Intuit wrapped up another national roadshow this week promoting its cloud accounting software QuickBooks Online. Intuit has been rotating senior executives from the motherland to talk to Australian accountants and bookkeepers to find out what they want from online accounting.
BoxFreeIT caught up with Dan Wernikoff, senior vice president and general manager of financial management solutions, to find out what he heard and where he sees accounting technology heading.
Wernikoff’s answers were suprising. The conversation is moving beyond the general ledger to apps for iPads, iPhones and Android smartphones and even customer databases (CRM).
Find out more in the edited interview below.
BoxFreeIT: What are accountants and bookkeepers asking for?
Wernikoff: A couple of things. There are some tactical things where they’re asking for features in the existing market. They are asking how to respond to objections their clients have, such as around privacy and security. They are also in tune with third-party apps and we have a nice long list of partners they want us to talk to.
They are not shy of recommending names – inventory, practice management, things that integrate the accounting systems with how they manage their own practice, different payroll providers. It gets very long tail very quickly.
That’s the power of a platform – we don’t have to establish a one to one relationship with every developer out there. We just create a great programming interface (API) and hopefully they will come to us. And they are coming to us because of the brand recognition.
BoxFreeIT: Why are developers so important?
Wernikoff: We’re trying to build an ecosystem where QuickBooks Online behaves as a platform for app developers.
Small business become very fragmented in their needs. The size of the business, verticalisation, whether they’re doing goods and services or a combination – all that stuff plays into it. There will always be room for third parties and QuickBooks Online will always be a home to them.
BoxFreeIT: Which parts will QuickBooks Online make itself?
Wernikoff: The compliance piece is obviously extremely important to us. Payroll is part of QuickBooks Online and an adjacency. In some geographies we will do it ourselves but it depends on clients’ needs.
BoxFreeIT: Will you be building a cloud-based tax platform like Xero is doing?
Wernikoff: We haven’t yet bought our tax products into the localisation of QuickBooks Online. But the door is open.
BoxFreeIT: What about requests for practice management in the cloud?
Wernikoff: It’s almost completely identical in Australia to the US market. A lot of the requests are for CRM and time and billing. The things they use to manage their clients are almost as important as anything else.
QuickBooks Online for Accountants, which gives the ability to manage all your clients information with single-sign on and do auto-reconciliation in batches – those are the tools they really love.
Three years ago we thought we would have to recreate our product in every market but small businesses and accountants operate similarly in developed markets.
BoxFreeIT: Is practice management automation more advanced in the US?
Wernikoff: We haven’t seen deep integration with practice management and QuickBooks Online, it’s more with the professional tax products.
There isn’t a tonne of accountants who have slid into the technology arena. It’s more of a startup scene, but a lot of them don’t understand accountants’ behaviours and their needs. There are some big companies in the US that do practice management too so there might be less opportunity. It’s a bit refreshing to see it grow out of the industry itself in Australia.
BoxFreeIT: What other technology trends do you see?
Wernikoff: The only other thing I’d add is the role that mobile is going to start playing. QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks for the desktop have been more relegated to the back office. But at the same time QuickBooks is probably worldwide the biggest CRM solution there is because you store all your customer information and there’s a lot of transactional data. But it’s stuck in that back office.
Now we see with tablets and smartphones that data is wherever you are. You go to revisit a client and the moment you walk up to their office you can have a record of all the invoices, payments and notes. You can look at which clients are near you.
BoxFreeIT: So you see QuickBooks Online and cloud accounting platforms having a future as fully fledged CRMs?
Wernikoff: Yes. There is no de facto CRM solution for small business today. There are 4 million people who are active users of our desktop software. We were wondering who should we partner with as a CRM solution so we asked our customers what their customer solution was. The majority said, “QuickBooks”.
But the problem that they universally state is that that data is trapped in a box and someone has to call the office to find out if they have paid or if a dispute is going on.
All of a sudden QuickBooks moves away from accounting and becomes a CRM solution. The iPhone is perfect for looking very quickly at activity at a customer level. The iPad replaces the clipboard metaphor for full estimates, helping with proposals and pitching business.
We are on Android and the iPad is just around the corner. Our iPhone app will be here in a couple of months.
I really feel we’ll see QuickBooks turn into more than financial management.