QuickBooks changes and enhancements for 2019: Making things easier for non-accountants and non-IT users

Intuit QuickBooks has been the standard of small business bookkeeping for many years. The number and depth of QuickBooks advisors, consultants, developers and service providers is unmatched in the market. Yet Intuit was able to establish a QuickBooks foothold in the market based on a couple of fairly unintuitive elements, such as leveraging highly unconventional sales channels for accounting software and promoting a bookkeeping tool for people who do not know business bookkeeping.

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Today, Intuit continues to leverage a variety of innovative sales channels, such as through payment solution providers like Square (sales data from Square is now available for Mac with QB 2019), and to offer features to support the non-accountant in all of us.

Here is a shortlist of the changes and enhancements for QuickBooks 2019 desktop editions. Some of these items may not apply to everyone or every edition, such as the purchase order or sales order process enhancements available to Enterprise Platinum level subscribers. Others, like changes to QuickBooks installation and update processes, will apply to just about everyone.

HELPERS FOR NON-ACCOUNTANTS

Accounting professionals understand the rules of bookkeeping and can fully appreciate the nuances of classifying transactions properly, like cost of goods sold versus regular expenses.  For most people… not so much, which is why having a product like QuickBooks has been so helpful to so many small business owners. Intuit’s motto for QuickBooks was “if you can write a check, you can do your own books” and the popularity of the application is a testament to its ease of use by non-accountants.

In keeping with this philosophy of simplicity are a couple of new changes to QuickBooks that help ensure transactions are handled properly.  It is like that these two items represented a large share of corrections accountants make in their clients’ books.

1. Transfer open credits between jobs

This is a HUGE deal for businesses that track by job. You set up a job for a customer, and then you end up setting up another job for the same customer because there is another phase, another project, or another something that you’re going to do for them.  The payments they made against your invoices were posted to the first job, but it left a credit open. Subsequent invoices were posted against the second job, but the customer doesn’t really owe you any money because of the open credit on job 1. QuickBooks now provides the means to easily and properly apply open credits and transfer credits between customer jobs. The process involves the back-end posting to a new GL account for credit transfers so that the asset is recorded prior to being applied to the other job invoice. This protects from overstating job revenue and earnings, eliminates hard to explain entries in the bank account, and keeps job profitability reporting squared up.

2. Write a check and pay a bill

When is writing a check to pay a bill not writing a check? In QuickBooks! Seriously, though, this is another one of those things where trying to make accounting software for non-accountants gets tricky. Instead of talking about vouchers and accounts payable, QuickBooks offers Paying Bills. That’s easy enough.  But then there is the functionality to Write Checks.  Not intended as a replacement for paying the vendor bills, writing a check in QuickBooks is really intended to be the single entry of a payment of some sort, and not the payment of an existing vendor bill. The unfortunate result of this is that a lot of vendor payments end up getting entered twice… as a bill and again as a check. Thankfully, Intuit has introduced to QuickBooks the logic that helps catch when a check is being written for a bill already in the system. By looking up or matching the vendor name, QuickBooks can prompt the user to see if the check they are about to write should actually be treated as making a bill payment. The effect here is that the back-end transaction posts against accounts payable rather than recording the cost or expense again, reducing the need to make more manual entries to reclassify the transactions.

IMPROVED VISIBILITY

With any application software there are functions and data that are not fully visible to the user. Depending on the complexity of the application, there may be far more hidden than shown. In many cases, data displayed on the screen is not actually stored by the software but is instead calculated on the fly. A profit and loss statement is usually footed with a calculated profit/loss value which is not necessarily stored anywhere. Changes in the revenue, cost and expense numbers will result in a change to the calculated profit/loss value. It wouldn’t be very useful if the totals didn’t change as the reported items did… the report wouldn’t balance and accounting is all about balance. The point is that there is information deep in the data of QuickBooks, and now you get to see a bit more of it.

