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CPA2Biz and the profession partner for the future.

As technological, regulatory and business changes sweep through the profession, CPAs are looking for ways to survive--and thrive--amidst the upheaval. Vendors, meanwhile, are churning out products and services to meet practitioners' needs. But where can CPAs turn for the strategic tools that will help them assist business clients and employers and ensure their continued prominence as the most trusted business advisers?

The AICPA and the state societies hope to answer that question with CPA2Biz, their soon-to-be-launched Web portal for the CPA profession. In a recent interview, John F. Hudson, CPA, senior director and head of marketing strategy for CPA2Biz, explained the basis for that confidence.

Hudson said it's important to remember the portal began with the AICPA's Vision Process. "Thirty-four hundred grassroots representatives of the profession took stock of its future," he said. "They determined CPAs would benefit by transforming themselves from providers of increasingly commoditized services into strategic partners of senior management." Anyone doubting the need for CPAs to recast their image, Hudson said, need only look at the proportion of tax preparation and accounting services--once performed by accountants--now being processed by sophisticated software.

"While businesses are relying less on CPAs for some of those services, many practitioners still derive significant income from them," he acknowledged. "So we're not saying you shouldn't offer traditional services but that you shouldn't bet your future on them. The question is how long will that revenue stream last and what can be done to extend its life?"

That's where CPA2Biz comes in, Hudson continued. "By developing tools that make these services less of a commodity, CPA2Biz will allow the practitioner to maintain an active role in performing them. The portal's products and services will be available to businesses only through CPAs."

One CPA2Biz product currently being tested--provisionally named CPA Dashboard--will link to each of the different Web-based accounting software applications a business might use. Hudson said this product will make it easy For a CPA to monitor his or her client accounts. For example, to oversee compliance with debt covenants, a practitioner will be able to instruct the Dashboard to notify him or her if more than a given percentage of a client's accounts receivable is more than 90 days past due. This will enable the CPA to proactively intervene before a debt covenant is violated, providing a higher value service to the client.

Tools like the Dashboard can turn the task of preparing monthly financial statements into a strategic service with an impact on virtually all company operations.

To show the breadth of CPA2Biz, Hudson briefly described its two business units. One markets and distributes traditional CPA-focused products--for example, AICPA professional standards and CPE courses. Through it, the state societies and third-party vendors--such as CPA2Biz's business partner, the Thomson Corp.--soon will offer additional technical publications, technology tools and other resources.

The other CPA2Biz unit, targeted for launch in the late third or early fourth quarter, will offer new Web-based business services. Hudson said this will give small and midsize companies more access to products and services they fight have been unable to afford previously: Web-based accounting, payroll, customer relationship management, remote data storage and, ultimately, many others.

"Given the reversals of fortune many dot-corn start-ups have experienced, it's important to note that CPA2Biz will open its doors with roughly $65 million in annual revenue from marketing, repackaging and distribution of content for the AICPA," Hudson said. "CPA2Biz's business model is grounded on an understanding of the CPA profession, rather than on hopeful estimates made at the height of the bull market.

"With the support of the AICPA and the state societies, CPA2Biz is a product of the profession itself, whose best interests it serves. These factors will give CPA2Biz the staying power many dot-com start-ups don't have--a sizeable advantage as it delivers on the CPA Vision and helps practitioners enhance their role in the changing world of professional services."

For more information, see "CPA Internet Portal Gears Up for Launch" (JofA, Apr.01, page 18; www.aicpa. org/pubs/jofa/apr2001/news_fv.htm), "Portal to Create Opportunities, Especially for Small Firms" (JofA, Nov.00, page 8; pubs/Jofa/nov2000/about.htm), and "Council Overwhelmingly Approves New Internet Portal" (JofA, July00, page 6; july2000/about.htm).

ROBERT TIE is a senior editor of the JofA. Mr. Tie is an employee of the American Institute of CPAs and his views, as expressed in this article, do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA. Official positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.
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Title Annotation:CPA Internet portal
Author:Tie, Robert
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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