Inside Quick Books Online
Paul Rosenfeld, is Intuit’s Quick Books Online Edition General Manager and he’s crazy about the world of hosted applications.
Used by millions of small businesses, Quick Books (the version installed on your computer) is the leading accounting program. Paul’s job is ensure that QuickBooks Online is known and used by millions of small businesses also.
With about 70,000 users representing 20,000 customers, QuickBooks Online (QBO) has a long way to go – but 20,000 customers is nothing to sneeze at mind you. On the other hand when you realize that QBO was launched 4 years ago in December 2000 (http://www.intuit.com/about_intuit/press_releases/2000/12-04b.html ) Intuit has not – until now – started to seriously market QBO.
Why is Paul so focused on the “software as a service”, “hosted application” or “application service provider” market? The user experience of a hosted application is much different and maybe even better than a traditional PC based software program Paul explained. You don’t have to go to the store to buy software, there’s nothing to install, and there is a shorter installation process (especially comparing QBO to QB)
Using a software program with multiple users you need a network. In order to enable networked users to use the software program the program must be installed on your user’s computers – often requiring the services of a technology consultant. Using a hosted application every user only needs access to the Internet via a web browser – no computer network needed and no additional software to install.
Backing up your data is no longer an issue as everything you do is automatically backed up by your service provider. Downloading the latest update of your program is no longer necessary as each time you logon the most recent version is available.
In the same way that the cell phone started out as a fad or status symbol but now is a commodity that is an efficient necessity, hosted applications enable a business to operate more efficiently and at a lower cost. Hosted applications are not just “technology” but changes the way businesses do business for the better. More efficiency (Anytime. Anywhere. Anyone access)
at lower cost (manageable, fixed, pro-cash flow costs and no huge upfront fees).
Tivo has changed the viewing patterns of consumers all across the USA – enabling them to view TV when they want and how they want. Online applications give businesses a similar type of flexibility and freedom.
Online applications have been around for many years, but only recently has Intuit seriously started pushing its four year old Quick Books Online application. Paul said that the issue was not Intuit’s concern that the market was not ready for hosted applications, but more so Intuit was not ready for the market’s demand for an ASP solution. Scott Cook in a delivery to the Inc 500 a few years ago, explained that Intuit is a company that does not move rapidly to meet market demand. At times it takes a one or two or three cycles for it to act on the demands of its customers when it makes to making drastic additions to its product lines. Although Intuit might not move fast, like the Turtle and the Rabbit – it wins.
Like Verizon and Rackspace, Intuit has excellent customer support. Quick Books Online specifically has GREAT support. Paul explained that their support reps don’t work in stuffy cubicles 8 hours a day. Instead they work from home (in the United States) and their salary is determined by how satisfied customers are with the resolution of their problem. They’re not paid minimum wage but are paid a higher salary than the industry average for support staff.
To better manage and serve their customers QBO customers do not call tech support and wait on hold. Instead they email QBO support and get a call back within 30 minutes. Paul is not interested in his staff rushing customers off the phone often to meet “1st call resolution” quota. Instead Paul’s interested in his customers being satisfied with the support provided by QBO. Having satisfied customers means that they will encourage others to use QBO also.
You might ask which one do I choose? What is Intuit pushing – Quick Books Online or Quick Books? Will one product cannibalize the other? Not quite. QBO is an alternative to Quick Books. Users have a choice. Intuit knows (finally) that Quick Books Online is the way to go – for Intuit and for Intuit’s customers. For Intuit it’s purely economic. QBO is $300 per year on average (calculated using an average $25 per month fee). Quick Books (depending on which version you get) is a flat rate, one time purchase product. If customers don’t upgrade to a new version of the product which regularly comes out then Intuit has that much less money to get as revenue. So QBO could be a cash cow for Intuit – ensuring a steady flow of cash from thousands and thousands of users (Paul’s goal – millions). QBO customers get a product that’s easier to use.
About Paul Rosenfeld
Paul’s professional passions include being part of a super-smart team and building new things that challenge the status quo. Entrepreneurialism runs deep in his blood ó he washed cars at 12 years of age to buy video games, founded a sportswear retail and manufacturing company in college, and ran a landscaping business with his brother.
Paul has also worked for American Express Small Business, a lending internet start-up for small businesses, and has spent the last four years at Intuit. He proudly received his degree in Hard Knocks from Life and holds an MBA from New York University. When he’s not working, Paul’s either playing with his 5-year old son or watching The Sopranos.
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