3. Invoice history

Technology is ever-evolving, and in the area of email click-tracking QuickBooks has now caught up a bit. Some time ago, Intuit introduced the ability to email invoices to customers and this was very helpful for many users. Now, using technology similar to that found in many e-marketing systems, QuickBooks can show you when a customer opened and viewed an emailed invoice. Revealing the customer name and invoice view date helps eliminate those “I didn’t see your invoice” excuses for customer non-payment, hopefully easing the collection process and improving the clearing of outstanding receivables. It is important to note that this functionality may not work with users of Outlook 2010, so those working on some hosting platforms or with older Office applications may not receive the benefit of this functionality.

4. Employee pay rate history

Changing the hourly or other pay rates for an employee is a relatively straightforward process, but previous to the new change, seeing when the change happened and what the historical rates was only as simple as printing reports for all the past periods. While the system shows what the current rate is, you had to go looking for information on historical pay rates. That employee that said they haven’t had a raise in 5 years might realize how challenging it is to find when rate changes occurred, hoping you’ll take their word for it rather than spend your time looking it up. Now QuickBooks offers a little more visibility into historic pay rates for employees, so operators are able track rate changes more easily and can be fully informed in preparation for those pay rate discussions.

5. Sick and vacation pay tracking

Knowing how much time an employee has coming for sick or vacation is among the most popular requests for information from any payroll department. To ensure compliance with local, state or federal regulations – or to simply comply with company policy – it is important to have a handle on the vacation, sick and other time-based benefits due to an employee. No employer wants to over-compensate their workers with wages or benefit hours, and no employee wants to miss out on benefits they are due. QuickBooks now provides the ability to enter information about accrued sick and vacation time so that the payroll includes and works with this data. Not only relieving balances of accrued benefits as they are taken, the system also helps prevent oversubscription of those benefits. Having the information printed on paystub is also a big improvement, providing the employee with a clear accounting of their used and available benefits.

6. Better warnings regarding payroll data visibility

User roles in QuickBooks allow an administrator to be somewhat selective in terms of what information and functions QuickBooks users are granted access to.  Unfortunately, some roles aren’t well-described, and may provide unintended visibility to certain sensitive information, like payroll data. It can come as quite a surprise to the business owner when they find workers snooping into payroll information they aren’t supposed to see, particularly when it was believed that the data was secured from prying eyes. Recognizing the potential sensitivity of the payroll information, Intuit now has QuickBooks prompting the Admin with a warning when a user role is selected that will allow payroll data visibility.

7. Inventory report totals now can include inactive items

Items come and items go, and keeping the product information updated in QuickBooks can be a full time job by itself. One of the challenges for some QuickBooks inventory users has been reporting for all of the stock on hand, whether the stocked items are currently being sold or not. Inventory reports tended to focus only on items actively being offered and not so much on parts that were expired and made inactive, which makes sense. Sometimes product changes occur very frequently or maybe there are just a lot of products, which makes the reports simply too long to be useful if they include both active and inactive items. On the other hand, just because an item is no longer being actively offered doesn’t mean there wasn’t stock already received and sitting on the shelf or in the warehouse. Active or not, the stock item is still on the books, and it is a good thing that the inventory report totals now reflect that.

WORKFLOW HELPERS FOR ENTERPRISE ADVANCED INVENTORY USERS

8. Purchase order management worksheet and better receiving using handheld/mobile devices

Few workers just love the process for receiving inventory and matching against purchase orders. When the PO data is in the computer which is in the office but the stock gets delivered to the warehouse or receiving area, there isn’t a great way for entering or validating the received items. The process involved lots of communicating back and forth between the office and the receiving location and lots of typing, which could result in lots of errors.  Fortunately, users of QuickBooks Enterprise Platinum with Advanced Inventory can now utilize a more efficient process for receiving stock against purchase orders by using the Purchase Order Management worksheet. By assigning and downloading PO data to handheld/mobile devices used by receiving workers, the workflow for getting inventory in match against PO data – and for updating PO data with corrections or adjustments – becomes much more efficient and is far less likely to have errors in item or quantity inputs.

9. Better pick, pack and ship workflows with mobile sales order worksheet

Just as the stock receiving process is greatly improved by enabling meaningful access to purchase order information for those in the receiving locations, the outbound item processes can also be significantly improved by providing the order information where it can be directly addressed. With mobile device and sales orders in-hand, the user is able to quickly enter picked item quantities, notes and adjustments, and even complete the order with weights and dimensions.

