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New Kid on the Block goes to High School

Back in May I wrote a blog on the entry of Intuit, the US developers of QuickBooks into the Australian market place with its QuickBooks Online product (QBO). At that time it was still in beta, and the Australian GST hadn’t even made it into beta so there was a long way to go before it could be ready for release in Australia.

But Intuit hasn’t been standing still, in the intervening four and a half months, the company has sent senior staff members to Australia to talk to to small business owners and accountants to gain a detailed understanding of what they are looking for in accounting software. The result was that last Monday, Intuit demonstrated their commitment to ‘customer driven innovation’ (their words) when CEO, Brad Smith revealed that the latest release of the product, to be delivered in a couple of weeks would include integrated payroll and inventory – two of the features small businesses and accountants alike had insisted were necessary in any product. In addition to that, an Accountant’s version of the software is being readied as is an Import module to enable conversion of existing data.

I was impressed (and somewhat amazed)  that not only had Intuit taken on board the feedback but also turned it round into a deliverable in such a short space of time. They must be really interested in the Australian market space as this would have involved some significant resource investment

As yet I haven’t had the opportunity to test drive these new features so I will reserve judgement on them, but a quick tour of the Inventory module showed that it didn’t yet have stock take functionality or a report to reconcile back to the Balance sheet – two key requirements of an inventory system.

The Import module I also found to be a little disappointing as it only allowed for import of lists (which is very easy to do) and opening balances, no transactions at this point in time.

So I am not sure we are quite at the level of an ‘awesome product experience’ as expounded by Brad Smith, although there is movement in that direction. And certainly the product is not yet at the stage where I would recommend it to a client unless there was a specific set of requirements.  QBO  appears to position itself as a competitor to Xero, but Xero is a much more mature product in the Australian market place with a vast number of integrated third party products and I find to be much more user-friendly. Plus Xero has the accounting community on its side which must always be a big plus as accountants are actively supporting clients converting to Xero.

The product does have some  pluses particularly in terms of reporting where all the standard QuickBooks customisations are available – a big contrast to Xero’s more limited suite. The minuses do outweigh the pluses and include different look and feel between Customer and Supplier centres, a rather clumsy and incomplete BAS/GST solution, an additional mandatory sub level in the chart of accounts, the missing functionality in Inventory and a host of minor irritants.

Intuit is using all its might to unseat current accounting software incumbents with its penetration strategies but my thoughts on this are – the functionality must be not only good but better than that of existing players and for accounting software, accountant support can make or break the selection decision. If Intuit can’t tick these boxes, QBO will be a square peg in a round hole.

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