Your financial data is the foundation of your business. It isn’t just how you keep organized; it is where you get the information to make great decisions — when you have the time to run the reports you need.
The challenge is finding the time to run the reports. Working the software options in Quickbooks can feel like a full-time job, especially if you don’t live in it doing your accounting. For small business owners, this means either staying late trying to find the settings and graphs that answer the question in your head. Or you have to take what you have at hand and make decisions with the reports you set up and run regularly. You don’t really have the ability to run ad hoc reports simply when you need them.
One option is to get an assistant that knows QuickBooks and can run all of your financial reports for you. Another is to pester your accountant, but this can run up fees. Also, if you are exploring a bunch of questions, it is difficult to ask the right question on the first request. You need to go back and forth.
Given how quickly technology is changing at home, shouldn’t your financial data be easier to access?
It has been eight years since IBM Watson beat the world champions on Jeopardy. It has been four years since Google’s AI beat the world’s best Go players. Artificial Intelligence is in the news daily, but it hasn’t come to the business software you use.
QuickBooks has a virtual assistant that works with some of their online products through their mobile app, but it is limited to key fields and questions. The initial press release talked about a vision where customers could ask general questions and receive graphical visualizations for the answers. The idea is an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for business software that works from a phone or a PC, but it is still in the Intuit Lab.
Searching the QuickBooks app store doesn’t find an answer today either. There are 75 apps related to “reporting,” but most are connectors to products like Excel or reporting templates. There are none that match “voice interface.”
Focus Softnet has been working on Artificial Intelligence and advanced reporting across different business applications for the last couple of years. It isn’t easy. Natural language search has improved dramatically in the past five years, but it still needs to connect to applications through APIs, which are often limited.
For QuickBooks, what we want is to be able to ask simple questions like:
“QuickBooks — How much sales revenue did we have last month? Last year?”
“QuickBooks — How much cash is the bank right now?”
“QuickBooks — Can you show me the invoices that need to be paid by month?”
Clearly you can hire someone in your finance team to take on these admin tasks, but that will cost $30,000-40,000 per year salary, plus benefits. Or you can look at virtual assistant companies that give you someone with strong QuickBooks experience in their call center, but pricing runs $75-80 per hour with monthly minimums, which quickly cost $20,000 per year. Cloud-based AI software is cheaper and has unlimited usage. Focus Softnet’s QBixe tool costs as little as $1,500 per year.
For the last 20 years, we’ve been taught to do internet searches when we have a question. Learning how to search has allowed a lot of businesses to get ahead. Today we believe if small business owners have the tools to do internal data searches in the same way, it will dramatically improve their business. The vision is simple-searchable, chat, and voice-based access to your business data.
If you want to get ahead, learn how to ask questions and get answers. Start with QuickBooks.