SMARTER FILE UTILITIES AND SIMPLIFIED PROGRAM MANAGEMENT

Many people find that using QuickBooks for their business finances is very simple. Those very same users can often find managing the company files and software application to be a bit more challenging as not everyone has a penchant for IT. To make things a little easier and smarter, Intuit has introduced a few improvements for those who work with the QuickBooks files and program installation.

10. IIF file import improvements

The file format used in QuickBooks for importing and exporting list and transaction data is the IIF (Intuit Interchange Format) proprietary text file format. With data in this format, users are able to get data quickly into a QuickBooks company file, like doing a bulk update of item cost information or importing transactions from Paypal into QuickBooks. Intuit’s improvements in the IIF import processes for QuickBooks 2019 will be welcomed by those who use IIF imports. While the IIF import/export capability in QuickBooks is a handy feature, it wasn’t very smart and often allowed poorly formed data to be entered into the company file. Now, the IIF import process benefits from data validation and error checking, error reporting and other functionality that QuickBooks developers use when bringing data in to QuickBooks.

11. Condensing the QuickBooks file allows to keep or remove audit trail and selected transactions

QuickBooks company files can get big, but the program can only efficiently handle files of a certain size. With this in mind, it seems that condensing a QuickBooks data file is a good idea, but it hasn’t always worked well when done with the utility built in with QuickBooks. Probably due to irregularities with data introduced through incomplete entry, bad imports or broken integrations, the condense function didn’t always work as expected and sometimes left users with damaged and unusable files. Intuit has made some changes to the process with QuickBooks 2019, providing options to remove the audit trail data but leave transactions, or to remove certain selected transactions while compressing the file.  The vast majority of users have no problems with this functionality, and running a utility to condense the file and clear out old audit trail data is a very good idea.  Users should always remember to run a complete backup of the data before doing any maintenance on a company file, just in case.

12. Intuit Data Protect can backup all QuickBooks data and other files

Speaking of backup… imagine thinking that you have all your valuable financial data backed up safely on Intuit’s servers only to find that just the company file, no attachments or other supporting data is there. Every business owner knows it is important to protect their data, and some users may have believed that the utility they used with QuickBooks to backup their QB company file was also protecting the other files they use with QuickBooks, like attachments, templates, exported reports and other data. The Intuit Data Protect utility which can provide cloud backups of QuickBooks company files can now include that other data on the computer, backing it up to the cloud along with the QuickBooks company files and providing another level of protection for the business.

13. Moving QuickBooks to another computer

QuickBooks desktop editions are like most other software; if you want to use it on a different computer you need to install it on the other computer. Unlike most other products, however, Intuit makes moving QuickBooks from one computer to another a simple process and not a multi-step project with license keys and original installation CDs required. If you install and use QuickBooks 2019 on a computer and then need to move it all to a new computer, all you really need is a USB drive big enough to carry everything (a little less than 250MB) and a functioning Internet connection. The process for moving your QuickBooks installation looks like it is facilitated by other improvements in QuickBooks that came with 2019, including the upgrade/activation and data protect. Intuit is able to identify the account and license from the installation on the current PC, and is able to identify company files by looking at recently used file lists. Packing it all onto a flash drive so it can be ported to another PC, the entire profile of the QuickBooks installation can be recreated on the new computer in one seamless process.

14. Easier upgrade of QuickBooks to new version

The same features that enable moving the QuickBooks installation from one computer to another are the core of what also makes QuickBooks easier to upgrade this year. Intuit has been increasingly turning program functionality into web service, which means that QuickBooks licensing and activation via the Internet are more integral to the product than ever. QB Enterprise customers and others with license payment plans find that their software will no longer update without an active paid subscription. Connected service users risk loss of functionality if they don’t keep current with their software maintenance. The benefit of the connection between the software and Intuit’s servers is that the process for installing the new version and subsequent updates is smoother and requires less work. When the new software is installed, it connects to the user existing Intuit account and gets version, license and other information required to activate the installation.  Previous to this new release, users had to locate their files on the PC and upgrade them manually after a program upgrade, but now this part of the process is simpler, too. The process identifies company files and prompts the user to upgrade the data along with the software and adding the company file to the list of recently used files for the new version.

