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Intuit To Broaden Focus With New Software

Next year, Intuit will place more emphasis on vertical markets and on businesses with 20 to 250 employees.
It's been an eventful year for Intuit Inc., all things considered. In addition to making its proprietary QuickBooks code available to developers, it encountered some formidable new competitors. Last summer, Oracle unveiled small-business hosted accounting applications. And, as a result of its Great Plains Software acquisition, Microsoft recently began shipping accounting and payroll-management software for businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

So Intuit's 2002 strategy will be to aim high--and wide. Expect more emphasis on vertical markets and on customers with 20 to 250 employees, Intuit execs say. To address the latter, Intuit plans next summer to release software code-named Hercules. The company has 250,000 users in the 20- to 250-employee bracket, a small but growing percentage of its 3 million QuickBooks users.

Designed for 10 users (QuickBooks currently handles five), the new software will double capacity for customer and vendor lists, as well as provide more customized reporting capabilities. That's a common request for companies with more than 20 employees, which usually have multiple locations and departments, making reporting more complex, says Heather Crothers, director of QuickBooks brand management. Another new feature will be a human-resources management component focused on compliance issues. The tool isn't completed yet, but will include elements such as an employee-manual creator and an online component that helps companies stay abreast of regulatory and legal issues.

The company wants to broaden its market from accounting software to business-management software and focus on a wide array of vertical markets. It's accomplishing part of that goal through acquisitions and internal development. This year, the company released software for the construction industry, after acquiring software company Omware, and will target small retailers in the spring with QuickBooks Point-of-Sale for Retailers. But by working with third-party developers, Intuit hopes to address every vertical imaginable, Crothers says.

The ability to create a product that seamlessly combines HR, CRM, and other functions has great appeal for customers, Yankee Group analyst Michael Lauricella says. "From the end-user perspective, so many vendors selling such a wide variety of applications has caused complete confusion." As Intuit's product integrates more easily with other software, it will lead to less customer churn, he says. "If you're running more of your business on it, it's very unlikely that you will switch vendors--because if you do, it will be a painful process."