Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rethinking Tools - Part 1: QuickBooks

As the year winds down, and we slog through business plans and marketing plans, we are also re-evaluating what we sell, who we partner with, and which tools we use.

Since I've talked so openly about the tools we use, let me take you along on my journey of re-examining the tools and relationships KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist) has and what we plan to do in the future.

First, let's look at the financial tool.

The undisputed 800 pound gorilla among small business finances is Intuit's QuickBooks. No one loves it. Everyone uses it.

Overall, QuickBooks does a great job or they wouldn't be where they are. Having said that, their program is amazingly bloated, filled with annoying spam and popups, and they have some of the worst technical support in the history of software.

"Everyone" integrates with QuickBooks. That is to say, everyone does something with QuickBooks. Most of them import and export aggregate data and lose all the detail. As a result, many people who could be "integrating" QuickBooks end up doing double-entry in their line of business application and QuickBooks.

Eleven months ago I went through my annual beating-of-chest and pulling-of-hair ritual with QuickBooks. It sucks on networks, it's really expensive, etc. One year it's sold in five-packs and the next year in three-packs. No User Account Control. Sucks with Vista.

I said in a January 2008 post that I would try MS Financials before the year is out and move off of QuickBooks if it was well behaved and had enough features to serve me going ahead.

It is very scary to think about changing financial packages.

But now I discover that Microsoft Small Business Financials is going away. Microsoft Small Business Accounting is gone. That leaves Microsoft Office Accounting, and how do I know this horse will run?

My expert on such thing is Ernest Cook of Better Idea Group.

Ernest recently posted the following to our local user group forum. I think it is very informative:

Hello all,

Microsoft agreements prevent me from sharing ALL that I know on this topic but let me see if I can share enough to shed some light. The bottom line is that, in my opinion, Microsoft no longer has a recommendable accounting package for small businesses. Any customer looking for a "general purpose" accounting package for small business should be ONLY be guided to Intuit's small business package, QuickBooks.

The rational for that takes a bit of a description:

First, for those who have not met me, I am the founder of Better Idea Group, a Microsoft Gold Certified partner who started out as a Small Business Financials (SBF) reseller. I personally have the SBS credential but do not do any infrastructure work for clients. Due to my involvement in the community, I was asked by Microsoft to present and train the Small Business Accounting product at Small Business Administration centers and other forums. Later our firm earned the ISV competency by creating add-on products that work with Office Accounting and getting them certified by Microsoft. (SBA and MOA products are the same product and currently called "Office Accounting")

Due in no small part to the overlay in markets focus and similarity of the names, many people over the years have confused the Small Business Financials, Small Business Accounting and Office Accounting products so let me clarify for the group:

Small Business Financials is based on the "Great Plains" code base. I quick call to Customer Source today confirmed that I can say publicly that Microsoft has NO plans on creating any more new versions of this product. The LAST version of this program is version 9 and if you have a client on an earlier version and is still current on support they could upgrade to that version. If they are NOT current on support, they need to start planning on what they will migrate to. In short, Small
Business Financials is in fact going away +++ DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS PRODUCT TO YOUR CLIENTS +++

Small Business Accounting - This product was written from scratch in 2004-2005 with a target market of 1-5 users. The only version that has this name is the inaugural edition that was labeled 2006. Due in no small part to the iterative nature of the initial product, a "service pack" came out later in the year but was still called SBA 2006. It had SQL 2000 technology and was based on the .Net 1.1 framework. Anyone that is still running this program and "stuck" on the workflow should, at the very least migrate to Office Accounting 2009 +++ Small Business Accounting is GONE - DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS PRODUCT TO YOUR CLIENTS +++

Microsoft Office Accounting - The first version of this was in 2007 and was a direct descendant of "Small Business Accounting". The BIG difference is that the 2007 version was based on .NET 2.0 and SQL 2005 technology and Microsoft broadened the offering by creating a FREE "express" version and pushed it thru download sites etc.

In 2008, some bugs were fixed and new functionality was added to the product, most notably the addition of a Spanish language version. The most current version, 2009 was recently published and consists primarily of resolutions to issues that had been brought up by customers and partners for quite awhile.

