Intuit is rolling out an update to QuickBooks Online Accountant that will make it easier for accounting professionals to work with apps that work with their client’s account. The QuickBooks Online Accountant Apps Tab Update is available now to QuickBooks Online Accountant users in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.
What I’m showing in this article is based on a pre-release version, so you may see some differences when you access the “live” product. In addition, Intuit says that based on feedback and usage patterns in the initial release, they may make some adjustments and improvements over the first few weeks.
The Difficulty with Managing QuickBooks Online Apps for Clients
Apps are an important part of the QuickBooks Online ecosystem. Intuit has said, on many occasions, that they will not try to provide every feature that a business might need. Instead, they are focusing on the core features of QuickBooks Online and expect that companies using QuickBooks Online will use add-on apps to fill out the feature set that they need to conduct their business.
The problem for accounting professionals working with QuickBooks Online clients is that they cannot see what apps the client is using, and cannot easily manage those apps.
Prior to this release, QuickBooks Online Accountant listed the Apps tab low in the left side navigation menu, so that it was listed under Your Books. This meant that the only apps you could see would be those that your own company had connected. You could not see your client’s apps.
There was a workaround, but it wasn’t a good solution. The accountant could be added as a Company Admin to the client’s account, and then log in directly to the client QuickBooks Online file to see apps. There are a number of problems with this:
- Some clients don’t want to give their accountant the kind of control and access that a Company Admin account provides. I would also guess that some accountants might not want that kind of access, also.
- There are limits to the number of users that a subscription to QuickBooks Online provides. Being an Accountant User doesn’t count against the total number of regular users, but being a Company Admin
- The Company Admin account can only see those apps that they added, they could not see apps added by other users in the file.
My general “best practice” recommendation for accounting professionals is that they should not be added as a Company Admin to their client’s account, they should use the Accountant User feature. This provides you with some protection, and all of your access to client files will be through one login, via your QuickBooks Online Accountant account. But then, you couldn’t see your client apps!
QuickBooks Online Accountant Apps Tab Update
With this new release, Intuit is working on addressing the problem of managing client apps. At the time I’m writing this there still are some issues to work out, but what I’m seeing so far is a good step in the right direction. I’m fairly confident that Intuit will work out the remaining issues quickly.
Note, however, that I haven’t had my hands on this to play with in detail, yet.
In the new system, you see that Apps is now listed higher on the menu. And there are three tabs at the top: Find apps, Client apps, and Firm apps.
The Find Apps tab lets you view potential apps. There will be two carousels of highlighted apps, which lets you scroll through apps that Intuit believes are the most noteworthy. One list is apps recommended for your clients, the other are ones recommended for your own firm. Note that you can search for apps, or browse by category.
In the Client apps tab you can select a client from the Client apps dropdown list, and see those apps that you have added to their account as well as apps that the client has added.
There are a few things that I want to point out here:
- Only the Master Admin for your firm will be able to see the Client apps tab. Any other full access user will not be able to see this, nor will they be able to add apps for the client.
- As you can see above, apps added by the client do not have an Action button by the app. You cannot manage apps that the client added.
- The Action button includes options to launch the app, go to the app’s support website, disconnect the app, or add a review for the app.
The last tab here is Firm apps, which shows you those apps that you have added to your own QuickBooks Online Accountant account.
Adding an App
If the client adds an app to their own account, they will see a screen like I show below.
If you add an app via QuickBooks Online Accountant with this update, they will see a new sidebar. You can choose to add this app to your own firm’s account, or you can select a client from the dropdown list.
If you are adding for a client you will go through the normal authorization process, but note that it is the client’s firm name shown on the screen.
This is a complicated process, because this involves not only changes that Intuit needed to make on both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Online Accountant, it also involves changes that the third-party app developers have to make. Here are a few that I’m aware of. Note that Intuit is most likely working on resolving as many of these as they can, where appropriate:
- At this time, the client will not be able to see any apps that the accountant has added to their account.
- Billing for the app will be set up on the third party app’s screen, not through QuickBooks Online Accountant. You will have to work out the details on billing with your client and the app developer. I suspect that in the future there may be some changes here, but that would require a lot of work by both Intuit and the app provider. There isn’t a standard feature in the QuickBooks Online programming API to handle billing through the accountant as far as I’m aware.
- Some apps cannot be installed for your clients. Apps need to be able to recognize the Realm ID for the file they are being installed to. This is a unique identifier for each file. Apps have to be updated to be able to see the Realm ID at the installation point, and not all apps have been updated to that level. This is dependent on the app developer.
If the app is not “accountant ready” (that is, cannot be installed via QuickBooks Online Accountant for a client), you will see a screen similar to the one following when you try to add the app for a client. Note that this screen was from a mockup, the actual screen you will see will most likely be different.
You can see that the app cannot be installed for any clients. In addition, there is an option to be notified when the app is updated by the third-party developer so that you can install it for a client.
All in all, I think that this is a great addition to QuickBooks Online Accountant. Sure, there are some limitations, but it is better than what we had before and I am confident that Intuit is working on resolving the shortcomings that exist at this point. It gives you visibility to what apps the client is using, which I feel is very important. It lets you more easily manage the process of getting clients on-board with the apps that you want. It works without your having to be added as a Company Admin, which I feel is very important.