I believe that it is important for accounting professionals working QuickBooks products to understand the direction in which Intuit is taking the QuickBooks product line in the future. Your clients depend on QuickBooks products, you work with QuickBooks products on a daily basis, so the decisions that Intuit makes will have a huge impact. I want to talk to you about Intuit and the future of QuickBooks: where I see the products going and why I think Intuit has chosen the path they have taken.
In this series of articles, I’m going to talk about my view of where Intuit is heading with the QuickBooks product line, along with some background on why I think that they’ve chosen this path. Some of what I present will be wild speculation on my part, and in other cases I’ll present material to support my conclusions. Along the way, I’m going to answer questions that accounting professionals have asked me, such as: “What is the next big step for QuickBooks Online?” “How important is QuickBooks Self-Employed?” and the all-important “Is QuickBooks Desktop Dead?”
The article topics will be:
- Intuit’s Long-Term Vision (this article)
- QuickBooks Online Is the Future for Intuit
- QuickBooks Online Accountant Connects Them All
- Why QuickBooks Self-Employed Is Important to Accountants
- Is QuickBooks Desktop Dead?
The QuickBooks Product Line
To start off, I want to clarify what I’m referring to as “QuickBooks.” I’m going to focus on these products:
- QuickBooks Online
- QuickBooks Online Accountant
- QuickBooks Self-Employed
- QuickBooks Desktop (Mac, Pro, Premier, Accountant and Enterprise).
I won’t be looking at products like QuickBooks Payroll or QuickBooks Payments in any depth, other than to discuss how they impact the basic accounting products.
Consider this my “state of the union” presentation on the QuickBooks product line, an update of the article I wrote three years ago about the Intuit Business Operating System. I hope that this generates a lot of discussion – please leave comments about what you think I got right, where I’m wrong, and what you would like to see Intuit do. Your comments can impact the products, as I believe Intuit keeps an eye on comments that our readers leave with these articles.
And, keep in mind that a lot of my conclusions are speculation on my part. I did spend a lot of time interviewing various Intuit employees, and I’ve been writing about the company for many years now, but Intuit is very good about keeping details of their plans very private.
So, let me start by “setting the stage” – sharing my opinion on why Intuit is developing their products the way that they are.
Intuit’s Long-Term Vision
Intuit has always impressed me as a company that looks far to the future to try to determine how society will evolve, with the goal of developing products that will meet the needs of the businesses that serve that society.
When considering the development of accounting software, keep in mind that:
- Small business accounting users work in the present. They need a product that provides them with the features they need now.
- Advisors/accountants work in the present and the near future. They need to provide their clients with a solution that works now, in the present, but they also need to be thinking ahead to the next step. They need to provide a solution that will not only work now but that also will continue to serve the needs of the client in the near future.
- A company like Intuit must have a long-term vision because it takes time to develop a product – and the infrastructure needed to support that product. They must have a solution that meets accountants’ and accounting users’ needs now. They must be getting the next generation of product ready to go to market in the near future, but they also have to have a vision of where the marketplace is going in the future.
Intuit has created a vision of what they think the accounting market will be like in the future, and their current development plans are focused on that long-term vision.
We can see what Intuit’s vision is by looking at their published research. Over the years, Intuit has sponsored a number of research reports that discuss how our society and economy will change, and how that will affect both small businesses and their accounting practices. These generally are looking 10 years into the future. Some of the key reports are:
Intuit Future of Small Business Report: A series of reports published in 2007 and 2008
Intuit 2020 Report: A series of reports published in 2010 and 2011, two of which address our topic
- Intuit QuickBooks Future of Small Business Report: Published in 2016, you can see an overview of the report, and the report itself as a slide deck
These reports (except the 2016 report, oddly) and others can be found at the Future of Small Business website.
There is a lot of information to process here. The reports cover many topics, some of which don’t directly (in my mind) relate to small business accounting. In going over these reports I’ve refined the information to five key points that are consistent throughout, that I believe are guiding Intuit’s product development plans.
- Working in the Cloud will be the new normal
- Mobile technology will be the primary tool
- Data collection is critical, and the Cloud will allow for faster Machine Learning
- One-person businesses and contract workers will exceed 40% of the workforce by 2020
- Globalization is key, and emerging industrializing countries will rely on mobile technology
Here it is, 2017, about a decade past the first report, getting closer to 2020. Sure, from where we stand now some of these points are obvious, but that hasn’t always been the case. If you were an accounting professional back in 2007, did you understand what our marketplace would be like 10 years later? I certainly didn’t. I was firmly embedded in the Windows desktop software marketplace, I don’t know if I understood what was meant by “the Cloud” back then, I could have cared less about business activity outside of the U.S., and I didn’t own a “smart phone” until quite a few years later.
Over the next four articles I’ll take a look at how these five key points are driving Intuit’s development process for the entire QuickBooks product line. Some of my conclusions may surprise you!