Intuit's Cure for Growing Pains

By Wayne Kawamoto | Posted January 11, 2006

Growing businesses that are stretching the boundaries of their current accounting software but aren't quite ready to take on the more daunting mid-market systems, should seriously consider Intuit's latest top-of-the-line release, QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 6.0.

The software offers faster performance, accommodates more data, provides improved inventory features and incorporates the newest QuickBooks features. And of course, the interface is 100 percent QuickBooks. If you and your employees already know how to work QuickBooks, you already know Enterprise.

A Quick Step Up
QuickBooks Enterprise is designed for companies with fairly complex workflows and specialized employees that handle functions such as payroll, accounting, sales, purchasing and more.

According to Intuit, its target companies typically have 20 or more employees, multiple office locations, $1 million or more in annual revenue and are experiencing rapid growth. After evaluating QuickBooks Enterprise, it's clear that the product is well up to the task.

Enterprise handles up to 15 simultaneous users, and you can purchase it in five, 10 and 15 concurrent-user packs. Compared to QuickBooks Premier, Enterprise manages twice the number of items, customers and vendors.

Also, the program's built on a full-fledged, industry-standard SQL relational database that provides three-to-five times faster performance than the prior version and two-to-five times the performance of other QuickBooks products (your mileage may vary). In our tests, Enterprise offered speedy performance to accommodate simultaneous transactions and users.


 QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 6.0 startup
Click here for a larger image.

While mid-market solutions such as MAS 90 and Microsoft Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains) offer lots of power, they are expensive and demand a great deal of expertise and effort to install and run. Plus, you need to invest time and money to train employees how to use them. QuickBooks Enterprise, on the other hand, works just like standard-grade QuickBooks, which makes the learning curve much smaller. Enterprise is also available in industry-specific versions for contractors, manufacturers, nonprofits, retailers, service firms and accountants.

No Place Like Home
Anyone familiar with the previous version of Enterprise will immediately notice the modified home page. The new interface was designed to effectively serve the program's functions and provide immediate access to any task within two mouse-clicks. Despite its relatively sparse appearance, the interface's efficient and intuitive layout is a major improvement. There's elegance in its simplicity.

The software still relies on flowcharts that depict accounting tasks and act as graphic menus. But this time, instead of treating vendors, customers, employees, banking and inventory as separate functions, the main page integrates them into a single screen — extending the flowcharts to serve as an overview of the business.

Powerful New Features
As with the standard QuickBooks, Enterprise handles the day-to-day tasks of managing and running a business: tracking sales, creating invoices and purchase orders, overseeing inventory, paying bills, writing checks, handling payroll and creating reports. Intuit also offers its optional QuickBooks Assisted Payroll service that processes payroll, prints paychecks, files taxes and more.

New security options let you customize access levels to 115 areas and activities. You can assign individual access levels and limit activities to view-only, create, modify, delete or print. Thirteen predefined user roles let you save setup time when adding another person or for managing permissions.

The Available-to-Promise tool, which is also part of the Premier Manufacturing and Wholesale version, reports the amount of inventory on hand, what's in each order, when items are needed and where they're committed. With this time saver, you can make intelligent decisions regarding commitments. If you like, you can effectively reassign inventory that's tagged for less crucial customers or later deliveries to meet important deadlines.

The new Sales Order Fulfillment feature displays orders and lets you make "ship-to" decisions based on customer priorities and projected revenues. You can set priorities for orders based on the earliest promised delivery or largest potential for revenue. A new, always-on audit trail tracks changes, finds errors and pinpoints fraudulent transactions.


 QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 6.0 Customer Center
Click here for a larger image.

Information-specific "centers," which are actually well-designed, multi-paned pages, present data in more meaningful ways. They let you quickly sort companies, customers or employees and click on them to view relevant history and other information. You could find this same information in previous versions of Enterprise, but you had to know where to look and gather it from various pages. The centers offer a much more efficient way to view data.

In the Customer Center, you can click on a client and quickly view estimates, transaction histories, invoices, payments, and billing terms in a single window. Using filters, you can, for example, list customers with open balances and select them from drop-down lists. Use the Employee Center to view employees, as well as contact and paycheck information. And in the same way, the Vendor Center lets you view and sort contact information, past activities, bills and checks.

Enterprise easily imports and exports data between Microsoft Word and Excel and does a great job of mapping and coordinating fields. It can also synchronize contact information with Microsoft Outlook by using QuickBooks Contact Sync for Outlook, a utility you can download for free.

Getting Started
The Enterprise setup has been streamlined to the point that Intuit says customers can get up and running within 30 minutes, and our tests indicate this will probably be true for most companies.

Beyond setup, Intuit offers the QuickBooks Learning Center that offers walk-through tutorials that explain how to perform key tasks. Of course, the structure of the home page is based on the answers that you provide during the program's setup.


 QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 6.0 Learning Center
Click here for a larger image.

If you do run into any problems, Enterprise comes with a year-long subscription to Intuit's Full Service Plan. It provides access to a support engineer, 24x7 product support and automatic upgrades.

Bottom Line
In QuickBooks Enterprise edition, Intuit effectively offers a solution for fast growing companies on the verge of outgrowing conventional QuickBooks. And compared to traditional mid-market solutions, QuickBooks Enterprise is easier to install, requires fewer resources and is easier to use. Furthermore, current Enterprise customers will welcome the improvements to speed and capacity, as well as the revamped interface and data centers.

There are reasons that a small business would choose a more complex, mid-market solution. For example, when it has complex workflows or its volume exceeds that supported by Enterprise. But current QuickBooks customers can easily grow into QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 6.0, and trust that the program will serve them well.

Pricing

  • QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 6.0 (five-user license): $3,000 ($2,700 upgrade)
  • QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 6.0 (10-user license): $4,500 ($4,050 upgrade)
  • QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 6.0 (15-user license): $6,000 ($5,400 upgrade)

Wayne Kawamoto has written over 800 articles, columns and reviews about computers, new technologies, the Internet and small businesses. Wayne has also published three books about upgrading PCs, building office networks and effectively using and troubleshooting notebook computers. You can contact him through his Web site at www.waynewrite.com.

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