Intuit's New US Based Cloud ProAdvisor Program
Intuit just announced a new ProAdvisor Program  here in the US – the free Cloud ProAdvisor Program. Geared towards accounting professionals that just want to work remotely via QuickBooks Online (just recently reinvented with the amazingly fast and super sexy QBO interface and workflow, by the way), and it seems to be causing a bit of confusion  with long term, traditional QuickBooks ProAdvisors.
For the last 4 years, I’ve been writing courses and doing live training on QuickBooks Online, both domestically and globally. I wrote the first ever QBO training courses for IntuitAcademy.com , then converted them for QBO Singapore and Canada. I outlined, wrote and reviewed much of the US 2013 QBO ProAdvisor Certification Exam, and am in the process of reviewing the 2014 version as well. Most recently, I wrote and recorded quite a few of the UK and Australian QBO certification training materials, and in May 2013, Intuit sent me to Australia to do live QBO training with accounting professionals. The cliff notes version: I sort of know QBO and the related global offerings pretty well.
Having seen first hand the success of the global Cloud ProAdvisor programs, I wanted to write this article to clarify some of the confusion for my peers and colleagues. I’m going to address a few of the most common complaints/concerns one at a time:
“Since QBO is offering business owners access to the Cloud program for free, this tells me that Intuit does not value the accounting professional’s role in helping clients with their accounting. It feels like a slap in the face. They are basically putting our clients in a position to do things themselves and not involve their accountant, undermining all we have worked toward for so many years.”
From every bit of experience that I’ve had with Intuit, THEY VALUE THE ACCOUNTING PROFESSIONAL’S ROLE. I cannot stress this enough. As I write this, I’m on a plane heading home from Intuit’s first ever Global VIP Summit. They brought 40 people into their Mountain View, California headquarters for a day and a half and did nothing but not only explain their value system, how they gather user information to improve existing products and create new offerings, but they demonstrated it first hand. We all participated in exercises to determine a new feature for QBO – founder Scott Cook spent THREE HOURS with the group, taking copious notes on what each of us said, and within 24 hours they had taken our suggestions and put together a working draft  of the feature into the product.
One common idea that permeated the event? Intuit realizes that small business owners are increasingly relying on us accounting professionals to be one of their top trusted advisors – not just in accounting and financial issues but also in workflow, business processes and back office systems.
Last quick comment here: the Cloud ProAdvisor Program is meant for accounting professionals, not small business owners.
Comments #2 and #3.
“Wow is all I can say at the moment. Much of my business comes from Accountants – I still think they won’t want to be an expert when it comes to QuickBooks whether it is on the cloud or on the desktop. I am certified in the Online version and I am trying very hard to get used to it as more and more clients are going that route. So my question is can you be both?”
“I cannot believe that you are not offering this to current ProAdvisors. We are the ones who have supported you and most of us for several years. Maybe I will rethink my ProAdvisor renewal in September.”
My reply to this is that ALL of the Cloud ProAdvisor offerings are actually included in the traditional QuickBooks ProAdvisor Program , and that we’ve actually had all of them for about a year. While the Cloud ProAdvisor Program is free, the traditional one is still a premium offering - it includes everything in the new free "Cloud ProAdvisor Program" and much more (software  worth over $5,000, software certifications , deep discounts  on other Intuit products, great support , practice management tools , etc.). So an existing QuickBooks ProAdvisor need not join the Cloud ProAdvisor Program separately.
“The fact that they seem to be undercutting the PAP is the only real surprise.”
I don’t think this is the case at all. We still retain all of our certifications, and we still benefit from the ranking system on findaproadvisor.com . The traditional PAP still includes the annual fee, and again, includes everything the Cloud ProAdvisor does (and has for about a year). You still get thousands of dollars in software, support, free CPE opportunities, and discounts on Intuit products. I really don’t think that Intuit is “undercutting” the existing PAPs . The new Cloud Program just offers a choice, and is aligned with how the industry is going. Globally, the Intuit Cloud ProAdvisors are free to join, and so are other competing SaaS based accounting software programs… I think what Intuit is doing here is saying “Hey, choose the offering that’s right for you and your practice; what’s right for your needs, so that you can best serve your clients.” If you plan on continuing to support QuickBooks Pro, Premier, Enterprise and Point of Sales as well as QBO clients, then the traditional ProAdvisor program is your best bet. If you’re focusing on cloud only – here’s another option.
“Do you feel there is a real possibility that Intuit will bring all of these new users to QBOA for 2-3 years, and then start charging a monthly fee to continue using it?”
I’ve been working with and in QBOA  for 4 years now. I would assume that if they were going to charge for it, they would have done so by now. Just in case, I went to Intuit for this one – directly to Jyothi Trishuleshwar, who manages the Cloud ProAdvisor Program. His reply:
“The Cloud ProAdvisor Program is meant for Accounting Professionals, and will continue to be free for Accounting Professionals. Intuit will follow the same processes & procedures we follow today to ensure that only accountants use QBOA and other accountant products like it (Including the Cloud ProAdvisor Program.”
“ANYONE can now be a ProAdvisor with NO financial commitment whatsoever! Someone could basically start a consulting firm with a cell phone and internet connection and no capital, knowledge, or even ethics and the general public is going to consider them an equal to those of us that have spent time and money being PROFESSIONAL!”
I think this is an important one. It’s a bit near and dear to my heart. Ten years ago, I discovered the ProAdvisor Program. I knew QuickBooks really well; I’d already been working with it for over 5 years. I had a decent, (but very dead end) job as a full time bookkeeper, a two year old daughter that I hated leaving in daycare for 10 hours a day and I needed a BIG CHANGE. I had to borrow the money to join the program, and doing so was that big changed. It affected my life so profoundly – I now have a thriving practice that has expanded to consulting with other accounting professionals and third party add-on developers , it was the stepping stone to my application and audition for the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network , which then lead to presenting on QuickBooks desktop launch tours, writing courses, developing  and presenting live training content , creating an online radio show/podcast  to provide a resource for other ProAdvisors and accounting professionals and most recently, being named to CPA Practice Advisor’s 2012 Most Powerful Women in Accounting  and 2013 Accounting’s 40 Under 40. 
I couldn’t have done ANY of that if I hadn’t gone through the training and past the exams.
But more importantly – what if I hadn’t been able to find someone to loan me that money to join the program? We have all seen the effects of the economic troubles over the last few years, and there are still so many out there that have the knowledge, experience, and drive to do this well. The one thing they may be lacking? That $549 fee might just be the road block to someone starting a new business and bettering their lives, as well as countless small business owner clients.