By Joanie C. Mann
The market is buzzing with Intuit’s connected services approach, extending QuickBooks functionality via the Web. While this might appear to be little more than an announcement of additional features and capabilities within the product, when you look deeper into the story you begin to understand what is really happening.
For the past several years, use of the Internet and Web services has encroached into almost every aspect of our daily lives – public and private. From accessing e-mail to online banking, most of us use the Web for something almost every day.
The availability of broadband Internet access once was a barrier to getting us all online, but not any longer. According to WebsiteOptimization.com, June 2008 marked the first time when U.S. broadband penetration jumped to 90.5 percent. This means that, of those who use Internet services, more than 90 percent access via broadband connections rather than dial-up or other narrow-band connections.
Speed of connectivity and availability has helped to make Internet use and Web services part of our daily lives. The adoption of Web-based services, along with their acceptance in business, clearly has demonstrated to the entire market that this trend is not simply a short-lived fad. The Internet and Web services truly have become the basis for transforming how we do business – and how we operate our businesses. This is a shift that easily could have as far-reaching impacts as the initial introduction of the PC.
Historically, the small business market tended to follow the mid- and enterprise markets in terms of technology adoption. The view of technology for the small business has been seen somewhat less in terms of strategic use and more in terms of simply facilitating a process. While enterprise views technology as a strategic element in differentiating its business, the smaller business views technology simply as a tool required to do a specific job. To some extent, this has been the result of cost and complexity of systems available for small businesses as compared to those available to larger enterprise.
It wasn't that a smaller business wouldn't benefit from the features and capabilities of the enterprise-class systems – it was that the benefits to be derived were easily outweighed by the cost. But the Internet, Web services, and a connected services strategy can change all that.
The computers we use in business are a barrier. They seem to be wonderful tools that provide us with capabilities we wouldn't otherwise have, but they are a barrier in terms of cost and complexity. To do more, a business had to buy more – more computers, more software, more technology, and the expertise to support it.
With the advent of the Internet and a new generation of Web applications and services, businesses are now able to advance their use of technology without the typically associated costs and complexities. Even the smallest of businesses can take advantage of systems and solutions that facilitate a wide range of business processes and return a volume of business intelligence. Using tools not previously available to gain deep insight into their business processes and performance, and by making adjustments as the market and operational requirements demand, the small business is able to benefit at the same levels as even its largest competitors.
Recognizing that the computer on the desk represents a barrier, Intuit identified the Web as the place where true innovation and extension of its products could occur. As the QuickBooks product line grows with vertical market editions and Enterprise solutions, the demand for more and richer functionality and intelligence in the product becomes greater. The simplicity of using the product gained the adoption of the small business user, but the requirements from the product have grown as the target customer also has grown.
In order to keep the customer, QuickBooks must grow with the business. This proves a daunting task when the solution is best-known for affordability and ease of use. Using Web or Cloud-based services and a SaaS (software as a service) model to deliver new features and functionality to the QuickBooks product line is a way for Intuit to continue to deliver on the promise of capability for reasonable cost.
QuickBooks cloud hosting services from companies like InsynQ and othersextend this concept to the core QuickBooks product, creating a fully managed and any time/anywhere access option for QuickBooks financial applications and data.
By further extending the QuickBooks hosted solution to incorporate additional functionality via Web services, the entire enterprise is able to expand and adopt new solutions without the barriers of complex hardware and network implementations.
By leveraging the Internet, Web-based applications and Web-connected services, the QuickBooks product line is able to be securely managed, enhanced, extended, or sync'd in ways that it was not affordable to conceive of previously. What this really means is that QuickBooks doesn't have to be just small business software any more.
About the author:
Joanie Mann, executive vice president of InsynQ, Inc., has more than 30 years experience in advanced network integration, information systems management, and business process automation. For the past 13 years the specific focus has been on Internet technologies, the delivery of software as a service, and the development of online services and solutions for small business – with a specific focus on Internet-enabling finance and accounting.