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QuickBooks Online revamped for global push

10th Sep 2013
Editor in Chief (interim) AccountingWEB
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AIA

QuickBooks developer Intuit has retooled its web-based small business accounting system to broaden its reach in the global market.

The US market leader, Intuit has offered QuickBooks Online in the US and Canada for more than a decade, but only brought it to the UK in 2011. Other countries such as India and Australia had to wait even longer.

But all that has changed following a corporate reorganisation on functional rather than geographic lines. In August the company announced the formation of new divisions focusing on: small business financial and management tools; consumer products including tax filing programs and the free Mint.com finance system; and accounting professionals.

QuickBooks Online lies at the heart of this new strategy. Its footprint is still dwarfed by the desktop version of QuickBooks, but is growing much faster:  up 28% to 487,000 users in total for the year to 31 July 2013. Internationally, QuickBooks Online now has 32,000+ users, an increase of 80% on the previous year.

“We are in the middle of a huge platform change,” announced Jill Ward, the head of Intuit’s accounts and advisor division at a summit meeting in Mountain View, California last week to explain the global strategy.

CEO Brad Smith expanded on the theme by explaining that Intuit was focused on being “the operating system for small business around the globe”.

QuickBooks Online has been developed as a universal product that can be adapted to suit the needs of users in different countries, for example with different terminologies and sub-routines for national sales tax regimes, Smith explained.

“It gives us a wonderful global platform we can take around the globe and make it more local than what the locals offer”, Smith said.

Smith admitted that the new QuickBooks Online borrowed elements from Google (speed, layout and simplicity of the layout), and the UK’s FreeAgent.

“We took FreeAgent as a comparison for the user experience. Where they have a specialist focus on freelances, we wanted to create as simple a user experience, but for more complex businesss,” Smith said.

The software itself lives up to the billing. Like Google, the main functional tasks have been switched to the left-hand column of the screen, with the main viewing and data entry tasks displayed in screen “centres” on different browser tabs. At the top of the screen is a three-icon menu bar for searching, showing an expandable menu of actions, or a “recent transactions” view (see below).

New QuickBooks Online Harmony interface

During a hands-on demo at the Mountain View summit, the seamless structure and integration with Intuit Tax Online made it a breeze to pay employees, close off a company’s accounts for the year and file a US tax return.

A “virtual office” is being developed for the QuickBooks Online Accountant edition, along with a version that will be fully functional on tablet devices.

This is one of many pending developments, but as Intuit goes global, it is going to face demands for even more tweaks, upgrades and enhancements from users in different countries. In the past, this is where the company has fallen down, particularly when it retrenched in 2007-8, closing down Quicken and pulling out of the UK tax market.

Smith acknowledged the difficulties of dealing with the profession on a global basis, and of the complexities of dealing with different regulatory regimes, but did not shy from the challenge.

“At Intuit, we learn from our mistakes,” he said. “In the 1990s we tried to go global and bought leading international players. But we brought an American mindset to these countries and we failed.”

But the cloud changed the game for Intuit, he argued: “Having a cloud-based product allowed us to go global. QuickBooks Online is the first global accounting platform.”

He likened QuickBooks Online to the software equivalent of a wiki, where users themselves could customise the language and functionality and make their variants available to other users.

“The system gets more local thanks to the input of users,” he said.

Following feedback from the Intuit “influencers” at the summit meeting that the product would benefit from a template approach to setting up companies, the QuickBooks team demonstrated the potential for this fast, “customer-driven” development by responding overnight with a prototype routine. Users could adapt a ready-made chart of accounts, choose relevant management reports and configure menus for end users - and then save the configuration to an XML file scrubbed of any underlying data. At the moment there is no facility to share the XML templates within QuickBooks Online, but users could send them to each other, said QuickBooks Online head developer Kevin Kirn.

Intuit is also taking its international expansion a step at a time, beginning with Canada (where it already caters for tax users), the UK, Australia and India.

The summit meeting with 40 or so Pro Advisers, analysts and journalists from around the globe was an effective way to drip-feed the new strategy out to the wider marketplace. But it was a bittersweet experience for international attendees. Witnessing the the maturity of the north American product set and the scale of the marketing infrastructure and support available through the extensive ProAdviser programme, the most common comment from non-American delegates was, “When can we get that?”

While the Intuit summit was in session in Silicon Valley, New Zealand-based rival Xero was hosting its own Xerocon event up the road in San Francisco, symbolising how the global cloud accounting industry is already coalescing around the two main rivals. Xero has speed and a single-product focus on its side and is currently growing faster than QuickBooks internationally.

