QuickBooks Gets Quicker, Expands for Enterprise

The computer industry loves to use labels such as small business, mid-market and enterprise — terms that probably mean little to you. They also tend to be applied somewhat arbitrarily. That is, what one vendor describes as a mid-sized company is a small business to another.

So when you hear talk of Intuit’s QuickBooks Enterprise Solution don’t dismiss it, assuming it is talking about companies with several hundred employees.

The small business accounting leader today announced version 6.0 of the product, which brings the number of concurrent users it supports to 15. Bill Lucchini, general manager of QuickBooks Enterprise product line, puts the word Enterprise into quantifiable terms. To Intuit, an enterprise is a business that has formal departments, a distributed decision-making process and often has multiple fixed locations.

With those distinctions, which separate an enterprise from say a small business typically run by an owner/operator, comes the need for better performance, scalability (more users) and better inventory management across departments.

While new features in Enterprise Solutions 6.0 address those needs, Lucchini is quick to point out that this version of QuickBooks is different than many accounting software products aimed at mid-market companies. “Mid-market players competing with each other have been adding more and more features until the products becomes very complex,” he said. The complexity can mean an application that takes months to deploy and costs tens of thousands of dollars.

One major change in QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 6.0 is that it’s now built on the Sybase SQL database. While the embedded database technology is transparent to customers, the end result, according to Lucchini, is the capability to support 15 users at the same time (the previous limit had been 10) and a three-to-five times increase in performance.

QuickBooks also provides open access to its database through Open DataBase Connectivity (OBDC), a standard that makes it possible to access any data from any application, regardless of which database management system is handling the data.

The new enterprise edition is also designed to take advantage of new inventory features added in QuickBooks 2006. Those capabilities, Intuit said, automate tasks for manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers and other product-based businesses. The Sales Order Fulfillment feature, for example, offers a single view of all pending orders so that businesses can base “ship-to” decisions on projected revenue of order, customer value and other indicators that help determine fulfillment priority.

QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions
New inventory features let you see what’s available to ship.

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After you decide which orders to fill first, you can immediately print pick lists and packing slips to make the shipping process more efficient.

The Available-to-Promise feature is designed to report the exact amount of inventory on hand and where it’s committed, when it’s needed and what is on order. The new feature is meant to simplify a company’s capability to commit to delivery dates or to borrow inventory from less critical orders.

Because most mid-sized businesses start out as small businesses, Lucchini said, compatibility across the QuickBooks product line is an important feature and one that sets it apart from other accounting platforms.

On the opposite end of the QuickBooks spectrum is the company’s Simple Start product, which was introduced a year ago for businesses that didn’t need all the capabilities of the standard QuickBooks application. Intuit last week announced that in its first year, the $99.95 Simply Start was purchased by 100,000 small businesses.

QuickBooks Simple Start
Most enterprises begin as startup operations. For those fledgling businesses, Intuit launched QuickBooks Simple Start a year ago. The company claims it now has 100,000 customers.

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Because Simple Start and Enterprise Solutions (as well as other versions of QuickBooks) are based on a single platform, there’s no need for data migration, changes to business processes or training. Lucchini compared Intuit’s approach to those of companies who offer different products for different size companies. “You get a bill from the same company. That’s their migration path.”

QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 6.0 will be available on November 7. A five-seat license costs $3,000; a 10-seat license costs $4,500 and a 15-seat license costs $6,000. The price includes a 12-month service plan, product upgrades, data recovery and reporting services and interactive training tools. Annual renewals cost between $1,000 and $2,000, according to Lucchini.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com’s Small Business Channel, EarthWeb’s Networking Channel and ServerWatch.

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