IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON THE ACCOUNTING PROFESSION - A STUDY OF A CPA FIRM’S DISASTER RECOVERY PLANNING Stanley X. Lewis, Jr., Troy University Eddy J. Burks, Troy University Ernest W. King, University of Southern Mississippi Carl Smolinski, LSU-Shreveport ABSTRACT The results of an ongoing study of professional accounting firms in the U. S existing research methodology and results included in the 2006 IRMA International Conference reporting the strategic planning by a law firm pertaining to its disaster planning and recovery using information technology. All professional firms have certain legal and ethical obligations to protect their clients’ interests and records (including electronic ones). Based upon the experiences of this CPA firm in planning for disaster recovery and its successes (and failures) in protecting its developing decision support capabilities a post-disaster study was conducted to ascertain the impact on the CPA firm’s continued viability and growth, and on the impact on the firm’s clients. INTRODUCTION One professional firm, identified in this research only as the CPA Firm, [CPAF] has undertaken strategic disaster recovery planning efforts that they believe will allow them to recover quickly from a natural disaster. On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. and the planning for a disaster by the CPAF was put to a test. REVIEW OF LITERATURE A review of the literature related to disaster planning by professional firms in the U. S. resulted in minimal literature that was specific to a professional (legal and CPA) firm. The review was limited to the immediate past three year period to gain insight into current usage of the disaster planning for maintaining existing technology usage in a disaster area. No effort was made to review the literature that would establish a need for the use of technology; rather, the review was directed toward learning how planning in the U. S. for natural disasters has been adopted and if planning efforts were adequate. The literature review revealed little regarding the impact on the individual accounting firm, but did provide an understanding of potential implications to professional firms in general. CASE DESCRIPTION The CPA firm [CPAF] used as the basis for this case study is considered a specialty firm. The firm has a targeted market segment of small businesses and not-forprofit organizations located in a four state region. The workload of the office is measured
in terms of actual clients; rather than attempting to measured the firm in terms of the billing hours or dollars. Two individual clients serviced by the firm illustrate the complexity of coordinating the activities within one local, targeted firm within the region. One client is an independent oil and gas entrepreneur that operates over an expanded region which may involve operations in multi-states when exploration is active. A second client is a construction company that has crews operating in four states on a weekly basis. . The required accounting and tax documents (paperwork) and information change exponentially with the addition or deletion of new clients to the existing client list. A concurrent change is that of administering a database to permit the firm to manage the required coordination between separate accountants working independently but for the same client. The firm’s workforce is made up of two partners, one non-partner associate and various other hourly personnel. The firm currently operates offices in two locations within a single state. The CPA Firm (CPAF) partners recognized within the past several years that a paper intensive environment had resulted in a firm-wide system that was in danger of collapse. One of the two partners, the senior partner, was assigned the specific task of developing policies related to two interrelated purposes involving the use of technology: (1) to improve the management of the processes and work (data) flow within the firm’s system and (2) to...
References: Harris, Blake, “Building Blocks,” Government Technology, Vol. 17, Issue 5, May 2004, 27-28.
Lewis, Stan; King, Ernest W.; and Burks, Eddy J.; “Impact of Technology on the Legal System – A Study of a Law Firm’s Disaster Recovery Planning;” 2006 Information Resources Management Association International Conference Proceedings; Washington, D. C., May 19-21, 2006, pages 127-129.
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