Magazine article The CPA Journal

Keeping Up with Information Technology

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Keeping Up with Information Technology

Article excerpt

The rapid pace of technological developments in business can make it difficult for most individuals to keep current. The authors identified 36 separate technologies important in the current business environment. They surveyed accountants' knowledge of the applications and uses of these technologies. Based on their survey results, they offer suggestions for ways to keep abreast of cutting-edge technologies through further education and professional development.

In reviewing a wide variety of sources to identify information technology skills that an accountant might find useful, the authors identified 36 specific information technologies (see Exhibit 1). Several of these technologies are interrelated or incorporate the same functions, so the list does not enumerate completely distinct technologies, but the items are generally distinct enough to be listed separately.

National Survey

The authors sent a pretested questionnaire incorporating the 36 information technologies to 1,000 audit practitioners in 2000. The sample was selected from the AICPA's database of accountants from auditing, internal auditing, and governmental auditing classifications. To ensure adequate gender coverage, the sample was selected with a 50-50 split between males and females. The usable response rate was 24.7%. Approximately 60% of the respondents were female and 40% were male. Although respondents' ages and experience levels varied widely, the average experience level was 17 years (see Exhibit 2).

Respondents were asked to indicate whether the firm for which they work performs traditional audits. Their responses indicate that 42% work for firms that perform traditional audits. Of that 42%, 51% of respondents were at the partner level and 23% were at the manager level, thus indicating a high level of expertise in their respective areas. The questionnaire asked respondents to rank their own knowledge of the 36 information technologies on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 indicated no knowledge of the topic and 7 indicated expert knowledge of the topic.

How Knowledgeable Are Accountants?

A statistically significant greater proportion of respondents rated their knowledge of technology in the lower half of the response range. The authors believe it is fair to say that many of the respondents do not perceive themselves as possessing high levels of knowledge about current information technologies. Individuals working for traditional audit firms report statistically significantly higher scores for the following technologies:

* Electronic working papers

* Generalized audit software

* Time management and billing systems

* Tax return preparation software.

Gender differences. Gender appears to be a significant factor in reported knowledge levels for practitioners. Somewhat surprisingly, male respondents scored statistically higher on 20 out of 36 technologies. Even after controlling for experience, gender was still significant for 16 of the 36 technologies.

Because of the questionnaire's design, determining whether actual knowledge by males of the technologies was in fact higher, or whether response differences were due to other factors such as self-confidence in that knowledge, is impossible to discern. The literature on gender differences in self-ratings is veiy mixed. Some researchers believe there are no significant differences in self-ratings between male and females, yet other researchers find that male self-evaluations tend to be higher than their female counterparts. …

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