Intuit is aiming for the mid-market with an extension of its QuickBooks Online financial management tool that it hopes will let it take business away from the likes of Microsoft, Sage and Oracle.
It's designed to help QuickBooks customers delay the move to a full-fledged ERP system — and perhaps even to woo a few beginning ERP users back to something simpler.
As QuickBooks customers migrate their growing businesses from one version to another, “They are faced with a choice of having to migrate off of our system on to something else, something that’s usually far more complex, far more expensive and far more rigid. That creates not only a data transition problem, they have to learn new software and oftentimes it’s really overkill for their businesses,” said Alex Chriss, a senior vice president and chief product officer of small business at Intuit.
In addition to keeping existing QuickBooks customers in the ecosystem, Chriss sees “a massive opportunity ... for us to bring in new-to-the-franchise customers that are migrating off solutions that are overbuilt for them.”
The overbuilt solutions he has in mind are entry-level cloud ERP systems from vendors such as Oracle (owner of Netsuite), Microsoft (with Dynamics 365) and Sage (owner of Intacct). Other competitors might include FinancialForce, which is built on Salesforce.com’s Force.com platform.
“This is a smart move for QuickBooks because we often see growing companies graduate onto Intacct, FinancialForce and Netsuite,” said R. “Ray” Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research. “The challenge for Intuit is finding a niche in the smaller end of the mid market,” he added.
Historically, several factors have pushed QuickBooks customers to move on, including the need for more users to have access to financials, or for more control over the access those users have, as well as a need for faster ways to enter thousands of invoices into the system, and a requirement for customized reporting or software integration.
Intuit aims to solve all those problems with QuickBooks Online Advanced, a new tier of its cloud-based financial management system that adds support for custom user permissions and more users, bulk invoice import and priority customer support. Customers can expand its functionality with hundreds of QuickBooks-compatible cloud services available at apps.com, including enterprise tools such as Expensify, Method CRM, bill payment service Bill.com, SOS Inventory for inventory management, Jobber for field service management, or Shopify for e-commerce.
As a bonus, Online Advanced also includes AI-based automation and recommendation tools that Intuit plans to expand in the coming months. “This is online software, we iterate rapidly on it,” Chriss said.
Those online tools draw inferences from data aggregated from QuickBooks' 3.4 million online users to power things like automating the identification of business expenses eligible for tax deductions, or recommending the applicable rate of sales tax based on a natural-language description of the item or service sold.
Intuit is also moving beyond financial reporting into financing: It is prepared to make loans to its customers where traditional banks would have turned them down, based on its analysis of their business prospects. “QuickBooks Capital is all about looking at a 360-degree view, not just bank information but what invoices they have outstanding, who are the customers they have, that they’re working with across their network, and really leveraging a different level of insight,” Chriss said.
QuickBooks Online Advanced is available now for US$150/month. The price allows access by up to 25 users.