Overall QuickBooks Online (QBO) gives a good impression. Intuit has decades of experience in building accounting software and it is no surprise that QBO is online accounting software with a strong sense of tradition. For the most part Intuit’s past experience plays to QBO’s advantage, the software is feature rich and provides several useful tools for bookkeepers and accountants to do their work quickly.
On the flip side, QBO relies on tabular format to present information and QBO reports, while very informative, do not follow the same user interface as the rest of the software. In addition, bank feeds are designed as a means of removing data entry for a traditional bank reconciliation process, which does not leverage their full potential, as bank feeds allow the software to tap into the bank’s “source of truth” records.
QBO handles the main functions of an accounting program quite well. The user interface feels almost like it has three distinct sections to it. The “Quick Create”, “Recent Transactions” and “Search” functions are conveniently placed on the top of the page. These functions would be used often by a business owner to raise invoices, enter expenses or to search for recent transactions. This part of QBO is well designed and easy to use.
User interface for tasks traditionally associated with bookkeepers, such as reconciliations, uses tabular format and has a lot of onscreen information. In this case QBO relies on user’s knowledge of the software rather than guiding the user through the process.
Lastly, the reporting module is functional but it would be difficult to use for people without an accounting background as it overwhelms the user with options and takes little advantage of text formatting and placement.
The iPhone app is well-built, functional and responsive. First-time users will find the app providing helpful hints, while the depth of features is pleasantly surprising.
A lot functions can be done through the app just as easily as if done on a bigger screen and in some cases they are enhanced by taking advantage of the phone’s camera. The app features a simple Profit and Loss report and it is great to see reporting features starting to be built into a mobile app as they would be really useful to business owners on the go.
In terms of the improvements that can be made, the app allows to see outstanding invoices, but it would be great to have a proper Aged Receivables report along with a single-click option to give a call to late-paying customer.
It is also unfortunate that multicurrency transactions cannot be viewed through the app. In addition, it seems that the app requires the user to enter PIN after a period of inactivity, not based on whether the app was closed, so potentially it could be accessed by an unauthorised person who managed to gain access to your phone.
One of the features that is quite useful is the ability to do a global transaction search. While not a true global search, as it works by allowing user to search for a string of text in a filtering system, this feature is quite powerful.
Users can quickly answer daily practical questions: “Did I pay this bill? When was the last time this customer sent me funds?” or help solve uncommon problems “What cheque numbers went to this particular supplier?”
While the feature does take a little time to learn, it has the potential to not only help find a particular transaction but to analyse sales. For example, the tool is capable of producing a list of customers who purchased a particular service in the past month for a value greater than $300. This feature, coupled with another feature that provides an easily accessible list of recent transactions, will save a lot of time for busy business owners.
A lot of small business use quotes a feature QBO has built into the program. While the design and layout of the actual printed document could be improved, the workflow is pretty straightforward. A quote is created, sent to a customer and converted into an invoice upon acceptance.
What is really nice to see is that that the system suggests actions within this workflow and learns from your use. For example, if you prefer to create and send quotes the system will show “Save and Send” option as a default, however if you previously selected “Save and Close” when creating quotes, this alternative option will be set as the default.
Furthermore, if an invoice is raised for a customer that has open quotes, the system will suggest converting these into the invoice.
QBO has a basic inventory. You can create purchase orders and track how many items you have on hand. Seeing this functionality as a part of a cloud accounting software is great as it puts it closer to the functionality of some older desktop accounting solutions.
In many cases simple inventory is sufficient for a lot of businesses. For a small business that has some items for resale it should be just right, but if you run an online store or manufacture and inventory control is a big part of your business you should research other inventory programs instead.
Areas that need improvement
QBO is flexible in terms of journal entries you can do: AR, AP and Bank, all can be journaled. Although a warning screen will pop up, you can also force a bank reconciliation and system will add an adjustment entry as the result.
Similarly, skipping through the warning regarding linked transactions, it is also quite easy to adjust invoices and bills that were previously reconciled. For accountants the system provides the option to bulk reclassify transactions.
This kind of freedom is great for accounting professionals who know exactly what they are doing, can be disastrous if you are a business owner who knows little about accounting and meets his/her accountant infrequently.
It would be great to see stronger and better phrased wording on the warning messages, along with adjustment restrictions in accordance with transaction statuses.
QBO treats bank feeds as a means of reducing data entry and it is effective in doing that. Transactions are imported and classified by the user, but bank reconciliation still needs to be completed as a separate step.
The value of the transactions can be adjusted after the import and they are not mandatory to be included in the bank reconciliation for that period (although they are preselected). This is an example of fitting new technology into an existing process, not reinventing the process around the new technology.
As bank feeds technology improves and more direct bank feeds become available, there will not be a need to manually verify accounting software balance with a bank balance, it will be done automatically and confirmed by the bank’s system.
While this future is still several years away, it is important to design the accounting process with this possibility in mind as it would mean eliminating unnecessary steps and taking advantage of further advancements in automation.
An earlier version of this article examined how accountant’s logins are handled in QBO, however with the recent release of QuickBooks Online Accountant, accountant’s logins are handled quite well.
If you are selecting a cloud accounting program for your small business, you should try several products, but you would not be thorough if QBO was not on your list. There are several factors that would guide your ultimate decision such as operational fit, costs, and if your accountant supports the software.
QBO performs strongly in terms of features and is attractively priced, however if there is a particular add-on that you would like to use with your accounting software you should research if QBO integration is possible.