Many ecommerce merchants use QuickBooks, or are at least familiar with it. There is a new version of QuickBooks that includes new document management, online banking, and other features. To discuss QuickBooks 2010 and other Intuit products, we spoke with Alex Hood, product management leader for QuickBooks Desktop for Windows.
Practical eCommerce: What are the new features and improvements to QuickBooks 2010 that could interest our readers?
Alex Hood: “There are a couple of key features. The first is called ‘Company Snapshot.’ This is a customizable report that displays a really simple view of a company’s business and state of business. It is a kind of the ‘back of the baseball card statistics’ of what you need to know about where your company stands today.
“There’s also something called the ‘Report Center.’ The reports are some of the favorite features of our QuickBooks users because, after users enter data into QuickBooks, they want to get some kind of insights about how their business is doing. The Report Center arranges reports in a really easy to use way. If I’ve got a question about how my business is doing or how a vendor is interacting with me or about a certain customer, it’s super simple to just go to the Report Center and get the information that I need.”
PEC: Give us some examples of some of those reports.
Hood: “There are reports around receivables and reports around payables. There are inventory stock reports–your general P&L [profit and loss.] It starts with the highest-level reports that we’ve all encountered when running our business, and then inside the reports, you can drill down and sub-reports open. For instance, if you have a report that deals in your P&L, you can double click on an aspect of that report and a new report will spawn that drills into a certain invoice that’s represented on the P&L.
“There’s one more cool feature I wanted to mention called ‘Document Management.’ Inside of QuickBooks is where you keep all of your invoices and sales information about your customer. We’ve added this little paperclip that you click in QuickBooks that allows you to attach all the interesting documents associated with transactions or customers. For instance, an architect who invoices a customer can now attach the blueprints associated with the plan, and now that’s all documented and it’s easy to find in QuickBooks. When that customer calls again, now I know about the financial transaction; but I also can double click and learn more about the specific blueprint that I offered that customer.”
PEC: Does that work for invoices and payables?
PEC: Do you have any sort of automated link to a customer’s bank account so that, for example, a customer can pay bills without physically cutting checks?
Hood: “Yes. We offer bill pay features through QuickBooks. There is online banking functionality within QuickBooks, so you don’t have to go to your online bank and then do a bunch of double entry to get that data into your QuickBooks. We have taken some steps to allow for bill payment and to make QuickBooks the single stop for all of your financial transactions.”
PEC: What sort of inventory management features does the new version offer merchants?
Hood: “We make it pretty easy inside QuickBooks to track your inventory so that you don’t overbuy and you’re making sure that your back orders are in place. You can indicate reorder points, and it gives you a good sense of when it’s time to reorder.
“There is some specific functionality that’s kind of interesting. One is called assemblies. I have one customer who creates model trains and instead of having to track each of the parts of the model train, he has an assembly–that is, the train–that’s made up of 50 to 100 parts. So, he can track his inventory level to create that specific train or that specific assembly.
“One thing I want to mention around inventory is that we have a developer’s network where about 90,000 members create software that runs on top of QuickBooks. We have an app center now that is part of QuickBooks, and there are a lot of solution providers there who are providing inventory functionalities that go above and beyond what QuickBooks offers by itself. There’s a lot of flexibility there in tracking your inventory.”
PEC: Where would a merchant go to find third-party apps that are built onto QuickBooks?
Hood: “They can go to Workplace.intuit.com, they can go into QuickBooks and click the App Center, or they can Google the Intuit Developers Network.”
PEC: Our next question revolves around APIs (application programming interfaces) for merchants. Ecommerce merchants typically use a third-party shopping cart, either hosted or licensed. Most of those carts do not have accounting functions so many merchants ultimately use QuickBooks, or something like it, in some fashion. Some of them still double enter transactions. Meaning, when an order comes in, they enter it into QuickBooks and they may also enter it into, a shipping interface. What can you suggest to merchants to help them expedite all that?
Hood: “First, make sure that your shopping cart or your payment provider allows for the export of an IIF [Intuit interchange format] file. That allows the transaction details to be pulled out of whatever system it is in, and import it into QuickBooks, which saves a lot of time.
“Intuit Website is an application where small businesses can create their own websites and their shopping cart functionality, too. They offer an IIF file coming out of their platform. PayPal also offers a download of its transactions in an IIF format. For users who are looking for shopping cart functionality, I’d check out Payments.intuit.com to find out where the best integration between a shopping cart and QuickBooks can occur.”
PEC: Any chance that Intuit is ever going to develop its own shopping cart?
Hood: “I can’t comment too much on what we’re thinking about, but I’d stay tuned on that one.”
PEC: Is there a mobile version of your program?
Hood: “For QuickBooks Desktop, right now we do not have a mobile version. For our QuickBooks Online Solution (our SAAS-based version of QuickBooks), we do. It’s a mobile browser-based solution.
“This space is evolving quickly and we’re doing our best to react to it. There’s definitely demand for a mobile application, and it is something that we are focused on quite a bit internally. So, again, I’d have to say stay tuned and look forward to some exciting things.”
PEC: Does the online version work with PCs and Macs, and with all popular browsers?
Hood: “Yes. It’s a bit device-independent, so it doesn’t matter if you’re on a Mac or a PC. It supports Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer — all the main browsers. It’s a great option for small business owners who need access to their books anywhere and anytime. The data is in the cloud and it’s a browser-based solution. So, it doesn’t really depend on if you have an IBM or if you have a Mac. And, we’ve just expanded to allow for more browser functionality.”
PEC: Anything else on your mind for our readers?
Hood: “QuickBooks is solving, for small business owners, a part of their lives that they hate. I like to go out and visit our customers and see how we can take the pain of managing their finances and what can we do to solve some small businesses’ pains.
“We’re really focused on allowing a small business to get back to what they know and love and how they make money. We’re tuning QuickBooks every day so that we can save small businesses money by giving them better insights to all the great information that they’ve entered into it. We save them time so that they can get back to selling more products or spending more time with their kids, because that’s what’s really important.”