA SecurID above, have a formula which generates a new six digit code every minute that is used as a one time password.

There are three basic ways to validate someone’s identity

  • Something they know (username, password, PIN, etc.)
  • Something they have (cell phone, RSA token, USB key, etc.)
  • Something they are (biometric identification like fingerprinting, face identification, or iris scans).

Historically, we’ve used only one factor of authentication – a username and password – to access most online systems.  While this is adequate for some information types, the sophistication of phishing attacks and other techniques used by the “bad guys” requires a more sophisticated approach to security.  Two factor authentication normally requires users to validate their credentials to two servers – one which controls the username and password, and a second which validates that they have a particular device or item through a one time password.

I’ve used a number of two factor authentication devices in my career, including:

All of the devices worked well, and I still use some of them to authenticate to many services.

One important point is that the use of factors other than passwords (something you know) is not a panacea.  Use of any of the items listed above in lieu of a password doesn’t accomplish anything.  The real benefit comes from using these tools in ADDITION to a username and a password.  Even if a person with bad intent knew your username and password, they would be screened out by the second factor, whether it is biometrics (fingerprint, iris, or face) or a device you have (token, cell phone, smart card, USB key).  Just like high security installations have more than one layer of security, you want the same layers of security verifying that you are really you online.

The ugly reality of the accounting profession is that a significant breach would undermine the confidence that others have in the profession, and could send us back to the ‘90s with some technologies used in business today.  It’s hard enough to be a small business in our economy without having to deal with concerns about security of data.

It’s time for two factor authentication with online services, people.  Ask your vendors about their support for it, and look for opportunities to protect your data with these types of authentication regimes.  It’s time for this technology – we can’t wait for some practitioner to lose their house over an online information breach to deal with this significant issue.


Xero to Simplify Accountants Work by Building Out Export Capabilities

Online accounting software publisher Xero announced today that they have created a direct interface to two applications commonly used to work on business tax data – Intuit’s Lacerte Tax and ProSystem fx Engagement. This is the Company’s first foray into exporting data from Xero into U.S. tax and accounting applications, although the local versions of Xero for Australia and New Zealand have already created integrations with acquired products like Spotlight Workpapers which automate work for accounting professionals.

Xero’s US President, Jamie Sutherland, said, “We know our accounting and bookkeeping partners who prepare tax returns are looking to get data from Xero into tax software this tax season. We worked hard to create an easy export from Xero to Lacerte Tax and CCH ProSystem fx Engagement. Accounting and tax professionals will spend less time worrying about getting the data and writing up tax forms and more time advising and guiding clients on tax issues.” “We recognized that ProSystems fx and Lacerte Tax are the major players in the tax space but we’ll be looking at other tax software as their SaaS solutions come to market to make the accounting and tax workflow even more seamless.”

Xero partner and accountant Steve Chaney, CPA, owner of Chaney and Associates, a Roseville, California accounting and consulting firm is excited about the new feature and its immediate impact on his practice this tax season. Chaney said, “When you are managing tax filings for hundreds of clients, these efficiency gains add up and go straight to the bottom line.” Chaney’s firm was established in 2002, serves clients in six states, and positions itself as a leader in the effective use of new technologies by accounting firms.

Online accounting software Xero has a strategy of reducing and eliminating data entry for accountants and clients where possible by importing transactions from financial institutions and using user-defined rules to assign accounts to the transactions. Last month, the Company announced an integration with time tracking and invoicing application Harvest, and in 2012, the company launched a proprietary tool (the Xero Practice Manager) for its US accounting partners.


Finding Your Apple or Android Device

While I was at CES last week, I quickly wrote up my success in locating, tracking, and retrieving my cell phone from one of a company’s 400 taxis in Las Vegas.  (The article is here).  Although it cost me $100 in reward money to get my Windows Phone back, the money it took was nothing compared to the $550 it would have cost to replace the phone.  At the end of that post, I promised to revisit this topic and let users know how to locate, track, and recover their iOS and Android devices.  While the tracking in iOS and Android takes a little more work (you have to use iCloud on iOS/MacOS X, and it requires a third party app on Android), it is possible to locate your device on these popular operating systems.

Disclaimer: Do NOT use these tools to track your employees or significant other, as it’s extremely creepy, and tracking employees may be illegal and/or a violation of your terms of service with the carrier and/or manufacturer.

Apple Devices (iOS and MacOS)

While the previous post was focused on locating your Windows Phone, it is relatively simple to implement location tracking on Apple devices.  To track the location of your device requires you to do the following:

1. You must register your device in iCloud.

2. You can then track your device when it connects online in iCloud when you go online.  An example of me tracking my MacBook Air is in the image below.

FindMy iPhone

3. If required, the device can be locked, wiped, and reset from the iCloud console.

Note: It is a violation of the End User License Agreement to track business devices with iCloud.  Don’t do it – it’s creepy, and you WILL be found out by the target.