IMPROVEMENTS FOR MAC VERSION

QuickBooks desktop editions run on Microsoft Windows or on Mac and the two platforms have very different characteristics.  While both are installable editions of QuickBooks, the features and functionality can vary even more dramatically than the differences between desktop and online editions. As a side note, I often wonder why Mac users of QuickBooks don’t simply adopt a hosted delivery model, like a cloud server running Windows and using the Windows version of QuickBooks, enabling multi-user capability, supporting the widest variety of 3rd party integrations, and delivering on the anytime/anywhere promise of mobility and device independence. I get it. Mac users love their Macs.

For those Mac users that prefer to keep the Mac edition of QuickBooks locally installed on the Mac, Intuit has a few updates and improvements for you with QuickBooks Mac 2019 (Surprise!). Intuit had indicated that QuickBooks Desktop for Mac 2016 would be the last version available, with the product continuing to be supported by until May 31, 2019, so a new version for 2019 should give Mac users renewed interest in staying with QuickBooks. The primary focus of these upgrades is modernization and security, which sort of go together.

15. Passwords required

Passwords and encryption are now part of a Mac users’ life. Not a fortress of safety in a world fraught with platform vulnerabilities, Mac has seen its share of attacks. Bad guys don’t discriminate, so it is critical that Mac users protect their valuable data just as aggressively as those on Windows or Linux. QuickBooks 2019 Mac edition now embraces this reality by requiring passwords for company files and by encrypting personal information stored in the file. While entering passwords can be annoying, Intuit recognizes that security is important enough to force users to make an effort at it.

16. Discrepancy report for bank and credit card reconciliations

Allowing a transaction to be changed after-the-fact is among the user-friendly features of QuickBooks.  Not an awesome accounting tool, the ability to change transactions after they have already been reconciled can create errors that are very difficult to track down later. Now there is a report that will reflect these transaction changes, helping identify irregularities and errors in the books. The report will only work for items created after the new software was installed as transactions entered and reconciled prior to the upgrade weren’t being monitored in this way.

17. Email tracking for Customer and Vendor communications

Just as the Windows versions of QuickBooks desktop 2019 enhance visibility into certain communications, so does QuickBooks Desktop for Mac 2019. It used to be that the user had to copy their own address on emails sent to customers and vendors in order to track when email was sent and to whom.  Now QuickBooks has a tab that shows users information about emails sent to customers and vendors, increasing visibility into communications related to QuickBooks activity.

18. Import Square transactions in .csv format

QuickBooks desktop editions generally allow only list data to be imported from .csv format files, requiring IIF files for processes involving the importing of transaction data.  Square, on the other hand, exports their transaction data in .csv format and Square is among the more popular payment solutions used with iPad tablets and other mobile devices. To simplify bringing Square payments and transaction data into QuickBooks for Mac (and obviously to encourage Square payments users to do their bookkeeping with QuickBooks) Intuit now supports importing Square transaction data using the .csv format.

19. Improved Report Windows

One of the key features of the Mac OS is the interface. Mac does things differently and users tend to either love it completely or they move to something else. Because there are different properties with each computing platform, interface conventions and program methods typically found in Windows applications won’t generally fly with Mac users. Programmers developing for Mac must use different tools and design elements than those working with Windows, and not all functionality or presentations will wind up in both the Mac and Windows editions. With QuickBooks Desktop for Mac 2019, Intuit has updated certain report windows and display elements to make them work better with more modern Mac OS releases. Spacing issues with tabs and report data have been corrected, making the overall readability greatly improved.

20. Sharing a QuickBooks company file with iCloud

I am not fond of this feature, but many users will find it to be really helpful until they lose their changes or corrupt the file. QuickBooks Desktop for Mac 2019 allows users to store/share their company file using iCloud, which is the Apple version of an online file sync and storage service. Similar in concept to Dropbox or Google Drive, iCloud allows users to store data on their device and have it automatically synchronized with their iCloud account online. This may be a convenient way to keep a QuickBooks company file backed up online, or to make it available to work on at different times from different locations. On the other hand, this is not a good way to try for pseudo multi-user or anytime/anywhere working access.

