A Worldwide Call for Technology Training

Article excerpt

Both the American Institute of CPAs and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) have called on accountants to meet minimum standards in understanding information technology (IT). Such standards apply to accountants in all areas: public practice, industry, education and government.

The AICPA executive committees on academic and career development and on information technology formed a joint task force, which has published Information Technology Competencies in the Accounting Profession: AICPA Implementation Strategies for IFAC International Education Guideline no. 11. The document includes the IFAC guideline, Information Technology in the Accounting Curriculum, and the AICPA's own guidance, which echoes the IFAC statement. "The task force agreed with the IFAC document, and we added our own twists and emphases," said task force member L. Gary, Boomer. Task force chairwoman Mary Beth Armstrong said the Institute document also addressed the implications of the IFAC statement and implementation issues.

The two statements are in general agreement, and the AICPA decided to include the earlier IFAC statements with its own guidance. According to Boomer, the task force wanted to make it clear that the gap in IT education is an international problem requiring an international solution.

What's required

The statements go into detail about the requirements of CPAs in different areas of accounting. Boomer pointed out some examples of the guidance provided: On a very basic level, a CPA should have the ability to use spreadsheet, word processing, database and general ledger programs. More advanced knowledge may include data conversions and network management.

However, Boomer said the statement emphasized it's not just what technology a CPA has but, rather, how he or she uses it. For example, "We made it clear that generally 70% of IT cost should be implementation and training and only 30% allotted for purchase of hardware and software."

The document also discusses at length the need for budgets and long-term plans. Armstrong said that entities tended to divide IT costs among different departments without ever adding up all the costs for review. Also addressed was the need for IT benchmarks to chart the progress of IT investments.

IT to change education, CPE, exam

Mary Beth Armstrong said accounting educators would have to take the initiative and begin discussing with their universities' IT faculty what needs to be taught and who will teach it. …