As an ISV who has invested a SIGNIFICANT amount of money into my products that need Office Accounting to work, it would be easiest for me to tell you that Office Accounting has a bright future and tell you to recommend it to your clients. I can't do that. I am NOT investing anymore time or money in the Office Accounting product line. Not only that but friends on the list might also be interested in hearing that I am migrating my own company books BACK to Intuit's QuickBooks.

Finally, For full disclosure, let me share this news:

I have signed the contracts to become an Intuit Solution Provider and am currently finishing up preliminary work required to become certified by Intuit to be recommended as a solution provider. My goal is to be in the market place in 2010 representing QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions.

While this is may appear as a dramatic shift from one side to the other, I should say that I have had a very profitable QuickBooks customization practice since 2004 and have also created products based on the QuickBooks SDK. I owe the recent decision on my part to a "hard look" at the various offering and their position in the market. In my view, Microsoft hasn't figured out the right solution stack for Small Business and without WIDE support for a solution you are putting yourself at a disadvantage by staying on a niche product.

Better Idea Group

Reprinted with permission.

- - - - -

So where does that leave my company? Ugh!

I haven't even looked at Microsoft Office Accounting yet. I need a track record. I need to know it will exist in 1, 3, and 5 years. They're still signing up accountants for the MPAN program: MS Professional Accountants' Network.

I need to make this change once and be done with it.

The truth is, I've seen Microsoft abandon software before. (My Christmas gift exchange gift from the local user group is a shrink-wrapped copy of Windows ME.)

That's what spectacularly entrepreneurial companies do: Try lots of things and keep what works.

But let's get back to talking about me: At least for now, I don't think we'll be switching off of QuickBooks.

I hope Microsoft does something to show me and my clients that they're going to be around with this product. In the meantime, the only question is whether my accountant will make me re-buy QuickBooks again this year.



  1. Anonymous7:35 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Anonymous7:39 AM

    I think you are terribly wrong. Lots of "us" out there really enjoy the benefits of Quickbooks.

    Next time you speak for "us" you should maybe ask around a bit.

  3. I'm sorry you mis-interpreted.

    Nothing on this blog speaks for any "us" other than my company.

    My opinions are just my biased opinion. Take them or leave them.

    As for asking around: I've supported quickbooks in the business environment for 14 years. I know exactly what it takes to support it.

    I could rehash my opinion, but it's already up there.

  4. Ken sent me a personal note so he wouldn't have to log in.

    I'm curious: is Sage Simply Accounting not sold in the US? It's a strong competitor to QuickBooks in Canada, and I don't see it disappearing any time soon.

    Accountants prefer it because they say it behaves more like "real" accounting software, instead of letting you casually do things that violate accounting rules. I.e., if you want to correct an error, you have to post a reversing entry, not just delete it.

    Not being big in the US like QB is, Simply Accounting doesn't integrate with a lot of other software, but that's not an issue for most people.

    If it's available in your area, it's worth considering.

    Simply Account IS sold in the U.S., but it is a very well kept secret. We see a fair amount of (BusinessWorks, which is a higher-end package and has the "real accounting" features you mention. It's also nice because you just buy the modules you need.

    Simply Accounting is much more affordable, and is a really nice product. But most accountants have never heard of it, and they do zero advertising.

  5. Anonymous10:07 AM

    Thanks for the info. I really think that QuickBooks has some potential if only some adjustments are made. It has a good frame in my opinion. Something that helps me understand QuickBooks when I help my clients is Qvinci. Both my clients and I can really understand what is going on in their company as well as trend future performance. I think you should probably take a look at this software as it's the first of it's kind and probably QuickBooks hope of staying around.

  6. Anonymous9:27 AM

    Have you looked into the products produced by MYOB? They are cross platform (Mac/Windows) and the company appears to support both sides quite well. They have single user and network editions.

    Maybe not as ‘full-featured’ as QB, but I find FitstEdge and AccountEdge quick, easy to use and appropriate for many small businesses.


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