Where do we go from here? The SMB SaaS Migration
Forests are a great renewable resource. You may cut them down, but you can replant and grow new ones to cut down again later. I suppose it’s sort of like that for software vendors who provide small business solutions. While many small businesses fail and close every year, lots and lots of them start up and continue operating each year. Since there’s a steady stream of new prospective customers coming up each year, maybe it is OK when some of them outgrow the product and leave (leaf?).
On the other hand, maybe it makes sense to understand where those customers who do grow up and flourish will go… to which products or solutions they will migrate, and how the company might actually retain a relationship with them through that process and beyond. Some businesses will mature successfully, and will outgrow their small business solutions and leave their vendors, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way for all. For some key software vendors, a fair question to ask themselves is where their customers will go from here… where “here” is the solution the customer is using now.
When this question is applied to the small business accounting market, it ends up centering on the QuickBooks product line. Intuit is currently encouraging all QuickBooks customers to look at the QuickBooks Online solution, the fully SaaS-based offering which is different from the desktop editions. The QuickBooks desktop editions, on the other hand, service small businesses very well. The functionality improves and increases as users move up the product line from the Pro version through Premier and to Enterprise edition. This line of solutions has done a great job of serving the needs of both small and larger businesses – all within the same product set. But now Intuit wants users to experience the benefits of subscription-based service and an online working model. Those are great benefits, but there’s a question that is left open for the asking. Where are QuickBooks customers supposed to go from there, assuming that at least some of them might grow beyond the capability of the online product? It’s a fair question, and here’s why I think so.
Once a business has adopted a certain working model and the mentality that goes along with it, it is difficult to come in and tell them they have to change to a new model and find a way to adjust. Change doesn’t come that easily for many individuals much less an entire organization, so this is a big deal and potentially very impactful to all aspects of the operation. Yet this is exactly what is currently suggested with Intuit’s desire to have customers use the online edition.
It may be a great solution for now, but what’s the next step up from there? Is it QuickBooks Enterprise on the desktop? Kind of a weird message, don’t you think? Let’s have customers adopt an anytime, anywhere subscription solution model, and then migrate them back to the desktop where the management and maintenance of the solution is higher due to number of users, and where there is no mobility, multi-location or remote access capability as there was with online.
The thought is that QuickBooks Online will eventually compete with the Netsuite and Intacct class of SaaS solutions, but right now it doesn’t and there are customers who must leave that product for something that handles their larger and deeper business needs (like the QuickBooks Premier and Enterprise solutions do). There is a big gap between the entry level accounting products and those which are designed for the larger or midsize “small business”, and the QuickBooks desktop editions represent the only viable options in that very large space. In fact, many businesses utilize line of business products that allow them to retain use of QuickBooks even as the enterprise scales far beyond the expectation that QuickBooks could handle the need. But it often can, and it makes sense for businesses to leverage this ability if they are able.
The answer for these growing businesses – the place they should go when they’ve outgrown the small business SaaS solution like QuickBooks Online (or Xero or Freshbooks or whatever) is to a hosted or remote-enabled QuickBooks model. With the QuickBooks desktop editions hosted and managed by a cloud provider, businesses are able to retain the benefits of managed service, subscription pricing, and anytime/anywhere access while utilizing the products that are recognized as the industry standards for finance and accounting for growing businesses.
The hosted approach gives the businesses a clear path for the advancement of their systems in line with the growing needs of the business, and removes the need to shift working models from online to on-prem. As needs increase and the complexity of systems grow through integration and scale, the service provider manages the platform and systems, enabling the business to not simply continue operating, but to grow and expand with the confidence that there is a plan to grow and expand the systems which support it. The place to go is the cloud, and whether it is an entry-level SaaS solution or a hosted desktop and server approach, the service is there to handle the business.