Gone are the days when CPAs could focus solely on calculators and crunching numbers. In today’s digital world technology has become part of the business equation: computers + cyberspace = streamlined procedures, increased productivity, and added profits.
“It’s important to implement digital practices so you get more work done in less time,” says Roman Kepczyk, CPA and president of InfoTech Partners in Phoenix. “Technology makes it possible.”
Kepczyk will present “Your Digital Edge: Today’s CPA Firm Solutions and Tomorrow’s Opportunities” at the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants’ Middlesex/Somerset Chapter breakfast on Wednesday, September 24, at 8 a.m. at Pines Manor in Edison. Cost $45. Participants can earn two CPE credits in consulting services. Visit www.njscpa.org, or call 973-226-4494.
The session will highlight digital practices and how they affect a firm’s tax, audit, client services, and administrative production areas. Kepczyk will display some of his favorite gadgets and discuss specific tools and technologies firms should be using.
“There are changes in technology that have been proven to make CPAs more productive,” he says. “ You should have the tools to access your firm at anytime from anywhere.”
When Kepczyk earned an accounting degree from Arizona State University in 1984, firms were just beginning to realize the benefits of technology. His first job was as IT director and administrative partner at Henry & Horne in Arizona, where he received daily phone calls from technologically challenged CPAs asking, “Roman, can you fix this?”
“They needed to have someone who could be the intermediary who knew both the accounting process and the technology side,” he says. “It was something I enjoyed doing. When you like something you tend to get better at it.”
Kepczyk’s focus is helping firms effectively use information technology by implementing digital practices. INSIDE Public Accounting recently named him as one of the profession’s most recommended consultants for the fourth consecutive year, and he writes a column in the CPA Technology Advisor.
Born in Berlin, Kepczyk and his mother, a jewelry store manager, moved to the United States after his father, a Green Beret in the Special Forces, died in Vietnam. The family moved to Arizona when he was 10. Today he lives three miles from his childhood home with his wife, Sylvie, and their children, ages 9 and 13.
He also won’t stray far from accounting. “I stayed in accounting because CPAs are very nice people, and CPAs are smart,” says Kepczyk, who is also the lead technology management strategist for his firm. “There are so many changes on the forefront with CPA firms and technologies.”
Digital best practices are key. As the workforce shrinks and the workload multiplies, many accounting firms are trying to figure out how to use technology to their advantage. When implemented correctly, digital best practices for tax, audit and internal services can improve workflow, streamline procedures and provide immediate access to information, Kepczyk says.
“Scanning technology is one of the easiest and cheapest digital practices to implement,” he says. “It creates organization, forces a standard format, and you can create a template, making it easy to train new employees on the process.”
Other popular digital practices, he says, include: archiving documents; uploading and downloading files; creating an intranet system; providing Blackberries, laptops and mobile work stations; and creating secure Internet pages that allow clients to securely view personal or company information.
Digital best practices can also benefit clients. “You can give clients better access to real-time information,” Kepczyk says, adding that clients will be impressed with your firm’s high-tech organization and prompt response.
Saving the trees. The most popular trend shaping digital best practices, particularly in the accounting field, is less-paper offices in which the bulk of work is performed electronically. The push for a “less-paper environment” started six years ago, when archival or document management systems became the norm, rather than the exception.
“The goal of a less-paper environment is to capture information at the root source, either by E-mail, fax, or even files, and scan them in the front end,” Kepczyk says. “Then you make sure the procedures are in place so employees can access that information whenever and wherever they’re at.”
Less-paper offices increase productivity because documents can be stored, delivered and retrieved electronically, Kepczyk says. With information only a few clicks away, CPAs will spend less time rummaging through file cabinets, searching for lost documents, or mailing and faxing information. In addition, CPAs can then access information remotely, instead of toting files between their office and home. Digital storage also serves as a back up in case of disaster.
Making it all add up. Two of the major challenges when implementing digital best practices are ensuring security and justifying costs. “You need to protect client’s private information and personal data,” Kepczyk says, adding that with addresses and social security numbers listed on documents, extra security is often necessary. “Most firms should spend $6,500 to $8,000 per seat per year on technology. That’s industry standard for hardware and software.”
To successfully implement digital practices, firms must create an effective budget and step-by-step plan. “Firms know they need to change, but they don’t know how to do it,” he says. “Most firms say they don’t have the time and resources to research digital practices.” He suggests firms with limited resources reach out to an integrator familiar with accounting. State associations like the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants typically can provide names of professionals, he says.