Angus Thomson is the man minding the mid-market. He came to Intuit from the Boston Consulting Group about 18 months ago as vice president of corporate strategy responsible for helping guide Intuit's overall strategic direction. Thomson took on the role of general manager and vice president of Intuit's mid-market group on April 1, when his boss, Brad Smith, told him that he needed to get out from behind the whiteboard into the trenches.
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Those trenches involve Intuit's aggressive push into the mid-market, outlined at its QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions user conference in San Diego in June. The company wants to convince more QuickBooks users to "stretch" to the enterprise product and to lure midsize companies currently using products like Sage Software's MAS line and Microsoft Dynamics GP to switch, as well as to convince resellers of competitive applications to add QBES to their toolkits.
Strategic moves by the company also include entering the professional services market by improving time management, more concentration on the wholesale distribution and construction industries, delving into the banking arena, and potentially developing a business intelligence tool.
What are your goals in your current role?
To help the team amplify the progress they're making. Six years ago when we launched this product, it was a recognition that there were firms on Pro and Premier that were growing up and we were missing the opportunity to serve them. We built a product and significantly amplified it over the years. Now, with 6,000 people having switched from other products, we realize we're becoming a disruptive force in the mid-market.
What are some of the biggest improvements you've made to QBES?
Our database. We had to really grow up and get a true relational database and that's what we did with SQL last year in our 6.0 release. Advanced permissions and security features.
The Linux announcement (made in June), which is the only Intuit product on open source. Twenty percent of current users operate in Linux environments. We were forcing them to run a separate Windows server. We were costing these organizations hard dollars because we didn't run on a Linux server and we wanted to remove that disadvantage.
Describe the competitive landscape.
Where it's been is Fortune 500 solutions trying to serve 500-or even 50-employees. Eighty percent of our customers say ease of use is the No. 1 thing they love. It's still meaningful for people in a mid-market firm who have to struggle with the module structure of MAS. We have 38,000 companies using QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, that represents 250,000 users and that's only roughly over 6 percent of the total middle market. A lot of business comes from "stretchers" who need to grow up from Pro and Premier. Switchers are on MAS 90 or GP or from vertical solutions that don't serve customers the way they want to. It's like driving an oil tanker through a water ski course, it's way too big a product.
What do your users still need and what are your plans to address that?
The need for business intelligence has been clearly vocalized to us. We were alpha testing what people wanted to be able to do in our Innovations Theater (at the conference). When you have a large organization, you need to be able to run reports like that for yourself and division managers.
What did you discover during the Town Hall meetings at your conference that surprised you?
Reports take really long to run. Our latest release [lets users] run reports two to 20 times faster. I thought reporting was a strength of ours, but our users are saying they want to run different types of reports. I was surprised at the challenges around single-user mode. You have to get people off other computers. That's something we're going to focus a significant amount of our engineering time on.
Talk about Intuit's February acquisition of Digital Insight and its focus on the banking industry.
Acquiring Digital Insight, which outsources online banking functionality for [smaller] banks, was a great way of offering functionality in Quicken and QuickBooks through a medium people are voting on, and that's online banking.