QuickBooks previews product announcements ahead of virtual event
Following the cancellation of QuickBooks Connect, the accounting software giant gave AccountingWEB a preview of product developments ahead of next week's Virtual Get Connected event.
After the cancelling QuickBooks Connect earlier this month due to COVID-19 concerns, QuickBooks was frustrated in its plans to announce product updates at QuickBooks Connect as originally planned.
Instead, these releases will now be unveiled at its online version of the event: Virtual Get Connected, taking place next week on Tuesday 24 March.
Ahead of the event QuickBooks director of product management Shaun Shirazian revealed details of new releases due to be announced. According to Shirazian, the new products coming live will “leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help accountants grow and scale their practice impact”.
QuickBooks Online (QBO) will shortly be equipped with an Optimisation Centre that will provide accountants and bookkeepers with an efficiency score on each client. The tool will then provide specific recommendations on improving their efficiency. The score will be split into three areas: bank accounts, expense tracking and income tracking.
AI learning is used to scan transactions and code them to account categories for automatic reconciliation. According to Shirazian, accountants who deploy the highest levels of automation are able to support many more clients than the average ratio of 25:1. A handful of top performers are able to exceed this amount without any sacrifice to the quality of client interactions.
“Those accountants were taking advantage of automation within QBO, allowing them to double their capacity. The Optimisation Centre was born out of that insight,” he said.
Another addition arriving soon is a bookkeeping review feature. Drawing on SmartScan technology that has already proved its worth in checking VAT returns, this tool scans and locates common bookkeeping errors such as missing vendor information and duplicate entries within expenses.
“It then takes the normal steps an accountant would do and automates them, identifying duplicates and walking them through the steps to correct them,” Shirazian said.
Business Performance Overview
The Business Performance Overview has gone live for testing with users and applies AI to the accounting data. “We are surfacing the key insights accountants want to understand in one place online,” said Shirazian.
The features display key performance indicators, profit margins, comparisons with months, quarters and years to show how key metrics have been trending over time. Once the initial version has been launched, the Business Performance Overview will be upgraded with a benchmarking feature that aggregates anonymous data from millions of QuickBooks users to provide comparisons against similar businesses.
Users can find out “how their gross profit compares with others in the same industry. They can turn this on and compare, and it will also be able to compare with geographical locations,” said Shirazian.
In addition to these new AI and machine learning tools, Quickbooks has made several enhancements to existing QBO modules:
- Open Banking: The QuickBooks Open Banking API automatically categorises transactions as they come into the accounting ledger and reconciles them with transactions already posted in the system. This information is also used to populate the Cashflow Planner which can project 30-90 days ahead.
- Payroll: Following last year’s launch of QBO Advanced Payroll, QuickBooks has added automated pensions provider syncing and an employee portal. The portal includes timesheets and holiday requests and management. These facilities will soon be extended to the standard edition of QuickBooks Payroll.
- Constructions Industries Scheme (CIS): Now partially live, this routine automates CIS calculations as part of an end-to-end workflow. According to Shirazian, the feature lets accountants and small business customers file directly with HMRC from within the product, which then automatically reconciles with bank feeds and payroll.
- Payments: QuickBooks has recently partnered with PayPal to accelerate invoice payments using tools such as GoCardless and iZettle.
QuickBooks and Coronavirus
Having been among the first organisations to confront the impact of coronavirus on accountancy when it cancelled the London QuickBooks Connect event, Shirazian commented: “There is no question that we are facing unprecedented times on multiple levels. I think everyone feels the impact that this is having on small businesses out there, accounting firms as well.
“We know that cashflow has traditionally been the reason small businesses have gone under and, in time like these, there is no doubt cashflow will continue to be critical. The thing we are paying close attention to is how the tools can help small businesses really get visibility into their cashflow situation, so they can have that understanding to take the necessary action needed.”