Android Devices (Prey Project)

There are a number of different tools for tracking Android devices; some of the more popular tools include The Prey Project , LookOut Mobile Security (requires a subscription), and Where’s My Droid (Lifehacker 2010 post here).

Tracking your device using the Prey Project is shown in the image below, which is a location report from my Nexus 10 tablet.  I have a personal subscription to this tool. which is $5/month for device tracking on up to three devices.  Lifehacker has a good article on how to use this tool.

PreyProject Nexus 10


Recovering a Lost Cell Phone in 2013

I’ve lost some cell phones in my time (a hazard of traveling 100,000 miles a year).  It is no fun to lose anything – especially a smartphone.  Lost smartphones have lots of data, and are $500 or so to replace.  No fun.  In the past, I’ve spent hours calling people to find my lost phone, but today, I was able to lose, locate, track, and receive my lost phone in about 15 minutes total.  It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with technology, and my hat’s off to Microsoft, Verizon, and the Lucky Cab Company of Las Vegas (no, I’m not kidding) for making this post possible.


This week, I’m in Las Vegas covering the Consumer Electronics Show.  Today, I took a taxi from my hotel to the Venetian for a meeting.  Unfortunately, I was “under-caffeinated”, and accidentally left my new Windows Phone (HTC 8X for VZW) in a taxi.  [For those keeping score, a lost HTC 8X is a $550 problem].  Needless to say, I was a little… um… stressed.  I then remembered that I could locate my phone any time at, and located the my phone, which I could verify was in a taxi.


I locked the phone from, and made it make noise so the driver or subsequent passenger would find the device.  I also put a message on the phone that said “Lost Phone, Please call 865-202-4160  (My friend Sean’s phone) to arrange for return and payment of $100 reward.”

My friend, Sean, called the taxi company on his phone (I had a receipt with the company name and number), and over five minutes, I tracked the phone.  We refreshed the location about every two minutes, and passed the location of the phone to the dispatcher at the cab company.  The dispatcher tracked the position reports from the 400 taxis which worked for the taxi company we used, and called our driver on the radio.  The driver located the phone (large sigh of relief), and we continued to coordinate meeting the driver at the Venetian.

Our cab pulled up about 10 minutes later, and I was thrilled to see my phone again.  I gladly gave the driver a $100 tip for bringing my phone back.  I entered my lock code to enable my phone, and I went to my meeting (with five minutes to spare).  Overall, this was a great experience.  [Sometimes technology really saves your bacon.]

[Next time, I’ll explain how you can do this kind of tracking and (if necessary) remote wiping of data on the Android, Windows Phone, and iOS (Apple) operating systems.]


CES 2012 Wrapup

As happens every year, I ran out of caffeine, battery power, or both toward the end of CES 2012.  As such, I’ve been looking through my notes to clean up some of my writing for various sources which will discuss what I saw there. Some of the things which I found very interesting included:

  • DocuSign Ink, which is electronic signature service used by millions.
  • iTwin’s simple file sharing device, which now supports multiple paired keys to a single shared location.
  • Encrypted storage from Imation and Ironkey, as well as the future of authentication.
  • Two Factor Authentication from a credit card, with PIN authentication (!)
  • Kingston’s WiDrive flash-based file sharing device
  • New scanners from Visioneer/Xerox, LG, and Canon to fill niches in the portable scanner market
  • Security and filtering tools for smartphones from Absolute Security and NetNanny
  • Home automation tools such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and smart garage door openers from providers which can (1) tell you what the condition of the monitored system is (e.g. temperature or whether or not the door is currently open) and (2) change the temperature or close the door from you using a smartphone app.
  • Elder care devices from some providers which use your cell phone instead of the Lifecall (“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”) device, and which will tell you if your senior didn’t take their medicine, as well as if they haven’t checked in when they’re supposed to.

Since I’m selling the stuff I’ve written on this to someone, I’m going to withhold the data from this space, but I’ll post the link (and the content, if the contract permits it) when the story goes live.


Tax Research, Rethought and Mobile Apps for Practitioners

There are a lot of questions about how social media outlets will change the way practitioners do tax research in the future.  While practitioners need access to authoritative publications and interpretative guidance, there is also a need to ask a peer a question.  In the past, we might have done this at the water cooler, or over lunch with a peer, but in the age of the virtual office, these opportunities may be more difficult.

While Intuit is a long-time provider of tax tools for individuals and practitioners, they have shown some fresh thinking in their professional tax research offering.  The tool, ProLine Tax Research, includes authoritative content from BNA and IRS Forms/Publications.  Peer to peer advice is facilitated on a virtual community.  Questions and answers can be searched and retrieved at will from a user community.

The White Paper is available for download from at the following link:

Another place where innovation is taking place is in the mobile space.  Many publishers are creating mobile applications or websites which support mobile browsers for their product offerings.  Mobile applications for practitioners include:

There are many other applications out there related to tax & accounting.  These include the recently announced IRS2GO application, vendor provided tax refund checkers, and many others.  Many authors have written about mobile applications for practitioners in The CPA Practice Advisor, my favorite publication for the tax & accounting space.