Last week I had the opportunity to attend Intuit’s Innovation Gallery Walk in NYC. Intuit uses the Gallery Walk to showcase new solutions that it is bringing to market as well as ones that are still in R&D.
This year’s Gallery Walk featured simulated storefronts and back offices to help demonstrate how Intuit’s solutions work for consumers and small businesses in the “real world.” It also provided some great insight into Intuit’s strategic direction in the areas of services and partner programs.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit every demo at this interesting event! But here are my thoughts on a couple of things I was able to see and learn about–and how they are underscore Intuit’s ongoing transformation from a products to a services company, and from an application vendor to a platform provider.
From Products to Services
My first stop was to see Intuit’s new 401k Plan and Intuit Health Debit Cards. These two services have been in soft-launch mode for the past year or so. Each zeros in on a big pain point for small businesses with 2 to 10 employees–how do I provide benefits for my workers?
The average U.S. worker has less than $10,000 in savings–putting both individuals and the U.S. economy in potentially dire straits. Although small businesses may want to offer 401k plans for their workers, many simply don’t have the time, money or resources to research, set up and administer a 401K for their employees. Intuit’s 401k plan is priced at $75 a month (which is tax-deductible) for businesses and $3 per quarter for employees. The plan gives small businesses a simple, affordable way to offer 401ks to employees. It integrates with Intuit’s Online Payroll solution–and will integrate with QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online soon. I was told that tens of thousands of small businesses have already signed up for this plan.
Given ever-rising healthcare and health insurance costs and all the politics surrounding these issues, Intuit’s Health Debit Card is arguably tackling an even more daunting challenge. Many small businesses simply can’t afford to provide their employees with traditional health insurance plans. Using this program gives, small business employers can set aside pretax dollars in Health Reimbursement Account accounts for their employees. Employees can draw on these funds with a debit card to cover medical costs–doctor visits, prescriptions, glasses, etc. About 1,000 small businesses are currently using this service.
These programs can provide small businesses with options to do more for their employees, helping them to attract and retain the kinds of employees they’ll need to help their businesses grow.
In addition to a broader market launch, more integration to other Intuit solutions, new functionality and options, Intuit is also examining how it might take on a bigger change-agent role in these areas. For instance, the vendor is testing an employee-funded Health Savings Account (HSA) offering, and starting to explore options to offer pooled health insurance small businesses.
These are just two of the areas that highlight how Intuit is transforming into a services vendor in the small business market.
From Applications to Platform
The other area in which I gained a lot of insight into is the ongoing growth of Intuit’s App Center and Intuit Partner platform. I’ve been following this since it launched, and blogged about it in these earlier posts (Intuit Partner Platform: Changing the Rules of Cloud Platforms with Federated Applications and Intuit and Salesforce Partner Up: Who’s the Big Winner?).
Basically, Intuit App Center and Partner Platform help small businesses extend the power of QuickBooks through third-party solutions. At the event, Intuit took the wraps off Intuit Anywhere, which gives developers the ability to reach millions of QuickBooks customers and build data integration directly into their mobile and Web apps. This gives developers the ability to connect their users directly to QuickBooks via a button on their page as easily as connecting to Facebook.
Over the last couple of years, Intuit’s App Center has really taken shape. Over 250 applications are now in the App Center, from big name providers such as Salesforce.com and eBay to a wide range of smaller vendors, including some that might be categorized as Intuit competitors, such as FreshBooks. Through the Intuit Partner Platform, developers get a sales channel, platform services, and a direct route to Intuit’s large installed base.
Data is at the heart of this ecosystem. This means that developer partners not only get access to the two million registered App Center users– they also get a more seamless way to get discovered by potential users. For instance, QuickBooks customers that process a certain number of invoices each month are automatically introduced to partner Bill.com’s billing app. This type of in-context discovery coupled is helping Intuit’s partners convert trials into purchases at a considerably higher rate than standalone free trials.
By connecting more partners and customers into this platform and to each other, Intuit reaps the benefits of the network effect.
As Intuit’s CEO Brad Smith noted in his remarks at the event, Intuit’s mission is to “improve the financial lives of people.” As Smith also remarked, Intuit’s approach to solving for this is to “Get managers out of the way and let people work their magic.”
Judging from the Innovation Gallery Walk, Intuit’s 8,000 employees are working their magic to help Intuit execute on its mission–transforming from a products to a services company, and from an application vendor to a platform provider in the process.