When a desktop opens the file into QuickBooks, it has exclusive use of that file. Any changes exist with the file in memory on the desktop and not in the copy of the file on the hard drive. When a second instance of QuickBooks opens the iCloud file and a user makes changes, there are now two copies of the file and each copy has its own set of changes. QuickBooks will notify the first user who opened the file and give them the option to overwrite the file with their changes, or to abandon their changes and re-load the file. Both sets of changes aren’t able to be saved, so one of the users ends up having to re-do their work.

While Intuit has done a fine job of making QuickBooks an easy-to-use solution for small business finance, the technical aspects of running QuickBooks desktop in a business remain a challenge to many. This is among the reasons why so many businesses elect to work with professionals that can help them run the Windows version of QuickBooks desktop on a managed cloud server environment. A quality hosting approach can deliver more fault tolerance as well as anytime/anywhere access businesses need, and reduce or eliminate concerns of local software installation issues or finding the right way to make QuickBooks available for multiple users and/or from multiple locations. For single-users of QuickBooks, on the other hand, the technical enhancements in QuickBooks Desktop 2019 are likely to come in handy.

jmbunnyfeetMake Sense?

J

Contrary to What You Learned in Grade School… Sharing is Bad, Okay?

There is a place and time for sharing. Share your color crayons, share your toys… share your feelings with those you love. But when it comes to business technology and infrastructure, sharing isn’t always the best approach. Some things you should just keep for yourself… like the servers you use for hosting business desktops, desktop applications and business data.

When we first began the journey of bringing small business desktops and applications like QuickBooks to the Internet, the “cloud” was not yet a thing. Hosting providers put up servers in racks in data centers, installed software and stored data on behalf of customers, and did their best to find ways of making the service affordable. Elastic resources, massive scalability and built-in redundancy (which are benefits of a real cloud fabric) were not generally available nor were they even remotely affordable. Because the hardware, networking and other resources that make up the hosting infrastructure is costly, it is important for the hosting service provider to be able to spread those costs across the entire customer base.

In most cases, this meant creating shared servers where many customers run their applications and store their data. Even when a provider suggests that a customer has a “private” server, there is still a good chance the server is using shared storage and/or networking resources made accessible in the environment.

Sharing can be a good thing or a bad thing, and it often depends on the behavior of those involved. In shared application hosting environments, particularly desktop hosting environments, there is a lot of potential for intentionally and unintentionally causing problems that can and will impact other users and customers on the platform.

A simple provisioning error might allow a user to see data belonging to another company or have access to applications or services they should not.

With shared resources, bad actors and intruders can often escape permission boundaries, attaching to network shares and other computers on the platform.

Malware accidentally introduced by an innocent user from one company could easily penetrate the entire system, following paths to data storage locations and other servers, spreading the problem to many customers and systems and even data centers.

If you are operating on the compromised system you are at risk, even if the compromise wasn’t initiated by one of  your users or from within one of your applications.

In the realm of QuickBooks hosting providers, the issues around sharing infrastructure and resources have created some very difficult situations for hosts and for their customers alike – especially when it comes to dealing with computer viruses, malware and ransomware. A few high-profile events, as well as numerous incidents which have flown under the radar, have revealed just how damaging the shared approach can be.

With the IRS, AICPA and other agencies issuing increasingly strong guidance for tax and accounting professionals to protect client information, finance professionals should strongly consider the risk introduced through shared hosting service arrangements and evaluate if it is greater than the costs of having a more private system.

Cloud platforms available today are fully matured, delivering scalability and agility at price levels that are affordable even for very small businesses.  No longer solely for enterprise enjoyment, real cloud solutions and delivery models can be used by small businesses for desktop and application hosting without compromise. Every business deserves their own cloud, and we know how to make that affordable.

Cooper Mann works with teams deploying on the Microsoft Azure platform, offering an agility in design not previously available with legacy computing approaches. Because every delivery is absolutely private to each customer, the solution can be scaled up (or down!) on demand to suit the specific needs of the individual business. More important is the fact that each customer operates separately, so any bad behavior the system may suffer from is their own.

jmbunnyfeetMake Sense?

J