2024 Digitally Driven Firm Survey: Results and findings

Find out what results and findings were garnered from CPAFMA’s annual technology survey of more than 100 accounting firms.

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Last Updated January 9, 2024

Category Tech trends

Woman reviewing CPAFMA's digitally driven firm survey results in 2024.


For over two decades, the CPA Firm Management Association ( has actively conducted surveys on IT infrastructure and accounting software to identify crucial tools, applications and trends in accounting firms’ information technology. The latest survey focused on hardware and equipment. The results reveal the widespread adoption of cloud solutions and the strategic optimization of tools for enhanced collaboration with clients and remote personnel.

On January 18, 2024, at 1:00 p.m. ET, I’ll present a comprehensive summary of the CPAFMA survey results, offering key findings related to infrastructure and equipment.

For a sneak peek of what I’ll be covering during that webinar, continue reading.

72% of accounting professionals host apps in the cloud

The survey affirms the accounting profession’s widespread shift to the cloud, as 72% of firms now host the majority of their applications and data externally, either through integrators like Rightworks or on accounting vendors’ cloud platforms. This marks a significant change from the 2016 survey when 77% of firms used to handle their networks in-house. While 28% of respondents still manage their IT internally, 3% of these firms opt for external colocation facilities, essentially constructing their “private” cloud but retaining responsibility for IT staffing and infrastructure decisions—a key aspect of cloud migration benefits.

Desktop vs. laptop

Natural disasters and COVID led to a surge in laptop purchases over traditional desktops in the two previous surveys.

Ten out of 140 participating firms stated that they no longer bought any desktops.

Desktop and laptop brands accounting professionals prefer:

  • Dell dominated, accounting for 73% of desktop and 63% of laptop purchases.
  • HP followed with 16% of desktop and 15% of laptop purchases.
  • Lenovo represented 9% of desktops and 17% of laptops.
  • Microsoft’s Surface gained 5% of firms for laptop acquisitions.

Apple workstations findings

  • Five firms bought at least one Apple workstation.
  • Only one firm transitioned all personnel to MacBooks, indicating the Windows PC preference among accounting software vendors.

Accountants—unlike typical professionals—require powerful workstations

Cloud applications usually demand less workstation power, but accountants, unlike typical users, run numerous applications with multiple monitors.

When it comes to their more powerful workstations, our survey revealed an increase in processors, RAM and SSDs across the board:

  • Processing speed: The shift from Intel’s i3 and i5 processors was evident, with 67% of firms adopting Intel’s i7 chips (our minimum recommendation), and 10% opting for the powerful i9s.
  • RAM: The current standard is 16GB (reported by 61% of firms). However, 24% upgraded to 32GB, and 5% went further to 64GB, surprising us but justified by firms running “fat client” applications locally.
  • SSD: While our usual recommendation is a minimum of 256GB SSD storage (chosen by 39%), 53% of respondents purchased 512GB or more capacity.
Two men discussing how much better it is to work on a larger screen.
Screen size, RAM, cell phone plan reimbursement and more were all up for discussion in CPAFMA’s annual survey.

Display size preferences shift

For laptops, the standard “workhorse” configuration has long been the 15.6” display with a full keyboard/number pad layout, but this is slowly evolving.

  • This year, 56% of firms selected 15.6” displays, down from 59% in 2022, and from 63% in 2020.
  • 17” laptops made a surge in 2022 with 30% of purchases, but this too dropped to 27% of laptop purchases this year.
  • The trend towards the smaller 14” and 15” laptops accounted for 17% of laptop purchases, up from 12% in 2022.

Are accounting professionals still using the standard triple monitor configuration?

The standard triple monitor configuration waned from 53% in 2020 to 50% in 2022 and 46% today. There was a small surge in firms with quadruple monitors at 6% of firms (up from 1% in 2022).

Interestingly, the findings go counter to what I’m seeing during my consulting visits. Within firms, there’s still a strong preference for dual oversized monitors.

46% of firms offer a monthly phone service stipend

Have you begun offering employees a monthly phone service stipend? If they’re using it for any part of the job, you should help offset those costs.

46% of firms offer a monthly phone service stipend: 25% provide $25 or less, 35% offer $25 to $50, and 35% provide more than $50.

  • 36% of firms provide smartphones for owners, 11% for managers and 3% for staff.
  • Apple dominates mobile device choices, with 94% of respondents using iPhones.
  • For tablets, two firms provide them to all staff, while 20% primarily offer them to partners.
  • Apple iPads and Microsoft Surface tablets are the top choices, with three firms using the Remarkable writing tablet.

Only 19% of surveyed firms have an on-premises phone system

Back in 2018, 65% of surveyed firms had their own on-premises PBX phone system. This dropped to 55% in 2020, then dropped to 35% in 2022, and then dropped again in 2024 to 19%.

81% of firms had gone to cloud-based VoIP (voice over internet protocol) systems.

Surprisingly, the traditional leaders (RingCentral, Nextiva, Mite and 8×8) were eclipsed by two COVID superstars.

Twelve firms stated they had moved to Microsoft Teams for their phone system and another seven stated they had transitioned to Zoom phones, pointing to the importance of collaboration capabilities as part of the phone decision.

Last but not least: Scanners

68% of firms conducted most scanning on centralized devices. This number bumped up to 83% centralized when asked specifically about tax scanning.

While the number of firms still having distributed scanners was the smallest percentage, just under a third of responding firms still used some individual scanners.

For brands, Fujitsu continued its dominance with 70% of all devices, followed by 24% choosing Canon.

Join us on January 18, 2024, at 1:00 p.m. ET to learn more

Ready for more data? On January 18, 2024, at 1:00 p.m. ET, I’ll be sharing the complete findings during our 2024 Digitally Driven Firm Survey results webinar.

Register today for more information about the topics discussed above, as well as operating system preferences, Microsoft 365 opinions and remote app usage.

Hope to see you there. Register today.

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