Technology is changing how everything gets done – from how we communicate, to how we shop, to how we drive. Technology is also transforming how business gets done – and the implication is clear: use technology to your company’s advantage, or risk falling behind.
But, the constant wave of new technologies can be overwhelming for small businesses to understand, let alone keep up with. In this three-part blog series, we discuss Intuit’s® approach to make it easier for small businesses to use and get value from technology. In this second post, Laurie McCabe, co-founder at SMB Group, talks to Bharath Kadaba, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Intuit, about mega platforms.
Laurie McCabe: What does the term “mega platform” mean?
Bharath Kadaba: It’s a new term, but mega platforms have existed for a long time. Microsoft and Apple were mega platforms in the 1980s. Today, the list has expanded to also include Google, Amazon and Facebook. Hundreds of millions or billions of people use these platforms every day, throughout the day.
LM: So, you define a mega platform as one that has lots of users and a high level of engagement with those users?
BK: Yes. Take Facebook, for example. Many people use Facebook multiple times a day. They look at it first thing when they wake up, a few times during the day and before they go to bed – it’s a pervasive part of their lives. For lots of people, apps such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat just become part of their lives. So, it is essential that Intuit understands the role that these mega platforms play in the lives of our users, and how our solutions integrate with theirs to make it easier for our users to get their work done.
Usually, people start using these apps in their personal lives – they provide a convenient and easy way for people to connect with each other. As they use them more frequently in their personal lives, small businesspeople often start using them in their businesses, as well. It happens extremely naturally. Someone uses Facebook to interact with friends, and then they create a Facebook presence for the business to reach out to their customers. Likewise, it’s natural to extend their use of messaging platforms to communicate with customers, suppliers and partners.
LM: And, the network effect kicks in, and growth is exponential. So, people are spending a lot of time in these apps. What is Intuit’s role?
BK: Intuit is a customer-obsessed company. We want to be where our customers are and remove friction from business processes for them. The other key is that this is not exclusive; we’ll work with all the mega platforms that are part of our customers’ daily experience. Wherever our customers are, we will be there. That’s our philosophy of following the customer.
Intuit has had strong relationships with the mega platform players from the very beginning. As Android and Apple iOS became ubiquitous, we needed to make sure our products worked well on Android and Apple phones. So, we’re extending this model to mega platforms. For instance, it turns out that 50 percent of our small businesses use Gmail for their business email and collaboration. So, we decided that if a QuickBooks® user is in Gmail, he or she should be able to simply create an invoice and send it out to the customer directly from Gmail. They shouldn’t have to leave Gmail and go into QuickBooks to do that.
LM: What does this mean for people who don’t want to use these mega platforms to do things in QuickBooks?
BK: Our customers will always be able to work directly with QuickBooks and other Intuit apps. We have our own mobile apps and web presence. It’s the customer’s choice. Some users are constantly in QuickBooks; they do everything there. We will cater to the needs of all of our customers by giving them a choice.
LM: If a customer chooses to send an invoice to somebody via Facebook Messenger, does it automatically sync back to QuickBooks? And, must he or she opt in to enable this?
BK: Yes. It syncs automatically, after the customer opts in and provides permission. Because some customers are comfortable using these channels and some aren’t, their permission is essential.
LM: How does this apply to other partners such as PayPal? Maybe, it’s not a mega platform such as Facebook, but it’s also key to many small businesses.
BK: We’ve integrated with PayPal because it also helps remove friction for our users. And, we’re also doing this internationally.
LM: How about in partnerships with the banks that small businesses use?
BK: Banks have been our partners for a long time, for both QuickBooks and Mint. We connect directly to banks via our APIs. Banks are a very important partner for us, and we have relationships with banks not only in the U.S., but also in Canada and the U.K.
LM: What else should small business decision makers be thinking about in terms of accessing QuickBooks through mega platforms?
BK: Small business owners want to have more time to grow their businesses and interact with customers. We want to reduce the time that they have to spend worrying and managing their finances and compliance. That’s what we want to do using our technology. Intuit has three key goals for our users: no work, more money and complete confidence.