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QuickBooks Online reaches the UK

5th Apr 2011
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In what might be the worst kept secret of 2011, Intuit has introduced a UK edition of QuickBooks Online.

First introduced in the US as far back as 2001, QuickBooks Online now boasts nearly 250,000 users, but was held back from other markets as the company retreated back to its core north American market.

Like its rival Sage One, QuickBooks Online is a different application to the desktop version. The company’s website explains, “QuickBooks Online is for businesses that don't already use our software.”

The UK QuickBooks Online index page encourages users to take a diagnostic test to work out which version is most suitable for them. If you want stock facilities or to raise purchase orders or manage payroll, you are pointed towards its desktop versions. So even as it launches its Cloud offering, Intuit has set out some clear boundaries to protect the revenue it still derives from PC-driven software.

MacUsers, however, are pointed at the web edition.

QuickBooks Online has a free 60-day trial option - as do most Cloud accounting systems - and is available for a flat monthly fee. There is no minimum contract period.

Three editions are available:

  • QuickBooks Online Simple Start, offering expenses and sales ledgers for £9 a month for one user and their accountant
  • QuickBooks Online Essentials, offering VAT, a company reporting module and multicurrency for £19 a month (three users, plus the accountant); or
  • QuickBooks Online Plus, which provides all the previous ingredients, plus budgeting, job costing and additional management reports (£29 a month for five users, plus the accountant).

A quick peek at the Essentials edition (see comment below) confirmed that QuickBooks Online is a mature accounting application, with a wide variety of advanced preferences for handling discounts, delayed payments and the like. If there is a criticism of all this functionality, it would be that the program might be too accountanty for the small business owners at which it is aimed.

“A small business person coming into Essentials could be frightened and needs something simpler, said Intuit product manager Richard Blitz. “If you’re looking for drop-dead simple, it can be that with a very little amount of configuration. With SimpleStart there is a page of Preferences with a lot of stuff you can turn off, but it still allows sufficiently sophisticated accounting so that accountants will like it.”

The QuickBooks Online UK edition was built on the same platform as the US version and that roughly 80% of the underlying code is the same. The UK version does not have the inventory [stock] facilities available in the US and while no announcements are imminent on this, Blitz said, “We’re in process of bringing them together.”

Intuit spent more than a year working on the UK version, and built a new billing system to handle direct debit payments, which were important to 85% of the UK users the company surveyed. Multicurrency capabilities have also been added. The other main change for the UK edition was a new VAT model. “We took pains to ensure it was applicable to the rest of the world,” said Blitz. “That model will be deployed in US. This will be first time something not built in the US has gone into US code.”

Beta test user Charlie Carne, of Charlie Carne & Co, commented: “As a firm advocate of Cloud computing, I am delighted that QuickBooks has now launched an online product. QuickBooks has years of experience in developing great bookkeeping software on the desktop and has now brought that expertise to the cloud.

“QuickBooks Online can be used by smaller businesses being simple and easy, as well being flexible enough to cope with the demands of larger companies with features such as multi-currency and budgeting. As an accountant in practice, I can access my clients’ data online at any time and no longer need to send data files back and forth, enabling my practice to be much more efficient and pro-active to the benefit of my clients.”

The response from members of AccountingWEB’s Cloud computing discussion group tended to the “what took them so long?” view.

Adrian Pearson commented, “If QuickBooks had launched online when we needed it five years ago, I would have been onboard like a flash. Times have now changed though and leaner fitter vendors have already established themselves.”

Gary Turner from rival Cloud developer Xero suggested that this reluctance and the limitation on user numbers was “classic old thinking”.

He continued: “At Xero we found that when faced with user caps, small businesses simply share user logins among different people which isn't great for security or audit integrity and actually prevents the wider small business stakeholder community such as non exectutive directors, advisory boards and other partners, from collaborating effectively to support the small business.”

QuickBooks Online Company snapshot screen

Replies (9)

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
06th Apr 2011 08:58

First look

In the absence of any detail from Intuit (I'll be talking to the product manager later today), the only way to get more information was to look at the program itself.

The first off-putting thing about it is that you have to give credit card details to sign up. Having done so, if I find that it's difficult to remove myself from the cash collection process when 60 days are up that will be a huge public health warning about QuickBooks Online. There is a Cancel Trial option under the MyAccount section of the application, but this requirement could put off some small businesses looking to review online software options . As a semi-random comparison, for example, credit card details are not required with IRIS OpenBooks (powered by FreeAgent), nor Sage One.

But, once you get there the benefits of its lengthy gestation period are evident. Many of the system preferences are collected during an online "interview" process, and selecting a spectator sports organisation (with memberships), for example, presents a default chart of accounts with most of the options you'd want. However, with the current implementation, when I went back to Restart the interview process to change preferences (eg to indicate a VAT registration), nothing happened...

VAT has long been a niggle for QuickBooks users, and I was frustrated to find that the system would not support the Flat Rate Scheme. So even with all the time in development, Intuit hasn't managed to put in a function some small company users might require.

Importing clients (members) was easy, with helpful instructions on how to pull contacts out of Outlook (as well as Excel). However the same facility did not appear to exist for suppliers.

There were lots of options for setting up invoice formats, dealing with discounts, deposits and delayed charges. If you want, you can also enable an AutoFill option which will pull in details from similar previous entries you have made.

As a first pass, QuickBooks online is a mature bookkeeping application that relfects the functionality of its desktop sibling without replicating it. The sales and expense ledgers are more powerful - but also more complex to use - than the online cashbooks supplied by rival Cloud developers. And where the prevailing fashion is to show the user a company snapshot of cash, funds owed and P&L on the homescreen, QuickBooks offers this as one of 60 options within its Reporting section.