But Intuit has a much deeper war chest, a bigger pool of accountant/advisers to call on and more experience of both tax and the international scene to draw on as it expands. For all the quibbles raised both by battle-hardened insiders and impatient international customers, Intuit could well have the cloud smarts to prove the doubters wrong.

Replies (23)

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By carnmores
11th Sep 2013 13:30

Im in

trying to

a) set up new clients on it

b) convert desktoppers to online for selected clients

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By makerak
11th Sep 2013 18:13

Excited too!

Hi,

Great to see that you're excited about the new QuickBooks Online – so are we.

A) The new QuickBooks has only just launched and we'll make it available to more users over the next couple of months. 

In the interim feel free to sign up your new clients to the current version (www.quickbooks.co.uk). We'll then notify you and your clients as soon as the new version is available.

B) More good news: We've partnered with Ledgerscope (MovemyBooks) to help you get your clients' data converted from desktop products (Sage or QuickBooks) to QuickBooks Online. Here's the link – it's currently free: http://bit.ly/DT2Cloud1

Makera K, QuickBooks - Senior Product Manager UK

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By chatman
12th Sep 2013 12:29

QuickBooks VAT

Have they sorted out the VAT yet? And the UK/US date format? And can it easily import journals and other data?

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By phart5
12th Sep 2013 13:28

Intuit
Maybe at last a replacement for Quicken - nothing beats that for small businesses and Club Acs !!!

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By small business owner
12th Sep 2013 13:58

Different to desktop version?

We are considering moving the accounts for our business over to QuickBooks from Sage, but if we do switch to QuickBooks it will probably be to the desktop version.

That is because it has a feature called Lead Centre which we would really be able to make great use of - it's a shame the same features are not available on the online version (and that it's difficult to compare them).

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By Bolebrook1
12th Sep 2013 14:17

Going global

For some years now I have acted for a small group of companies some of whom are USA companies. QuickBooks is used by them all but my issue is that in order to run QuickBooks USA and QuickBooks UK I have to have two computers. If run on the same computer the two programs keep overwriting each other. Have things changed with the online software. Will I be able to look at the books of the USA company and the UK companies on the same computer? Particularly important facility as it makes it possible to do the entries for inter-company transactions on both companies. Hope there is a good answer to this matter.

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By Thysb
13th Sep 2013 11:15

Dating transaction

[comment moderated where it relates to material that has been removed]

For me being in practise and dealing with clients who write up their own books I [am concerned about the] ability of QB to allow postings to closed years (mostly unintentially by mistake) [that] result in us the accountant or the clerk spending many hours now trying to find this imbalance. keep in mind a financial year is closed for a reason; the annual financial statements have been drawn up and approved by the directors, the tax return as been filed, the VAT has been reconciled - why would any normal thinking accountant want to post back into that period? Just does not make sense to me. So I don't think Sage, or Oracle or SAP or Syspro think we are dumb. And its not about trusting ourselves or our clients, its about having completed, reconciled & filed, done and dusted!

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By makerak
13th Sep 2013 10:03

Multi Country Support

@Bolebrook1 - To the question of whether accountants can support clients in multiple countries: the answer is yes. Absolutely. 

Using our free Accountant version, all your clients will show in a single client list regardless of where their business is based or the country version of QuickBooks Online they are using.

You can simply click on them in the list to launch instant access to their file. (They need to invite you to join their company as their accountant to appear in the list - at no cost to them)

Supported online countries right now: Australia, US, UK and Canada. You can sign-up at QBOA.intuit.com

Regards,

Makera K, QuickBooks - Senior Product Manager UK

 

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Replying to Kent accountant:
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By Bolebrook1
13th Sep 2013 14:58

RE YOUR MESSAGE ABOVE

Thanks for that, but since none of my clients use QB Online and nor do I, my question was based on earlier years experience which still applies to me namely that QB USA could not be run on the same computer as QB UK because in part the registry was the same so they kept cancelling each other out. I was enquiring if this has changed so that I could load the software for each country on my PC thus running a UK company simultaneously with a USA company. Your message indicates that nothing has changed. No surprise to me although at the time I had these problems QB was suggesting in its marketing that the software catered for everything. The issue I struggled with involved and continues to involve a small group of companies with a parent in the UK and 2 subsidiaries in USA. The only way to do that - I was told - was to load QB USA onto a separate computer which I did but at some inconvenience as you can imagine. Thamnks for taking the trouble to reply though. I appreciate it.

