From 2014 Reckon, the owner of QuickBooks in Australia, will terminate its agreement with Intuit, the original developers of QuickBooks. This leaves Intuit free to enter the Australian marketplace and directly compete with Reckon in selling QuickBooks which promises to be interesting. The US version of QuickBooks has streaked ahead in the last couple of years with new functionality that Reckon can only dream of, and now Intuit is putting together its Australian version of QBO – QuickBooks Online. (Reckon is not allowed to use this name for its online product and has had to resort to using QuickBooks Hosted)
QBO for Australia is undergoing Beta testing at the moment so I joined the dozen or so other people who have been road testing the product (and may even be paid me some money for doing so). So how does it stack up against other products already in the market place?
First off – it does not have Inventory or Payroll so its appeal is going to be more limited and means that functionality wise, it is behind even where Xero was a year ago when it came out with its Claytons payroll (just now replaced with the integrated Paycycle product). So it would have to have some other strong features to draw users.
Most of the functionality is pretty standard with no surprises, many similarities to the existing QuickBooks product and what you would expect from accounting software. One design issue I couldn’t understand – the customer and suppliers centres are different from each other. The Customer centre was similar to the current desktop/hosted version which is clear and easy to follow. Suppliers, you had to select the supplier and then drill down – nothing major, but it would have been nice to have both the same. The other area that caused me some discontent was the Chart of Accounts. The full list of account types was available which was good (an improvement on Saasu), but after selecting the type, you had to further categorise it – ie you can’t just specify the account is an expense, you have to also specify the type of expense from a pre-defined list. This I found both annoying and restrictive and couldn’t see any benefits.
Reporting was good and definitely superior to Xero & Saasu as it had many of the standard QuickBooks reporting features including being able to run the report on a cash or accruals basis, collapse or expand the sub heading accounts, compare P&L to previous periods etc. Reports could be emailed and exported to Excel but not pdf. You could drill down from figures to the transactions which was helpful. So I would give reporting a big tick.
The area where the product really falls over is in GST. The Australian GST regime is so much more complicated than VAT or similar tax regimes in other countries so any player without a full understanding of how GST operates in Australia and the reporting requirements of the ATO is going to fall over. When you access the Sales Tax Centre of QBO – there is a large warning message ‘Beta!’ definitely an understatement. Hopefully with feedback from testers, this will improve. (Clarification – the GST functionality in the product is the unchanged Canadian version. To date the Australian functionality has not yet been released, the developers are working on the Australian functionality)
Navigation – this is not a true web browser product. I could only have one window open at a time, it was not possible to right click and select ‘open in a new window’ – very disappointing for power users.
Price – the Australian pricing has not yet been released but as an indication the US pricing is $19 per month for 3 users but you need to go to the Plus version at $29 per month to get Budgets, reimbursable expenses, 25 additional reports, free accountant access and other features.
QBO won’t be available in Australia until next year so the developers do have time to tidy up and improve the product. Verdict – don’t hold off going to the cloud to wait for the Australian version of QBO.