OK, I hope that this is my last blog posting specifically on the QuickBooks Online Banking feature for awhile. Two items today – a discussion with Greg Wright of Intuit on how they are dealing with the problems of this feature, and a preview of some of the changes coming out in the next update.
In my February posting How to deal with QuickBooks Online Banking I mentioned that I was trying to get an interview with someone at Intuit. Not long after that post I was put in touch with Greg Wright, the Director of Product Management for QuickBooks. We talked about the problems with the new Online Banking feature released in the 2009 version of QuickBooks, and I’ll summarize our discussion here. This is a mixture of my opinion and Greg’s comments.
SPECIAL NOTE – on March 23 Intuit released the R7 version of QuickBooks – see this article on the changes that affect Online Banking: http://qbblog.ccrsoftware.info/2009/03/quickbooks-2009-release-r7/
There Will Always Be Changes…
Intuit strives to improve QuickBooks by both adding new functionality and enhancing existing features. Sometimes these changes resolve business problems or expand the usefulness of QuickBooks (such as the addition of multiple currency support), but on occasion these changes can be very controversial. In the 2009 release Intuit overhauled the online banking feature, and this created a huge outcry in the QuickBooks community.
Interview with Greg Wright
Greg Wright is a part of the team that makes decisions on the future development of QuickBooks. In a telephone interview I asked Greg several questions. I’m summarizing his responses here. We did not talk about specific product features or technical problems, instead we focused on the overall problem from a management standpoint. I’ll note that in my experience it is very rare to have this kind of open discussion with anyone from Intuit.
- People have commented that this appears to be a very different user interface than what they are used to. Is this new feature an indication of what we will see in future additions? Greg commented that QuickBooks is a 20 year old product, with a mixture of UI (user interface) features. Newer functions will sometimes vary from what we have seen before – but the online banking feature is not necessarily an indication of how things are going to change. In the initial release some UI features were left out (tabbing to fields, hotkeys and so forth) but the UI of this feature will be brought into line with other QB functions.
- There was a lot of talk in the forums about the “beta test” of the product. Several people have noted that they were beta testers, and that they noted the problems with the online banking feature. Why were the beta tests ignored? For Intuit, the “beta” test is the final stage, where they hope to get people to use what should be the finished product in an actual production environment. Traditionally this comes very late in the development cycle at Intuit. Before this stage there is a lot of “customer engagement” (Greg’s phrase) in the development process, but this does not put actual functioning software in user’s hands outside of the “lab” until this last field test phase. Greg stated that it is his intention to change the field testing process for future major releases. He wants to move the product out of the “lab” and get input from users much earlier in the cycle, if possible.
- Why not roll back the feature to 2008? Greg said that the decision to not roll back to the prior version of this feature was considered very seriously. However, it is a complicated situation. You can’t just flip the switch to put the old code back, particularly when you consider that other major and wide ranging changes were implemented at the same time (such as multiple currencies). It would have taken considerable effort to “roll back” the feature, and, if they did, they would have lost some features that they believe are significant additions – such as managing renaming rules. People liked some of the new features – by moving forward to fix the new program they felt that they could not only get the corrections out more quickly, they would also preserve the new features.
- Why not sell the 2008 product as a stop-gap product? Again, you would be losing features such as the Company Snapshot, multiple currencies and more. Greg stated that Intuit is not in the business of selling multiple versions, and there would be significant supply chain issues that would be very difficult to overcome. Again, Greg pointed out Intuit’s commitment to fixing the problems and moving forward.
- What about the sunset of QB 2006 in May (tentatively), which would force some users to upgrade to a version that they don’t want to use? Greg feels that the major problems with the program will be fixed before that time comes, particularly with the upcoming March release.
In a subsequent comment Greg said that he wants everyone to know that he “owns” the issue and is focused on fixing the issue. He is not making excuses – Intuit holds themselves to a very high standard for their customers and he does not believe that they are meeting that right now (with regards to this issue), but they are working hard to get there.
The March “R7” Release
Later in March there will be another release, R7, that will address a number of the problems that people have complained about. Intuit posted a You Tube video that highlights some of the changes. Greg had said that he believes that this will go a long way towards solving problems, but that this is not the last step – more will be coming.
My Thoughts On This
It is clear that Intuit has to change their product testing procedures. When they make a major change they need to run it by actual users in the field much earlier in the process. Currently they do early testing in “lab” situations, controlled environments. The field (beta) testing comes too close to the targeted release date. Greg Wright states that this will change – we’ll see if that happens.
This is not an isolated case where Intuit has had failures in rolling out product updates – I can point out problems with their developer’s toolkit, the Intuit Community forum, and other products. Their approach to testing and releasing products is broken and fails to protect their users. It needs to change on a company-wide basis.
I understand and agree with their decision to move forward with this updated feature rather than going back to the prior version. Many people are not happy with that and won’t agree with my opinion. However, features like this are not little plug-in modules that can easily be swapped in and out, and this year they made a number of other very significant changes. It would most likely have taken just as long to fix the problem by rolling things back as it has to move forward as they are doing. Also, while people are not happy about the time that it is taking for them to fix it, I think that it is wise to not rush out quick fixes that could just make matters worse. They are taking time to get the fixes out – people are impatient, but it is better to have them actually fix the problems rather than push out buggy patches.
I’m not sure that I agree with all of the marketing decisions that were made in relation to how this was handled. I work in a different kind of software environment – smaller companies, smaller products, and I don’t run a publicly traded company – and there are different rules there.
The good news is that Intuit has recognized that there is a problem and is working on resolving it, both with this feature and hopefully for the entire product line in the future. Intuit will hopefully change their testing procedures to avoid this happening again, and Intuit seems to realize that they need to engage their users publicly to keep them informed as to what is going on.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Charlie Russell is the founder of CCRSoftware. He’s been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70’s, focusing on inventory and accounting software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor. Look for Charlie’s articles in the Accountex Report blog, as well as his California Wildflower Hikes blog.
Sites That Link to this Post
- QuickBooks 2014 Bank Feeds - QuickBooks and Beyond : QuickBooks and Beyond | September 19, 2013