Review: QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions v. 8.0

If you move up to QuickBooks Enterprise Solution, your first reaction may well be: This ain’t my daddy’s QuickBooks.  Setting up the traditional flavors of QuickBooks is a relatively simple affair – insert the CD or log into a Web site, and off you go.  However Enterprise Solutions, designed for that nebulous mid-size “growing business” category, is considerably more complicated. 

It’s a network application, and the installation guidelines clearly state that a network administrator and/or a CPA should oversee the setup.  Before slipping the installation CD into a single computer, you have to decide on your networking environment and whether a particular computer on the network will serve as a client or as a server.

For this review, we installed QuickBooks Enterprise (Standard Edition) in a client/server environment on a three-computer network.  One of the client computers connected to the network via a wireless adapter; the other two were traditionally networked with Ethernet cable and a network hub. 

The server and one client ran Windows XP Pro while the third client ran Windows Vista.  According to the documentation, QuickBooks Enterprise can also be installed on a Linux server with Windows clients, but we didn’t test that option.  Each computer running QBE must also have Internet Explorer installed.

What’s the Difference?

A key difference between QuickBooks Enterprise and other multi-user versions of the regular QuickBooks software is Enterprise’s security permission capability.  Enterprise allows an administrator to customize user-access levels to maintain data security by setting rules and permissions for 115 different activities. 

For instance, you can allow your marketing manager to enter budget figures and run sales reports, but denied access to accounts payable.  Each individual’s access level can be set to view-only, create, modify, delete, print – or any combination thereof.

The menus and displays look a lot like the usual QuickBooks program, with icon flow-charts to guide you through the necessary steps. You fill in a form that uses familiar terms rather than a screen full of accounting jargon. QBE lets you customize the various menus to show choices that pertain to your specific company, which lets you de-clutter the icon flow-charts if you’d like. 

The program can handle up to 20 users simultaneously and comes in six different editions, five of which are tailored for specific industries.  The Standard edition can manage business finances, inventory, sales, purchasing and employees for a wide range of companies

QuickBooks Enterprise screen shot
The icons illustrate the workflow for completing necessary tasks in QuickBooks Enterprise 8.0.
(Click for larger image)

The Industry Editions, available in Contractor, Manufacturing & Wholesale, Nonprofit, Professional Services and Retail editions add specialized tools, program navigation and reports.  There is also an Accountant’s Edition that allows a financial professional to access a client’s files via WebEx. 

The file system is set up at a field locking level, so if two people access the same record simultaneously – say, one person in the customer file – they can each change different fields at the same time. If one person updates a customer’s address, the other can simultaneously update the phone number.  But if both go to work on the phone number, the second user trying to make a change will get an error message. 

Given how most companies divide responsibilities for various accounting tasks, it’s unlikely that two employees would hit the same field in the same record simultaneously, but it’s good to know that QBE provides a warning. 

What’s New?

Most of QBE’s new features come by way of third-party software publishers who have formed alliances with Intuit.  Some of them are free, but most require an additional monthly fee, depending on the number of licenses you’ll need.  These third-party tools, however, greatly expand QBE’s functionality.

A relationship with Business Objects software developer provides integrated business intelligence (BI) tools. Business intelligence can give management dashboard displays of sales, profit-and-loss “what if” scenarios, profitability, and budget variance.  Intuit says the BI tools were integrated due to customer feedback. 

Advanced inventory functionality comes courtesy of an alliance with Velocity Inventory for Enterprise Solutions, which is intended to help product-based businesses with multiple warehouses be more efficient with real-time inventory tracking. 

If your company has field service representatives, you can add WorkTrack Service Management, which helps manage workflow via the Web.  It’s designed to eliminate manual errors in order to create additional efficiencies in the office and the field.  QBE includes one dispatcher’s seat license, and additional licenses incur an incremental monthly fee.

Next up — TrueCommerce EDI (electronic data interchange), a form of business-to-business electronic commerce.  This add-on consists of three components:  the TrueCommerce Transaction Manager, which enables the electronic exchange of business documents; a business system plug-in, which integrates EDI into QBE and an electronic partner plug-in, which allows your system to communicate with a customer or vendor.  Additional partner plug-ins require additional fees. 

Some of these plug-ins constitute the “free razor” – but you’ll pay plenty for new “blades.” But adding third-party capability makes sense it allows each customer to tweak the program to its specifications rather than trying to write a single package that will work for every business on the planet. 

Here’s a useful addition to QBE that doesn’t incur an additional fee.  Google maps and directions are built in to any file that contains an address – customers, vendors, and employees. 

And, in a nod to the competition from Microsoft, QBE integrates with Microsoft’s Outlook or Outlook Express so that you can send forms such as invoices, receipts, and purchase orders from within the accounting system.

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