Information Security Still No.1 Concern

According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts, information security will be the most important initiative affecting IT strategy, investment and implementation in business organizations over the next 12-to-18 months. The AICPA just released it’s 19th Annual Top Technology Initiatives survey and, as should come as no surprise, the financial minds at your company are more concerned about protecting the corporate assets than getting a new rack of blades.

“It’s meant to (reveal) those areas where financial professionals feel like their time, energy, and dollars are probably going to be invested in the next 12-to-18 months,” said David Cieslak, chair of the AICPA’s Tech Committee. “Issues that are first and foremost for them; that they think they are going to be addressing.”

In other words, the issues you, as the CIO or IT manager, are going to be addressing, as well since this is the group with the most direct control over the corporate purse strings.

Coming in a No.2 on the list is IT Governance. It moved up the list from sixth to second place this year, reflecting the market’s renewed emphasis on corporate governance and responsibility. This also reflects the “circle the wagons” mentality that is more prevalent today as companies of all stripes struggle to deal with the vulnerability of their data and the fallout from corporate scandals that lead to regulations like the Sarbanes Oxley Act.

“We believe this year’s list is reflective of our environment, with the top four technology initiatives relating to strategies that safeguard an organization’s assets and ensure its well being,” said Barry Melancon, President and CEO of the AICPA, in a statement.

Why this survey is important to IT folks is pretty obvious, said Cieslak. If you, as the CIO, want to get the money for your initiatives, then you are going to be more successful if you take into account what your c-suite counterparts are concerned with. This group—at least from a technology point of view—are not as interested in growing the business as the CEO will be and that will affect your ability to push through big projects like, say, a CRM overhaul.

But, if you have business intelligence, mobile computing, and knowledge management projects on the drawing table, you should find your company’s CPA and CFO and little more receptive since these coming in at No.’s 8, 9, and 10, respectively on this year’s list.

“It’s not just a geek’s list … it is very much how do we work smarter and do our job better financially and what are the technologies that support that”, said Cieslak.

For example, according to the AICPA, recent studies have suggested that investors are willing to pay up to a 20% premium for a well-run company’s stock. This is one of the reasons why IT governance is so high on the list this year. Business process improvement was No. 5 on this year’s list, reflecting the significant focus placed on internal controls to reduce error and fraud by both public and private companies.

Respondents identified the top 10 most important technology initiatives for 2008 as follows:

  • 1. Information Security Management
  • 2. IT Governance
  • 3. Business Continuity Management and Disaster Recovery Planning
  • 4. Privacy Management
  • 5. Business Process Improvement, Workflow, and Process Exceptions Alerts
  • 6. Identity and Access Management
  • 7. Conforming to Assurance and Compliance Standards
  • 8. Business Intelligence
  • 9. Mobile and Remote Computing
  • 10. Document, Forms, Content and Knowledge Management


    In addition to its Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) credential holders and IT section members, the AICPA collaborated with the IIA Institute for Internal Auditors (IIA), the Information Systems and Audit Control Association (ISACA) and the Information Technology Alliance (ITA) because their members share similar perspectives on the top technology initiatives impacting business today.

    The survey was conducted in Fall 2007 under the supervision of a task force led by David M. Cieslak, CPA, CITP, GSEC, and chairman of the AICPA’s Information Technology Executive Committee. A selective group of 1,169 finance, accounting and technology participants ranked 29 technology initiatives they felt would have the most significant impact on their organizations in the next 12-to-18 months.