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Robert Carmines, Carmines and RobbinsRobert Carmines says it’s a wonder he’s not electrocuted when he tries to sort out the wires under his desk. Or sometimes when he’s trying to sort out the problems with monitors, it’s like trying to find the burned out bulb in a string of Christmas lights. Welcome to the world of multiple monitors.

The professional tax preparation business moved to a standard of two monitors per desktop desktop some time. The standard now at some firms is three and at Newport News, Va.-based CPA firm Carmines and Robbins, the average is higher.

“Several of us have five monitors and I’m about to add a sixth,” Carmines says. And he points to document management and the paperless office as the force that has spurred the monitor explosion at accounting firms. In Carmines case, he often has two instances of Thomson Reuters File Cabinets open simultaneously with that vendor’s UltraTax software open on a third. He may working the time and billing program and another and then there is write-up and so on given the numerous applications needed to run a professional tax and accounting business

At Woodbury, Minn..-based Stenseth Samuelson & Boese, the situation is the same, says partner David Stenseth. “We need every bit of space,” he says. Stenseth himself uses three desktop monitors and an iPad. Five staffers have three monitors each and the other two, two each.

The hardware explosion has some space consequences besides simply jamming the desktop. Stenseth can’t hold meetings in his office because there’s not enough space. There’s a meeting room that can contain four people, and of course, there’s a monitor there as well.

How common are these configurations? Jim Bourke says that while there are those with three or more monitors, two is the norm for the professional tax and accounting business. “The standard in the profession is two,” says Bourke, a principal with WithumSmith+Brown of Red Bank, N.J., Bourke says when he travels to accounting firms, he rarely sees the configuration reported by Carmines and Stenseth.

When it comes to desktops with three or more displays, he continues, “I don’t know if that’s a productivity enhancer or not.”

Nevertheless, the increasing number of displays has been noticed by Jorge Olavarrieta, product manager for Intuit Tax Online, when he comes to the use of tablets to augment desktop units. In visit to firms “in three out nine or 10 visits, the firms were using their iPads as a means to view source documents,” he says.

Jorge says Intuit is working on ways to mitigate the need for more monitors. “You should have the ability to pan documents,” he notes. He also talks about using Intuit Document Exchange to put information at the point of need.

And there may be a solution that avoid having one monitor per application, “As opposed to opening another application, why don’t you embed the prior-year amounts?” he says. Olavarrietta notes that ultimately one solution is better data import.

“Why don’t you automatically import the data into the application?,” he says, pointing to an area that Intuit has been working on for years.

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
Last modified on Wednesday, 29 January 2014
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