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By alisonatintuit
15th Sep 2013 19:03

Close Period password in QuickBooks

Hi everyone,

Alison from Intuit here - I head up the Accountant Programmes at Intuit UK.

I just read the string here, and want to clarify a couple of things about both QuickBooks Online, and QuickBooks desktop versions.

Both allow the ability to change transactions, provided that BOTH of the following conditions are true:

1) that the user has permissions to do so

2) that the period in question is not Closed, with a Password set.

Both conditions can operate independently, but both have to be true in order for a user to change a transaction, or, to post one to a Closed period.

I was an accountant before I joined Intuit 9 years ago, in the US.  I came to Intuit, loving QuickBooks, but also dragging alot of pain with me too.  Pain when my clients posted things to older periods and I had to find them.  Pain when they didn't post the JE's I had sent them.  Pain when I couldn't see what had changed, etc etc.

Intuit engineers (male and female) have taken the feedback from accountants like me on board, and have created a pretty amazing environment in which to run accounts.  Clients have an easy to use interface, and Accountants have tools to speed up interrogation of the client file, to create JE's and send them to their client for Import, and even to close the periods after they adjust the books and set a password to prevent anyone changing the data after the period was closed (either accidently or intentionally.)

But these things only work if accountants and bookkeepers set QuickBooks up properly.

therefore, I encourage everyone to do two things:

1) check that each user at your client side has their own User Name and Password.  Do NOT ALLOW EVERYONE TO GO IN AS ADMIN.  (yes, this is me shouting.)  If you do, the fantastic always-on Audit Trail will show what was done, and when, but not who did it.

2) Close the periods and set a password whenever you have finished a month or quarter or year end close.  Do not tell your client the password.  If you MUST tell them the password, make it "£500.00" because "that is the amount you will charge them to amend their final accounts if they actually do post a transaction to that closed period, and use the password".  (They will stop and think before posting that transaction.... I promise!)

I hope this helps -

Sincerely,

Alison Ball

Intuit UK

 

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By Jane N Smith
16th Sep 2013 14:14

I'm getting confused

A whole load of comments seem to have disappeared from here. I had some questions to ask, but I can't remember all of them.

I was chatting with a friend about Alison Ball's comment, and she said that some people like the ability to change transactions, and other's don't, definitely. 

Does anybody know if any other accounting packages allow people to change transactions at all, or is it just a QuickBooks Special Feature.

 

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By paulwakefield1
16th Sep 2013 14:33

Yes - others do

e.g. Sage (for many though not all transactions), VT Transaction +

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By Charlie Carne
17th Sep 2013 16:47

changing transactions

The great thing about almost all modern bookkeeping systems is that they offer the ability to change transactions if you wish, but also have password protection systems, so that you can completely shut that function off from everyone but the master user. Furthermore, the audit trail/activity log in QuickBooks will show you if anyone made any changes and exactly what change was made and when. This provides total flexibility. Anyone who dislikes the ability to alter transactions can prevent it with a password and not reveal the password to anyone else. I cannot see how even the most conservative of accountants can have a problem with this.

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By chatman
17th Sep 2013 17:37

@Alison

Alison @ Intuit - Your comment about the audit trail has been removed I think. Is there anywhere I can see an example of the new audit trail?

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By alisonatintuit
18th Sep 2013 10:18

Chatman - and Audit Trail

Hi @Chatman,

What version of QuickBooks desktop are you running?  I believe the audit trail enhancements (bunching the original transaction with all the successive changes) have been in place for several versions now.  So assuming you are using a recent version of QuickBooks (ie: 2012, 2013, 2014), you should be able to look at it yourself.  Go to the Reports Menu > Accountant and Taxes > Audit Trail. 

If you are on a truly old version of QuickBooks, you should consider upgrading. Unfortunately we do not offer 30-day trials anymore of QuickBooks Accountant Edition, but you can buy QuickBooks confidently, knowing we have a 60-day money-back-guarantee. 

Failing that, I could download a few audit trail reports from some of my sample files, and send them over in Excel?

Please advise?

Alison

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By Jane N Smith
18th Sep 2013 21:21

Message to Charlie from George G

George wants to point out, from a safe distance, that his greatest 20th Century Heroes are Ludwig Wittgenstein and Ted Codd.

Charlie and others can decide for themselves if those two were "conservative" in their thinking and talking.

