It’s estimated that there are more than 4 million QuickBooks accounts globally – that’s by far the most of any accounting-based business software vendor in history making QuickBooks the clear leader in the entry-level accounting space – at least for businesses in the United States. Intuit QuickBooks is very easy to use and extremely cost-effective for very small businesses up to companies in the lower-end of the SMB space. There are many different product editions available as well as deployment choices for QuickBooks Online (QBO) versus QuickBooks Desktop (QBD). However, just because it’s the most popular option doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for your business.
Intuit was founded in 1983 by Scott Cook and Tom Proulx in Mountain View, CA just two years after IBM introduced their first personal computer. Their first product was Quicken. QuickBooks launched in 1992 for both the IBM PC on Microsoft DOS and Apple’s MacIntosh. QuickBooks became the most popular accounting software for smaller businesses despite the fact that it had poor security, no audit trail, and did not conform to accounting standards of the day.
QuickBooks was always limited in scalability with most companies seeing significant problems when adding more users (10+) or with large data sets which is common in more complex industries such as manufacturing. Intuit launched QuickBooks Online in 2001 to off-set a drop in packaged software sales from brick and mortar retailers. QBO has more than 1 million users as of June 2015. QuickBooks Enterprise launched a year later in 2002 as a higher-end product which claims to scale to as many as 30 users.
QuickBooks is used by companies across pretty much every industry imaginable. QuickBooks is a very generic application with minimal vertical functionality despite marketing on Intuit’s part to position different editions for different industry segments. With that said, traditional QuickBooks desktop products have decent features for professional and business service firms. QuickBooks Online is gaining traction among smaller non-profits and independent contractors and professional service firms. QuickBooks Retail is extremely popular. QuickBooks Enterprise has editions for Contractors (construction), Manufacturing and Distribution, Non-Profit, Attorneys (legal), and Retail (including restaurants and online storefronts). An accountant version is also offered to help professional CPAs to help QuickBooks users with book keeping and general accounting, tax, and audit services. They even have a page on their site targeting churches although the content appears relatively thin on details on what exactly this version of the software does that’s special.
Manufacturing is near and dear to our hearts here at e2b teknologies and we were excited to hear the news when Intuit acquired manufacturing software vendor Lettuce Apps in 2014 stating that Intuit would be working with Lettuce to add more manufacturing features into QuickBooks Online. It’s now been over two years and if Intuit’s working on manufacturing – they’ve done so as quietly as anyone. We have seen not a single improvement in QBO’s manufacturing feature set and the old Lettuce Apps website is no longer active.
Intuit QuickBooks is designed for businesses with up to about 30 users with up to about 50 employees and typically under $20 million in revenue. QuickBooks Enterprise does tend to scale up to slightly larger businesses. It is important to understand the limitations and scalability of each unique edition of QuickBooks. As such, it is highly recommended that companies with larger user counts consult a QuickBooks ProAdvisor or QuickBooks Premium (Enterprise) Reseller to ensure that the software is able to support specific needs.
This is important – like many software publishers, Intuit is making a dramatic shift to the cloud and is NOT going out of their way to do much in respect to desktop improvements. As such, we strongly recommend that businesses utilize QuickBooks Online if at all possible and only use QuickBooks Desktop if the functionality you need is not available yet in the online version.
QuickBooks desktop versions of the software use a variant of the Sybase SQL database. The software is accessed either through a secure browser (QuickBooks Online), through a hosted provider such as Right Networks, or as an installed, desktop application. A Mac version is also available but only in the United States. Accessing the data is limited to the tools Intuit provides for different versions. QuickBooks Desktop can be accessed via ODBC and the QuickBooks SDK but there are limits on what can be accessed.
QuickBooks Online data can only be accessed from the Intuit Partner Platform or IPP which opens up connections to authorized development partners but again, this is limited and Intuit does not open up everything to customers or development partners. We’ve discovered this first hand and have struggled to manage even simple integrations with QuickBooks due to limitations in their development tools. Further, Intuit has discontinued their desktop Sync Manager which was used to move desktop data to the IPP cloud making it available for third parties to integrate with their applications. Companies with integration requirements should carefully review all options and may be better served with an SMB ERP application which will be much more open to integration.
QuickBooks dominates the entry-level accounting market in the United States but its marketshare is significantly lower in international markets despite having versions available for Canada, the United Kingdom (supporting South Africa as well), and Australia. It is worth noting that QuickBooks is growing in many English-speaking international markets gaining market share against many foreign competitors.
QuickBooks is pretty much sold as an all-in-one application as opposed to separate modules like larger SMB ERP systems. For example, you can’t purchase just the QuickBooks General Ledger. A few extras are available including QuickBooks Payments (Merchant Services), QuickBooks Payroll, and more. There are also hundreds of plug-and-play applications available for QuickBooks Online in Intuit’s apps.com directory. Keep in mind though that these apps integrate through the IPP and most are not available for use with QuickBooks Desktop versions. However, there are still hundreds of add-ons available for QuickBooks Desktop – many of which are still listed on the Intuit Marketplace.
As mentioned previously, there are millions of businesses using QuickBooks – both desktop and online. Customers tend to work with one of the thousands of ProAdvisors and participate in localized user groups, online forums, and through live trade shows and conferences like QuickBooks Connect.
Intuit QuickBooks pricing starts at just $5 per month for QuickBooks Self-Employed up to $850 per month for QuickBooks Enterprise (10 users) and more for up to 30 users (but you have to call for pricing). Many people configure QuickBooks themselves. This is very possible – especially for anyone familiar with basic accounting if they’ve used business software before except for QuickBooks Enterprise which is much more complex. It’s highly recommended that everyone work with a knowledgeable QuickBooks consultant – if even for a little while to ensure that the software is setup properly. Intuit has a directory of more than 60,000 QuickBooks ProAdvisors and a channel of QuickBooks Enterprise resellers who are there to help. We’ve heard stories of some ProAdvisors billing as low as $20 per hour up to $200 or more. The average price is about $80. QuickBooks Enterprise partners will tend to offer higher rates in the range of $100 to $175 per hour.