Type in ‘QuickBooks’, ‘QuickBooks Sydney’ or even ‘QuickBooks Hosted’ in a Google search and the first listing is the product from American software giant, Intuit which is making serious attempts to gain traction in the Australian market with its cloud-based QuickBooks Online product. The familiar Australian product from Reckon always comes below Intuit in Google which is causing some confusion with consumers who generally are unaware that there are now two companies with two very different products using very similar names in Australia.
The agreement between Reckon and Intuit will be ending in February 2014. Reckon is able to use the name QuickBooks until that date and has already embarked on a rebranding/name changing exercise which is yet to be brought to market. Intuit however is already able to enter the cloud accounting market in Australia using the name QuickBooks.
The Intuit product is called QuickBooks Online and the Reckon product is currently known as QuickBooks Hosted. Little wonder that the unwary customer gets confused, but there are substantial differences between the two products.
Reckon has basically provided its desktop solution as a cloud hosted product so all the industrial strength functionality from the desktop product is now available in the cloud. Intuit however, in Australia has a cloud-only product which right now is a little light on with regards to functionality. It has a basic functioning GST offering (although this is undergoing redevelopment) and it has the fairly standard customer and supplier functions with bank reconciliation etc. Inventory is on its way. So the basics, but nothing fancy. It is however a fully web enabled product running under a web browser making it very easy to set up, (Reckon’s QuickBooks is quite clunky in that regard) and more importantly it can connect to third party products.
Intuit seriously took on board initial comments from accountants and small business owners in Australia that payroll was an essential feature of any product and have partnered with Australian Web Payroll to provide an integrated payroll solution. QuickBooks Hosted after more than three years in the market remains a standalone product which continues to disappoint as it can only target businesses requiring just the standard product. Business efficiencies are now achieved from add on products that enable automation and integration of complementary but non-accounting processes.
Although the Intuit QuickBooks Online is much more limited in its functionality than QuickBooks Hosted at this point in time, Intuit is possibly using the QuickBooks name to lure potential clients, but longer term; I see the product being more of a competitor with Xero. Xero has managed to win the hearts and minds of accountants who are acting as front line ambassadors for the product and are converting their clients over en masse which accounts for its exponential growth over the past year. I am wondering how Intuit will compete with this. Many start up businesses rely on their accountant’s advice with regard to software selection and I am not sure that many accountants are likely to change course so quickly, (especially as Xero gives them free subscriptions to its practice management software).
So the big question is – will Intuit’s formula work? The company is determined to be a force in the Australian accounting software market – see the fascinating assessment by Sholto McPherson earlier this month, and they have very deep pockets. At the moment QuickBooks Online has not reached the stage whereby I would recommend it to a client from a functionality perspective but their designers are really working hard to address many issues. I don’t see QuickBooks Online as a serious threat to QuickBooks Hosted, the two are so different but the time could come when it looks more attractive than Xero.
However Reckon also needs to move fast to overcome the confusion encountered by the unwary consumer as Intuit is growing day by day in brand awareness through social media and live face to face meetings with journalists, accountants and small business owners.