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The exciting year for QuickBooks Online (QBO)

‘What I am really excited about is….’, said Nicolette Maury, MD of Intuit in Australia who demonstrably was excited when I spoke to her recently about developments and positioning of QuickBooks Online in Australia. Being excited about accounting software is now fairly widespread but I still enjoy meeting with like minded souls and knowing I am not alone!

After more than three years in Australia, adoption of QuickBooks Online by small businesses is gathering momentum with customer numbers increasing 375% year on year as the product has become fully featured for the Australian marketplace.

Planned deliverables for 2016 indicate that as with 2015, QBO is staying very much on the trend line in terms of new features. Last year saw the now standard ‘Pay Now’ button on customer invoices enabling seamless payment via PayPal from the customer invoice, increased functionality in inventory and further development of the mobile solution. In 2016 from a functionality perspective we can expect:

  • Mobile – both QBO and QBOA are now fully mobile including Payroll on all devices, with a new version of the app to come.
  • Multi factor authentication – similar in principle to Xero’s two factor authentication introduced last year, this will add an extra layer of security for user access.
  • Banking including bank reconciliation to be a ‘delightful experience’ with additional functionality to improve productivity.
  • Electronic lodgement of BAS – right now the process of recording lodgement and payment is quite complicated so this will be a welcome feature.
  • Continued expansion of relationships with banks to bring innovation to the solution.
  • A number of ‘tweaks’ to existing functionality to improve the user experience and to ensure ‘seriously easy’ is a reality.

Third party apps is another area where we can expect some development this year. Xero is well known for its massive ecosystem but finding your way around all the offerings can be a bit of a minefield. Intuit has identified six main business types and grouped apps by type in the QuickBooks App store to assist in identifying relevant apps.

Accountants play a vital role as partners with accounting software suppliers. Research has indicated that each accounting partner will bring around 13 customers to the cloud software they embrace, a valuable source of new business. Xero announced at its February road shows, the rollout of Xero HQ, a highly proactive accountants’ tool, setting new industry benchmarks. Intuit is also working to build relationships with accountants but using a more holistic approach by reaching out to accounting firms with its concept of  the ‘Firm of the Future’  a three pillared organisation that embraces the Cloud, is a trusted advisor and stays connected. During 2016 Intuit will be providing accountants with the opportunity to enhance their skills and relevance by become more digitally savvy, better able to use social media and understand what value pricing really means. These practical skills becoming paramount for accounting firms and this should see a strengthening of the accountant partner relationship.

Intuit will also continue to offer support to small business owners with their Financial Fitness boot camps designed to provide business owners with the necessary financial knowledge to run the business, a further likely source of customer acquisitions.

So where does this leave the small business? How much will QBO meet their business needs when their accountant suggests a migration or how much would the move be of more benefit to the accountant?

Functionality Unlike Xero, QBO was a reasonably mature product when it came to Australia back in 2012/13 so we have not seen the wow factor associated with Xero which launched in 2008 with incredibly lean functionality simply because it was by and large already in QBO from day 1. We had Customer Quotes, Supplier Purchase Orders, Inventory and Billable Expenses; we had a comprehensive reporting engine with Cash or Accrual basis selection and a robust Payroll module. Subsequent enhancements have centred around improving the user experience, providing better integration with banking data, ensuring a complete mobile experience and providing tools to improve customer payments. So all in all QBO continues to be a robust product that embraces new technology as it becomes available and thus a reliable solution for any small business.

An in-depth comparison feature by feature with Xero is likely to throw up some valid comparisons at a more detailed level but at a high level there probably isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two. The Intuit design methodology of Design for Delight builds on customer empathy to integrate new functionality into the product which helps to ensure development is both responsive to customer needs and in the case of new technologies; providing a solution before the customer is aware of the need.

Pricing – QBO is competitively priced and certainly a lot less expensive than Xero for an organisation with 10 or fewer employees. However after 10 employees there is an additional $4 per month charge per employee which could quickly hike up the price tag. (Agreed that the QBO payroll solution from KeyPay is an industrial strength product and worth the money for businesses with complex payrolls and structures, but for most small businesses the additional functionality is not needed.)

Support – unlike Xero, telephone support is available for accountants and a Chat facility is available to businesses as well as email, but the comprehensive on line documentation available with Xero is not here which does limit the opportunity for self help and education. Some tutorial videos are also available.

So definitely, the needs of small businesses are being met and going into 2016 QBO is poised to deliver on two fronts – ongoing state of the art cloud accounting software and ongoing support for healthy accounting practices, another win-win solution. Participation in the Firm of the Future training will enable accountants to provide a more pro active service to their clients who will benefit not only from this interaction but also from proactive cloud accounting software that is user friendly, responsive to business needs and continually evolving to take advantage of new technologies. Intuit is ready to welcome small businesses and accountants who take up the challenge in 2016.

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