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Tracy Gaspardo Mortenson, J.D., CPA — 39 (God help me)


Director, Federal and State Tax, CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business

City/State: Riverwoods, IL

Education: J.D., Georgetown University Law Center, J.D.; B.S. in Accounting, University of Illinois

Civic Involvement: Glenview Youth Baseball, Volunteer Our Lady Perpetual Help

Hobbies: Jogging, softball, painting, remediation and dispute resolution for those under 8, tennis, travel, coaching

Children: I have two sons (complete monsters, both of them). Lucas is 8, and Mitchell is 7.

Cell phone: Blackberry 9560

Favorite app: It’s a tossup between Google Maps which allows me to find my way no matter what city I happen to land in, and ESPNChicago, which allows me to easily keep tabs on my favorite teams.


How many hours of the day are you plugged in and responsive to client needs? And what tools/products make it possible for you to have flexibility? Oh gosh, I fear this is going to make me look somewhat maladjusted. In all honesty, however, I am literally hooked up in some fashion most waking moments. I obviously am not actively engaging at all times, but I rarely go without at least access to e-mail. The market is increasingly expecting real-time responses to their questions, and we provide solutions 24/7, so we need to be readily accessible at all times. Even when spending quality time with friends or family, I am usually compelled to check my e-mail periodically. Both my BlackBerry and my wireless card are essential to ensuring this flexibility.

What ONE piece of technology could you absolutely not live without? There are actually two pieces of technology that I could not live without. The first is my BlackBerry. It not only allows me to be more efficient, but it helps in my struggle to maintain the work/life balance that is precious to us all. My second lifeline is CCH IntelliConnect™. CCH IntelliConnect™ puts answers at my fingertips by providing unprecedented access to our world-class tax and accounting content. We’re all looking to maximize efficiency, and CCH IntelliConnect™ is an invaluable partner in this effort. (Also, although I may be able to technically live without my iPod, I wouldn’t be as happy).

Are you using social networking (such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook) as a marketing tool for your practice/business … or do you use such sites for personal use only? Have you gained any clients or seen other demonstrable benefits from the use of social networking? I have used both Plaxo and LinkedIn as a way of recruiting, keeping in touch with former colleagues and judging the pulse of public opinion. I use Twitter solely for personal/social reasons. Likewise, I don’t use Facebook for business purposes; however, my European colleagues claim it is a highly effective recruiting tool for them.

What pitfalls or what unwritten rules of social networking etiquette exist, which are frequently missed by others in the profession? The biggest pitfall is the most obvious one, and it is not missed by people so much as it is just simply trivialized or forgotten: Frequent use of social networking tools breeds a false sense of security and familiarity among users. Because the tools are used so prolifically in professional’s personal lives, the same professionals tend to adopt a more candid and flippant tone in this type of environment than they would ever dare in more formal workplace communication. Remembering that these postings are in the public domain seems simple, yet people often end up regretting words they used. And when taken out of context, even the most benign language has the potential to reflect poorly or unintentionally inflame.

Do you embrace cloud computing? I embrace any enabling technology that helps our customers better accomplish their goals. In my view, cloud computing is one such enabler, allowing infrastructure, platform and software applications to be outsourced efficiently, and ultimately empowering professionals to focus on their core competencies.

How is cloud computing changing the accounting profession, and how concerned are you with the security issues related to cloud computing? Cloud computing not only allows customers to focus on the value add, i.e. what they do best, but it also lowers the cost of ownership, improves ease of use and speed of implementation and allows for greater accessibility, portability and collaboration. Continued proliferation of web-based application and content delivery, combined with a growing customer trend towards outsourcing non-core competencies, is certainly driving our innovation at Wolters Kluwer. I don’t feel the security issues, while important to respect, should jeopardize innovation or overall acceptance.

Do you foresee the majority of firms still implementing servers for the majority of their computing in their offices five years from now or do you think they will be outsourcing this component to vendors who specialize in this area? Personally, I envision a steady progression towards adoption of cloud computing as customers seek to consume their IT services in the most cost-effective manner. According to a recent Gartner report, “interest is growing in drawing a broad range of services (for example, computational power, storage and business applications) from the ‘cloud,’ rather than from on-premises equipment.” From my perspective, it all gets back enablement — allowing customers to focus intently on their core competencies while they outsource other non-core or less critical functions. This will drive deeper expertise, productivity and broader range of function.