One feature that will give comfort to QuickBooks fans is an Excel output option prominently displayed on each report, plus an Export option available through the More menu on many of the list pages.

Help looks comprehensive, with detailed instructions referring to menu commands, but had a few holes in the areas where I took just a cursory look (eg no instructions on exporting lists or transaction data, I had to search those facilities out myself).

The updated online help menu also included updates responding to issues raised by users, including one that explained a calculation problem that affected Safari browser versions 5.0 and 4.1. This is a browser problem, the help item explains, so to prevent errors, the application has disabled access to QuickBooks Online for these versions of Safari.

Nigel Harris is gearing up to give the app a more comprehensive test run, which will be published on the site shortly. If you're willing to trust Intuit with your credit card details, feel free to add your observations here or in the Cloud computing discussion group.

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Torben Halvorses owner of PaperLess Document Management for Sage
By torbenhalvorsen
06th Apr 2011 12:50

Quick Books Whimper

Dennis Howlett has written another review on his blog at AccMan Pro.



-- Accounting the PaperLess way™

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
07th Apr 2011 09:53

Answers on credit card gateway and VAT Flat Rate Scheme

Yesterday afternoon I had a chat with Richard Blitz, Intuit senior product manager for the QuickBooks Online Global edition and asked him about the credit card sign-up and VAT Flat Rate Scheme issues (among other things). Here's what he said on those points:

Credit card sign-up: We’ve had some very serious discussions on this topic. It is controversial. If you have a system where anyone can sign up and they pay later if they want it, you get a huge amount of people who sign up, look at it for an hour, decide it’s not quite right and look at something else. The other way is we get people who are more serious about evaluating it. In the latter case, we get more qualified leads: not as many come in, but the data shows it doesn’t affect sales. This weeds them out at the front end rather than the back. If we find it’s having a substantial effect, we’re open to changing it.

VAT Flat Rate Scheme: It’s all about setting priorities. We found that many small businesses get value out of [full VAT accounting] than the Flat Rate Scheme. They often get recommendations from accountants to do that way. That’s what we prioritised. If we hear the Flate Rate Scheme is crucial, we will look at it more closely. For this release we prioritised that standard VAT accounting was bullet-proof from the implementation and audit perspective.

A fuller version of the interview is available in our Cloud computing discussion group.

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By Fidodido
07th Apr 2011 12:42


John i assume there is an option to import a clients data who currently uses the software version??


I am looking at moving a client from quickbooks to cloud?

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By amalonio
07th Apr 2011 12:45

Quickbooks online

Couple of other problems are:

I was speaking to someone in Quickbooks and apparently you cannot upload your data if you are currently using a Quickbooks desktop product.  So if you are looking to switch from your desktop to the cloud then there is no facility to do this and I find it strange that they did not build this into their system.

In addition, based on the same conversation, you cannot do payroll on Quickbooks Online.  Again I find this to be strange as most of the other cloud products have an add on product for this, and the  desktop product has payroll included.

Two major disadvantages in my opinion and two glaring oversights from Quickbooks in designing their product.  If you consider it took them 5 years to come up with this product, I do not understand how these could be missed.


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By Fidodido
07th Apr 2011 14:45

How frustrating

That is a right royal pain in the preverbial!!

We have been waiting for the cloud system to move him across!! will look at moving him on to xero or something similar then!!

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By hempenstallj
07th Apr 2011 15:21

"Global" online edition .......

I think not !!!!

I am a Professional Advisor for Quickbooks here in IReland and It ried the online version ......

1. If you're not in the UK you can't use it.  The only addressing alowed is UK.

2. Multicurrency - great if your home currency is Sterling !! (Global ??)

3. VAT (Global ??) How come I couldn't add multiple Revenue Bodies like the desktop product.

Yes a godd move but please don't call it what it is not. If you wanted a UK product then call it that.

I like Quickbooks and some of my customers could move over to cloud right now. It just won't be to QuickBooks, even though we've been waiting. At this point Xero looks a far better option.

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By Charlie Carne
08th Apr 2011 18:43

QBO Payroll & Import

I have clients on both QB Desktop and Xero, so am able to compare.

Most of the other major cloud vendors don't offer integrated payroll either. For example, Xero recommends a few cloud payroll providers, but you can just as easily use them with QuickBooks Online (QBO). If the payroll product can generate a simple report on each payroll run, you can create a journal in QBO as a "recurring transaction", so that entering the journal details into QBO will only take a few seconds each time; the journal details are remembered by QBO and you only need to enter the figures to the 4 or 5 lines in the journal. I remember the launch of Xero and many of the features that are now present were not there at launch. QuickBooks have included loads of features from launch and have said that they are actively working on adding many more.

As for import from the desktop, I agree that it would be nice, but not critical. As they've written a new database from scratch for QBO, I guess that it would take as much time for them to write an import routine as it would to create an import from a rival product. I'm moving some clients over from desktop to QBO at their year-end, so the only things worth importing are the chart of accounts (with opening balance figures) and list of customers (all of which can be imported both from QB desktop via a csv export and also from Outlook) and suppliers. If moving from QB desktop to any other cloud provider, you'll be in the same position. If you or your client already uses QB, then the learning curve for QBO will be very short, as they will pretty much know how to use it from the off.

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By tonyc
14th Apr 2011 09:53

Mobile Access

At a recent webinar it was confirmed that there is currently no ability to access Quickbooks Online from smartphones or tablets, although there are plans to make this available in the future.


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