Focus on the Finance Department: QuickBooks in the Cloud
Vendors and IT solution providers are all buzzing about their cloud services and solutions available via the Web. This buzz often includes statements about lower cost of IT acquisition and service management and how mobility and remote access benefits the business. These statements are proving true for many businesses, yet there are still vast numbers of small business operating on local computers and unmanaged service. The reasons which hold back these business from adopting cloud computing models are as many and varied as the businesses themselves, but there is a consistent thread to be found in these reasons, and it has to do with a lack of understanding of what certain applications really mean to the business. In this case, the discussion is about the focus on strictly operational or administrative areas of the business and not on the finance department which, in so many small businesses, uses QuickBooks.
Cloud solution providers are in business to make money, and hosting companies in particular are looking for the right applications which will drive usage and revenues on their platforms. When these providers look at the small business market, they’re trying to identify the applications and services that small business owners will adopt in volume. Identification of these opportunities to serve a large customer base is essential to the provider’s economy of scale and profit model. It makes sense that hosts would want to offer the applications which drive the highest degree of usage in their environments, so they tend to focus on the applications used by the greatest number of users within the customer organization. In the small business market, these applications are email and productivity tools – solutions which are used broadly throughout the business and which serve a horizontal rather than vertical industry orientation. Those are the two easy picks; finding the next most valuable solution represents a bigger challenge for the provider.
With Intuit QuickBooks desktop editions boasting the lion’s share of the small business accounting market, it seems that hosting QuickBooks products would be the next natural selection by hosting providers already serving their small business clients with email and productivity solutions. However, because these service providers do not fully understand the essential functions QuickBooks serves in the small business, the assumption is that the usage of the solution is so nominal that it doesn’t make sense to develop the capability to offer it. It is a misunderstanding that many providers have, and is the result of a lack of historic participation in the product. QuickBooks, you see, is a direct to consumer product rather than a channel product, and most IT service providers and hosting companies recognize the product name but not really what it does or how it operates. And these hosts are often large companies and therefore have no direct experience using the product, so there is no frame of reference for them to work from. These service providers are simply overlooking the important role that QuickBooks solutions play in many small businesses, where it is used to handle various operational aspects of the business as well as being the product of choice for bookkeeping and accounting. Particularly with the QuickBooks Premier and Enterprise editions offering additional functionality and industry-specific features, the products are used widely by small businesses and not just for accounting and finance.
The point of the discussion is that hosting companies and “cloud server” providers should look at the mixture of applications used by their small business customers, and they are likely to find that QuickBooks products are pretty high on the list. Even if there are only a few people in the accounting department, and the usage by these individuals is not representative of the entire hosting opportunity, hosts should recognize that those few individuals and the software they use are not only essential, but are probably processing payroll for all those other users on the system and are paying the bills for products and services purchased. After all, if you’re going to make anybody in the company happy, make sure to focus on the finance department and help them get their QuickBooks in the Cloud, as they’re the ones that will be paying the bill for the service.