QuickBooks cranks up practice platform raceby
John Stokdyk reviews the key product announcements and executive pronouncements at the QuickBooks Connect event in London this week.
With extensions to its QuickBooks Online Accountant (QBOA) suite and the UK launch of its chatbot assistant, Intuit let accountants, business customers and its cloud rivals know that it's gearing up for a major push on this side of the Atlantic.
As the dominant player in North America, QuickBooks has very deep pockets to fund its expansion plans. Football sponsorships, advertising on cable TV channels and events like QB Connect, which drew 1,500 users and prospects to London this week, demonstrate the resources the company is putting into marketing.
Product announcements at the show confirm that Intuit’s big R&D budget also poses a major challenge to Xero and Sage in the UK. For practitioners, the most significant move is the evolving practice management module within QuickBooks Online for Accountants (QBOA).
The updated edition is built around a customisable work view that lets the practitioner filter their pending workload by date and client task type. QBOA Practice Management also includes basic customer relationship management tools to track contacts with clients, who can be contacted by the accountant within their own QuickBooks Online (QBO) system or via the Slack chat platform.
The program also acts as an app selection and deployment aid – using platform analysis to present a menu of add-on programs that will suit the practitioner’s clients and allowing them to integrate them with QBO.
The QBOA client portal can also accommodate users of other accounting systems and allows the advisor to upload related files and documents such as Excel spreadsheets. The low cost QuickBooks Self Employed program – currently the company’s fastest growing product – is being hooked into QBOA. With continuing tax policies designed to dissuade sole traders from incorporating and the looming prospect of quarterly filing under Making Tax Digital, the UK could be a particularly receptive market for this edition, posing a challenge to FreeAgent, which has annexed a good portion of the freelance/contractor market in recent years.
And to round things off, QBOA has now been linked to Intuit’s QuickBooks Assistant chatbot, which was demonstrated by executive vice president, small business Sasan Goodarzi in London on Wednesday.
“We believe there’s a huge opportunity for practice management,” Intuit global accountant segement leader Rich Preece told AccountingWEB at QBConnect. “What we’re releasing is not all things for all firms – larger practices will want a fuller set of features.”
The platform play
But by providing a single view of all the key data a practitioner needs, QuickBooks is aiming to become “the one place” where accountants can manage their practice and clients, he said.
This “platform” play is becoming something of a theme. At the Xerocon event in the autumn, Xero introduced Xero HQ. Sage is readying up its own Sage Accountant Cloud that will blend the app management
“Many accountants and bookkeepers have been telling us that it is becoming increasingly complex to manage their work. There are more partners, more logins and more tools. Sometimes it all ties together and sometimes it doesn’t.
“We are driving a cloud where QBO is the center of an ecosystem. We have tied them all together for the accountant in a cloud culture that is unbelievably convenient.”
Alongside these features, accountants who undergo certification for the QuickBooks ProAdvisor programme are listed on a Tinder-like Find a ProAdvisor directory, where online responsiveness, client reviews and product expertise are all analysed by machine learning to match potential clients to QuickBooks accountants.
The QuickBooks UK blitz appears to be working according to conference delegate Jaimal Chandarana, from Raj Consulting. He told AccountingWEB: “Four years ago I wouldn't have used QB Online, but they have convinced me with the resources they’ve poured into it.”
According to Intuit, QuickBooks now has 13,000 ProAdvisers in UK, twice as many as this time last year. “We are number two cloud accounting supplier in this country at the moment and we will be the number one very shortly,” Sasan Goodarzi told AccountingWEB.
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