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By GAgbo
19th Sep 2013 11:18

QuickBooks - Changes

I teach QB and use it for the Company Accounts - Book-keeping and year end accounts. Its (QB) biggest asset (its niche) is the flexibility it allows.  It now gives you the facility to control  the flexibility at your finger tips.  If any client abuses it, as suggested by Alison, let them pay for it.

Even the IASs / FRSs, for example, IAS 8 - Changes in accounting estimates / Fundamental errors and accounting policy, allows the opportunity to make changes - adjusting and non-adjusting events (see also FRS 18).

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Adrian Pearson
By Adrian Pearson
27th Sep 2013 09:36

Easy and free desktop to online data conversion

Hi everyone

The new version of QuickBooks Online has a great, modern user interface and is really quick in use.

My company, Movemybooks, has partnered with Intuit to provide a quick, easy and accurate data migration service which converts data in QuickBooks desktop over to QuickBooks Online. And the good news is that, for a limited time, Intuit will make this service free for you. Simply complete the online order form, upload the backup, and we'll do the rest.

For details see http://www.ledgerscope.com/movemybooks/moving-to-quickbooks

Regards
Adrian

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Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
11th Oct 2013 18:39

So how does QB online compare?

Has anyone drawn up a list of features and functions that will help differentiate QBs from the likes of FreeAgent, Clear Books & Xero?  

Their website seems to give out more info than it did a couple of months back but, looking at the list of features on the "Plus" version for example, it's all pretty much same old, same old with what the others have been doing from the start.

Is it true for example that they still don't support FRS VAT?  It can be done with a calculator and a finger, what's so scary?

I visited the Accountants & Bookkeepers bit but can't see any info on client dashboards/management, I'm assuming they have them?  And finally, how about the generous discounts for the "Essentials" & "Plus" how do they work?

There is training, but is it necessary?  It's only bookkeeping after all and I never had it with the PC version.

I used to love QBs on land in the early days and so, unlike the other monopoly on land, would have no problem having a look but am not prepared to sit through trials or webinar training before deciding.

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Adrian Pearson
By Adrian Pearson
14th Oct 2013 09:52

Xero v QBO

Hi Paul,

This one is a little bit Australia specific, but might provide some of the comparison information you were looking for: http://boxfreeit.com.au/2013/10/14/xero-vs-quickbooks-online-comparison-round-two/

Regards
Adrian

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Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
14th Oct 2013 13:01

Many thanks Adrian

That's a great help.

I'm still interested to hear from Intuit (or anyone) about the "generous discounts" as hitting the link on the site seems to just take me to the Sign Up box and I'm just not prepared to do that.

One issue mentioned in the comparison is that QBO only enables the use of multiple tabs in the Accountant's version.  Firstly, I can't seem to find out if there is an Accountant's version in the UK and, if there is, how it differs from the business versions, and secondly, whether multi-tabbing is not, in fact, available in the business versions, eg simple, essentials & plus.

As some feedback, one of the key benefits of online accounting is the ability to multi-tab/window and a system that doesn't have this would be a non-starter for me & my clients.

Also still interested in the FRS abilities, or not, of QBO and now, since reading the comparison, whether QBO in the UK doesn't have it's own Payroll.  This, in particular, was one of the facilities in QBs that my clients used to (and still do) appreciate.

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By Charlie Carne
15th Oct 2013 17:41

Multiple tabs and payroll

Hi Paul - yes, you can open multiple tabs in QBO. Whilst the Accountant version has a menu button that does that for you, you can do this yourself in the ordinary version of QBO. I use Firefox and you can duplicate a tab with its history by pressing CTRL and dragging the tab to a new position on the tab bar. In Chrome, you simply right-click the tab and press "Duplicate". Most browsers offer something similar - see http://www.tothepc.com/archives/duplicate-tabs-in-ie-chrome-firefox

For payroll, I use The Payroll Site (www.thepayrollsite.co.uk), which works seamlessly with QBO. You first set up a link between the two products (this takes less than a minute) and, thereafter, you only need to click "Export to QuickBooks" in The Payroll Site for it to send the full journal (even detailing each staff member's net pay individually if you choose) to QBO. "Simples", as the meerkat would say!

There is an accountant version in the UK and it offers a number of useful features, the best of which (IMO) is the ability to reclassify transactions in bulk from one nominal code to another very quickly. This is a huge time saver for me and my staff when correcting multiple transactions at once.

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Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
15th Oct 2013 19:55

Thanks Charlie

Any idea about the FRS VAT?

Also waiting to hear about the generous discounts, pretty pointless looking at something if you have no idea what it's going to cost.

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