Intuit’s QuickBooks angles to grow up — with its customers
With more than 7 million online subscribers, QuickBooks is the go-to enterprise resource planning system for small business CFOs. Parent company Intuit is now aiming to serve larger businesses with more complex operating structures as employees at various levels require access to financial data.
This month, Intuit rolled out a series of product enhancements for QuickBooks, including expanded roles and permissions, advanced charting and reporting capabilities and a new platform for accountants called QuickBooks Ledger.
“There’s a lot of runway for us to continue to grow upmarket,” said Dave Talach, a senior vice president at QuickBooks, said in an interview at the company’s annual conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday. As companies grow and add more organizational layers, ERP systems need to adapt, he noted.
Access controls are important for larger firms with multiple individuals that make decisions based on accounting and other financial data. Though QuickBooks has traditionally served businesses with one to ten employees, it’s been angling for larger companies that have employees who may need varying information access rights, Talach said.
“We're building these global capabilities as a technology platform, and then the goal is to be able to package them for different segments or different audiences,” he said.
Supporting growing companies
The new upgrades address a challenge firms face as they add new organizational units. Benjamin Lehrer, founder and CEO of consulting firm First Water Finance and head of learning and development at the CFO Alliance, said managing multiple legal entities and divisions from an ERP system is key for growing companies.
For example, “if you have two subsidiaries and a parent company — each of whom have their own instance of QuickBooks — there isn’t the ability to consolidate [reporting] results across those instances,” he said.
The new product improvements serve what Intuit considers “middle market,” companies with 10 to 100 employees, Talach said. Supporting even larger firms could be in QuickBooks’ future, but the middle tier employee size is typically when many firms begin to need support for more complex operating structures and processes.
“It's really when you get into that 10 to 100 [employee] mid market that those foundational things that we're building in the platform…access-base controls, workflows, reporting with better granularity, programmatic access, start to be more relevant to those larger customers,” Talach said.
The complexity of operations, however, doesn’t always correlate with the number of employees.
Middle-market companies “tend to be scaling up versus trying to make that next paycheck. They tend to be more focused on how they get their business processes in place,” including hiring technology and marketing leaders, said Ted Callahan, director of accountant partnership and strategy at Intuit. “Those attributes are very different from the smaller, self-employed business.”
The ability to support multiple organizational units is also important for companies that operate across various countries, said CJ Gustafson, CFO of auto parts marketplace PartsTech and author of CFO-focused newsletter Mostly metrics.
While there are other accounting platforms for small- to medium-sized businesses — FreshBooks and Xero are two competitors — QuickBooks is still the dominant player in the field, with its low price point and ease of use being two key selling points, said Lehrer.
As businesses grow, they may move to Oracle’s NetSuite, a platform aimed at larger firms with more complex organizational structures, according to Gustafson. Since the transition to NetSuite can be costly — businesses could pay more $100,000 per year — QuickBooks has an opportunity to retain more business customers as they grow, he added.
In contrast, QuickBooks plans can start as low as $30 per month for sole proprietors with pricing scaling up to “plus” and “advanced” plans that have additional features.
"It's when you get to an organizational size that you need to go into deeper and deeper dimensionality" when it comes to the level at which expenses need to be tagged, Gustafson said. That's "when you think about changing to NetSuite," he added.
For its part, QuickBooks aims to keep adding features to support growing business customers, and grow its platform of app integrations, Talach said. (QuickBooks does not charge third-party apps a fee to be part of its app store, according to Talach.) The platform has been enhancing HR, payroll and insurance capabilities, including a new partnership with Allstate Health Solutions to offer more health insurance solutions for client employees.
As part of an effort to pull in new customers, the company also offers a fee-free bank account offering called QuickBooks Money, in partnership with Green Dot Bank, to support early-stage businesses.
“My theory is that Quickbooks Money is a business banking product designed for businesses that aren’t big enough to have a CFO,” said Alex Johnson, a fintech analyst and author of the Fintech Takes newsletter. “At these companies, the CEO is the CFO … and the CRO and CTO and CMO … and she doesn’t have enough time or expertise to do most of those jobs all that well.”
Forays into generative AI
Looking to the future, Intuit is investing in advanced analytics capabilities across its product suite, including QuickBooks. Intuit in June announced that it's building a generative AI operating system called GenOS, a toolset that will allow it to pull from multiple large language models.
“GenOS is a foundational platform that gives us the ability to be able to use multiple large language models and build multiple plugins, so they can have multiple capabilities,” Talach said. “What that means is, if we want to use ChatGPT, if we want to use Anthropic, if we want to use our own custom algorithms, we can actually use them together.”
GenOs will operate across Intuit’s product offerings, including TurboTax, Credit Karma, QuickBooks. and Mailchimp. The company is also testing a generative AI-powered assistant called Intuit Assist that will work across these product offerings. Intuit Assist is currently being beta tested among some employees and customers, with the goal to release it later this year, according to Talach.
Intuit Assist will include four key functions, including “show me” (insights); “do it for me (automate tasks); “guide me” (customized action plans); and “help me” (customized support).
The company said it’s thoroughly testing the product to ensure it can be a reliable resource for CFOs.
“What we heard from people is when it comes to their business finances, while they know large language models hallucinate, there is no room for errors in their financial data,” Talach said. “That’s what we're trying to get right, making sure that when they type in a prompt, it gives them a graph as an accurate representation of their data, and then we not only can represent that data, but we can analyze it and provide insights.”
With the series of improvements in progress, the goal will be to continue to grow the capabilities of QuickBooks as customers scale.
“We want to keep adding features that [customers] want because we want to grow with them,” said Talach. “Some of them will become larger than our needs. Some of them will become enterprises, and it’s going to depend on how fast we can move upmarket with them.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that QuickBooks had more than 7 million online subscribers at the time of this story's publication.