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At the June 1997 Microsoft Partners' conference designed to motivate partners from CPA firms to take a step forward into technology consulting, a new AICPA advisory program was announced as promised. Microsoft put on quite a show with big-name entertainment and highly regarded motivational speakers. Microsoft's objectives, for which the AICPA and other co-sponsors were willing supporters, were to explain the benefits to CPAs of expanding their practices to include technology consulting and to provide them with the tools to do it. All the sponsors recognized that CPA firm clients, particularly small businesses, are in need of an expanded source of trusted business and technology advice.

The culmination of the program was the announcement of a new AICPA Technology Advisor Program (TAP), which is designed to help CPAs offer their clients technology solutions to business problems. The program provides the foundation on which a CPA firm can build a business systems consulting practice. Microsoft stepped forward as the pioneering TAP vendor with its Microsoft Action Pak, which includes products, training, and technical support.

According to the announcement, Value TAP participants will be able to demonstrate technical competency to complement their business acumen by showing they have met the highest educational standards as set by the AICPA and Microsoft. These credentials are intended to demonstrate technical excellence to users of the CPAs services, thereby giving TAP consultants a competitive advantage.

As the first vendor participant, Microsoft has worked closely with the AICPA on development and delivery of the TAP. The products and courses are based on existing Microsoft offerings and have been specifically tailored for the AICPA. The training offered in the program will also prepare CPAs for the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exam.

A Certificate of Educational Achievement (CEA) is available from the AICPA upon completion of the designated TAP curriculum and the MCP exam. The CEA focuses on specific areas of competency within the CPA profession (other CEAs include Business Valuation and Personal Financial Planning). Unlike the personal financial planning and business evaluation designations, a CEA is not a credential for use in conjunction with the CPA initials.

Microsoft's Action Pak includes a number of software components as well as the opportunity to attend selected training classes. The cost of the program is $849. Completion of a course on installing and supporting Windows 95, with an additional discounted cost of $1,399 is required to qualify for the TAP-recognized MCP. To order Action Pak, AICPA members should call (800) 862-4272. *

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

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