There’s no question that cloud is the new normal for very small businesses (VSBs, with 1 to 19 employees). Cloud computing has made it easy for VSBs to access, buy and deploy the business solutions that they need to automate operations, and to sustain and grow their businesses. SMB Group research shows that VSBs are increasingly opting for cloud solutions for flexibility, speed and cost benefits, and more (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Top Reasons to Use Cloud Solutions: Very Small Businesses
Integration Lags Cloud Adoption
However, while the cloud has made it much easier for VSBs to access and use new applications, most still find it difficult to integrate them. In fact, 32% of VSBs have not integrated any of their applications. Among those who have done some integration, 71% rely on manual Excel file uploads or custom coding, instead of using more efficient integration solutions or pre-integrated solutions (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Level and Type of Application Integration: Very Small Businesses
This isn’t surprising. While there are many solid integration solutions in the market, very small businesses lack the expertise, resources and money to use them (Figure 3). And while pre-integrated solution suites can be great, most small businesses adopt applications in an incremental way. They don’t want to pay for functionality they don’t use, and don’t have the bandwidth to get productive on more than a couple of things at the same time.
Figure 3: Annual Technology Spending and IT Resources: Very Small Businesses
However, the cloud makes it easy for VSBs to add new applications as needed and as time permits. But over time, they realize automation additional functions without integrating them only gets part of the job done. They need to integrate them to streamline workflows and to gain a unified view of what’s going on in the business.
Intuit: Evolving Messaging, Platform and Products to Help VSBs Connect the Dots
At it’s 2016 QuickBooks Connect conference last week, Intuit hammered home the event theme–that connected applications can help small businesses speed up workflows, save time, and gain a more complete view of their customers. The company showcased its open platform strategy and partnerships, and its goal to help its customers connect the dots between information and workflows in different applications.
In the developer track, Intuit emphasized its commitment to provide developers with the latest and greatest tools to help them easily integrate their apps with QuickBooks Online. For instance, the vendor touted Webhooks, which makes it easier for developers to synch data between QuickBooks Online and their solutions. Intuit also offered developers numerous sessions to help increase their understanding of how broader technology trends, such as machine learning/artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile and security (to name a few!) are reshaping business applications, and fuel interest in applying them to create more valuable and innovative solutions.
Intuit also announced several new, specific integrations to help VSBs connect the solution dots, including:
- Integration with Google G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work). Customers can now buy QuickBooks Online in the G Suite Marketplace, and use single sign-on (SSO) to access QuickBooks from their Google accounts. New integration with Google Calendar also enables users to import time and billing data from Calendar directly into QuickBooks Online.
- New payments integrations with Apple Pay and PayPal. These integrations enable users to invoice payments to their customers from QuickBooks Online, and then take payments from customers via Apple Pay and PayPal. Once a customer makes the payment from Apple Pay or PayPal, the integration automatically enters and categorizes it in QuickBooks Online. This saves customers from having to use a plug-in or manually reconcile transactions between QuickBooks Online and their payment systems.
- Payroll integration with TSheets, an employee time-tracking and scheduling app. Users can now track, approve and pay employees from within their QuickBooks Online accounts.
- Extended integration with Bill.com. QuickBooks Online users can now manage Bill.com functions, such as bill payment, tracking, transaction reconciliation and ACH authorizations within QuickBooks Online.
- More integrated financing options. Intuit’s Financing platform has added new integrated loan programs for QuickBooks Online users. For instance, users can now apply for American Express Working Capital Terms for short-term loans via QuickBooks Online. Intuit has also incorporated BlueVine’s Flex Credit into its QuickBooks financing platform.
Summary and Perspective
Intuit is taking big steps to educate small businesses and accountants about the value of application integration, and is paving the way to make integration solutions easier to use and more affordable.
Intuit is also the top business solutions provider in the very small business market–one that many vendors find very difficult to crack in terms of broad-scale adoption. In addition, Intuit has the advantage of being the keeper of the crown jewels for many small businesses-their financial transactions.
From this vantage point, Intuit has distinct advantages to attract developers to its community and its mission, and to help VSBs finally start moving up the integration curve. At the same time, Intuit’s open platform, connected community strategy will also help power Intuit’s next level of growth in VSB market.
Note: Intuit is an SMB Group client, and paid my travel expenses to QuickBooks Connect.