Intuit, the king of small business accounting, continues to add online features to its core product with today’s release of QuickBooks Accounting 2009.
While Intuit still treats QuickBooks Online (its pure online application) and QuickBook 2009 as two separate product lines, the power of online software is evident in the newest version of its PC-based software product.
The capability to tap of the global economy is also a big part of QuickBooks Accounting 2009, which Intuit spokeswoman Rachel Euretig referred to as “the biggest upgrade in years.”
The latest version of QuickBooks builds on Intuit’s Small Business “Connected Services” strategy by now offering online services such as free Web site creation and hosting for one year, better online banking, integrated access to the QuickBooks online community for support.
QuickBooks Product Manager Laura Messerschmitt said Intuit’s Small Business Community currently has 2.6 million members. To help tap that knowledgebase, QuickBooks 2009 now includes a Live Community feature. It’s designed to connect QuickBooks users directly to the online community so they can quickly have their questions answered accountants, experts and other small businesses — without having to leave QuickBooks.
The questions and answers are contextual and offered within the application itself. Messerschmitt said that she expects that 80 percent of questions can be answered through the Live Community feature.
One of the themes for this year’s QuickBooks release is acquiring new customers for its users. Any business without a Web site these days is missing out on opportunities to grow revenue — and also has been asleep for about the last 10 years — and yet Intuit’s research reveals some surprising numbers. The survey suggests that less than half of small businesses have a Web site, while almost all (95 percent) want one.
|QuickBooks Accounting 2009 beefs up its online banking features.|
|QuickBooks Accounting 2009 supports more than 100 foreign currencies.|
To address this, Intuit is offering QuickBooks 2009 customers a free Web site. “To increase their reach and get more customers, we’re offering Web-site building tools,” Messerschmitt said. “It would cost about $2,500 to have a professional build it.” Intuit will offer the free hosting for 12 months from the date of purchase and will charge $4.95 a month after that, Messerschmitt said.
While QuickBooks has offered online banking features in previous editions, “only four percent of current QuickBooks uses those features,” Messerschmitt said. Rather, she added, “they go to their bank’s Web site to check on things.”
However, in the 2009 edition, QuickBooks is now the central hub for a small business online banking, Messerschmitt said. The new online banking features are designed to save small businesses time on data entry and to increase the accuracy of their financial records because users are connecting to and downloading transactions from their participating financial institution directly into QuickBooks.
Small businesses can gain control of their cash flow by seeing which checks have cleared their accounts, which transactions are pending and get up-to-date account balances, all in one place.
Another new feature designed to help small businesses have a better view into their finances — without having to pore over multiple reports — is Company Snapshot. The new dashboard is designed to let QuickBooks users see in real-time which of their customers owe money and it also lists outstanding bills and compiles a to-do list.
For businesses that have multiple users who might be accessing QuickBooks at the same time, a new feature means they no longer have to wait for colleagues to finish before they start their own work. Also new in QuickBooks 2009 is the capability for QuickBooks users to run reports while others work simultaneously in the company file and the capability to locally backup data while in multi-user mode.
Keeping pace with the IMing, text-messaging world, QuickBooks users can also now instantly communicate with co-workers with the new QuickBooks Messenger. Additionally, they can also IM with their accountants, Messerschmitt said.
QuickBooks 2009 also includes new accountant-specific features such as Client Data Review, a collection of tools designed to help save hours of finding and correcting client errors, and enhanced Accountant’s Copy, with improved client data importing and added account mapping capabilities.
According to Intuit, about half of U.S. small businesses will be involved in global trade by 2018. In a move designed to make it easier for small business to do business in a global economy, QuickBooks 2009 now supports all international currencies, Messerschmitt said, which she estimated at about 170.
The new feature is designed to eliminate the need to manually account for foreign transactions, helping small businesses buy and sell easily around the world and seamlessly manage their finances, customers and vendors at home and abroad.
QuickBooks 2009 handles all international currency accounting automatically, according to Messerschmitt. Users can now download exchange rates into QuickBooks and process wire transfers and drafts through Intuit Payment Services.
According to Intuit, QuickBooks 2009 is available now at QuickBooks.com and will be available in retail outlets on October 8.