Do you subscribe to a magazine and/or local newspaper? Yes, we subscribe to both the Chicago Tribune and our suburban paper (the Glenview Announcements). I realize this isn’t very green of us, but there’s something about fighting over the sports page that appeals to my sense of domestic tranquility. When I don’t have the time to spend with the print versions, however, I will pull up the Internet homepages of various newspapers, as scanning headlines electronically is much more efficient.

What are some ways your firm/business has gone “paperless” and/or “green” in the last two years? At CCH, we provide technology and best practices that allow paperless workflows to become reality for tax and accounting firms and corporations worldwide. We work with our strategic partners to institutionalize paperless practices such as automated file organization, software integration, multiple monitor workstations, online portals, simplified and streamlined workflows, consolidated and integrated processes, digital information storage, common client databases, dashboards, etc. in the most efficient and cost effective manner. And we truly practice what we preach. We revamped processes and procedures and introduced new technology throughout Wolters Kluwer in order to support our paperless strategy and lead us down a “greener” path. Moreover, with respect to our publishing business, we have been working with our print vendors to produce Wolters Kluwer titles under environmentally sound paper and forestry practices through certification programs sponsored by the SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) and the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).

How many monitors do you have on your desk? Two.

What operating system and version of Microsoft Office is installed on your work computer? Windows7 and Microsoft Office 2007.

NOT including your current employer, what company do you most admire and why? The consistent commitment to innovation exhibited by the executive leadership at Wolters Kluwer is the benchmark by which I measure other companies. And, given the question, I would have to say Apple. They have a longstanding history of consistent innovation stemming from a deep-seated understanding of customer needs followed by aggressive customer-focused development. I admire GE and IBM, as well — two companies renowned for innovative products and industry leadership. They each have sustained iconic brands over a long period of time, maintained a loyal customer base and are highly regarded by their employees.

Do you use online resources like webcasts for CPE training? Professional development, continuous learning and CPE are very important to me — as they are to CCH and the customers we serve. I try to take advantage of the wide range of CPE training solutions we provide to our customers, such as our CCH Learning Center online courses and our weekly CCH Audio Seminars in order to stay current, learn about new substantive areas and continuously sharpen my skills. Our professional development offerings give me access to a vast range of topics, in a variety of delivery methods, and allow me to learn when it is convenient for me … including at night after my kids have gone to sleep or in bite-sized sessions over lunch breaks.

Do you listen to podcasts? Podcasts are an incredibly efficient vehicle of communication (especially corporate communication), and I am definitely a listener. While some appreciate the currency of information provided by podcasts or their ease of use, I am won over by the portability of information and the ability to listen to what I want exactly when I want. Admittedly, it is easier to work out to Pink than Jack Welch, but being able to learn about any topic while jogging or driving saves me time. And, like others, I consider time to be my most precious commodity. Although, while I am a big fan of podcasts and feel we have only begun to tap their potential, I do still curl up in bed at night with a book.

What is an “old school” business practice or process you’d like to see changed in the next five years and why? I would personally like to see an accelerated movement towards value billing vs. time billing. In many instances, time-based billing is counter intuitive as it links time spent to value received when, in fact, this relationship is often inordinate. Outcome-based fees, both for accounting professionals and the partners that serve them, more closely align value to the benefit derived from services received and ultimately foster increased productivity for all involved in the tax and accounting profession.

What sports team/championship event do you absolutely refuse to miss? I have not missed Opening Day at Wrigley Field in over 20 years. (It’s actually quite remarkable how I seem to be sick every spring around that same time and am forced to stay home from the office … must be seasonal allergies). And while it’s usually 30 degrees on the field with a negative wind chill and we’re always coming off a season of bitter disappointment, hope springs eternal every year. And, hey, we never need to worry about delaying the start of the game to hand out World Series rings. Take that, Yankee fans.

What are some of your favorite books, movies, music and TV shows? I am a big fan of historical-based fiction that educates the reader while sweeping him away. I just recently read both “Sarah’s Key” and “Juliet,” which respectively provided a history of the French atrocities surrounding WWII and an insight into medieval Siena. I am a movie junkie and love just about anything, save the horror flicks. And as far as music, my taste can only be described as eclectic. Someone recently told me that Death Cab for Cutie and Barry Manilow can’t be expected to coexist on the same iPod, but I think I have music representing just about every genre.