The small business market should be the developers next focus
|Richard Harris in Enterprise Tuesday, September 26, 2017|
Why small businesses may be the next frontier for developers and how Intuit wants to help make that transition smoother.
Alex Barnett recently returned to Intuit to head up their Developer Group and he could not be more inspired by the role developers are playing in small business success. Here Alex explains the myriad ways Intuit is championing developers and why he sees the small business app marketplace as the next frontier for developers.
ADM: What is your role at Intuit?
Barnett: I lead the Developer Group at Intuit, which means that I am responsible for the platform that enables third party developers to integrate with QuickBooks Online and publish apps to the QuickBooks Online App Store. I am a "boomerang" Intuit employee and I chose to come back to Intuit earlier this year after four years away - I am so inspired by how essential developers have become to Intuit's strategy, and how important they are to Intuit's goal of being the champion of small businesses and solving the important problems they face.
ADM: How is Intuit advocating for developers?
Barnett: We are hyper-focused on developer success and strive to create opportunities where developers can grow their businesses by integrating with our platform and gaining access to our 2.3 million QuickBooks Online customers around the world. One of the most exciting ways we champion developers is through our Small Business App Showdown, an app contest exclusively for developers who have published their apps on the QuickBooks App Store. The top ten finalists are featured at Intuit's annual QuickBooks Connect conference (November 16-17, 2017 in San Jose, CA) and get a chance to demo their app in front of potential customers - entrepreneurs, accountants, and small businesses owners - for a chance to win $100,000. This is an amazing opportunity for developers to gain unprecedented visibility and capital, which can be game changing.
ADM: How are developers leveraging Intuit's API? What are some examples of the results they are seeing?
Barnett: Developers use Intuit's API in many different ways. In fact, there are over a billion API calls per month, representing a huge amount of data flowing in and out of the 3rd party apps that work with QuickBooks Online. We've worked with amazing developers to provide foundational small business tools like time-tracking, expenses, and inventory, and we've partnered with companies like Google, PayPal, and Square to create seamless integrations that eliminate manual data entry and make it easier for customers to manage their businesses. I believe there are plenty more opportunities for us to improve our ecosystem end-to-end by advancing our platform, attracting the right apps to the QuickBooks App Store, and continuing to partner with impressive developers and companies around the world.
ADM: What does Intuit look for in apps?
Barnett: We look for apps and integrations that take advantage of the QuickBooks Online platform and provide experiences that allow small business owners to focus on their passion, rather than balancing the books. Right now, we have almost 1700 active apps created for the QuickBooks Online platform and just hit a milestone - 500 apps listed in the QuickBooks Online App Store. This includes new apps like AutoEntry, an app that automates entry of bills, receipts, bank statements, and sales invoices; Clio, a cloud-based legal practice management solution; Quotient, an online estimating and proposal app; and Chargebee, a subscription management, recurring billing and invoicing solution. We want a diverse mix of apps and are always looking for quality apps that can help small businesses succeed.
ADM: How does Intuit partner with developers to help them get their app listed on Apps.com?
Barnett: We know that there are lots of platforms that developers can choose from, so we are well aware that our platform needs to show developers a tangible ROI. It is one of our goals to provide developers with the best API and services that will allow them to make amazing integrations and tap into Intuit's 2.3 million subscribers. Along with providing advocacy programs like Small Business App Showdown, we also provide developers with tools like sample apps and sample code to demonstrate how to use the QuickBooks API and provide a starting point for building apps; Sandboxes to help build and integrate with QuickBooks Online, trainings and webinars, support teams available via phone and chat, and developer forums. We're continuously working to make the developer experience better.
ADM: How do you see Intuit's developer ecosystem evolving?
Barnett: The growth of our customer base, number of third party apps, and the quality of those apps and integrations has progressed significantly in recent years. But I believe we've only just started solving the myriad of complex problems small businesses around the world face. We have a vision of becoming the global, trusted platform of choice for all developers serving small businesses and accountants, and we are working toward this every day. For example, we've recently evolved how we think of our platform and ecosystem. It's no longer just a relationship between a small business and a developer. Accountants are an equally important part of the equation because accountants often advise their small business clients on which apps to download and use. This "three-sided network" of developers, small businesses and accountants creates invaluable opportunities for connection and represents a true evolution in how we think about our developer ecosystem at Intuit.
We are also evolving by leveraging emerging technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to personalize our ecosystem experience. This not only improves data accuracy and flow, as it learns from every action a small business makes, but helps to ensure that we're serving up the right apps for each small business based on their unique needs. For the developer, it provides better in product discovery for their apps. We're only just scratching the surface on the possibilities of machine learning and AI and will continue to innovate in this space.
and Partner Platform at Intuit
ADM: Why do you think the small business market poses a big opportunity for developers?
Barnett: There are over 800 million small businesses and self-employed people around the world that collectively drive around 40% of the world's economy. As more and more of these businesses run in the cloud, we see this has a huge opportunity for developers. In a recent study we found that 17 percent of QuickBooks Online customers are already using one or more apps that integrate with QuickBooks and 68 percent of all small businesses use an average of four apps. Small businesses are always looking for tools to simplify their life, and apps are often the first place they look. Another related opportunity developers should be aware of is accountants. In fact, fifty-three percent of QuickBooks Online customers have an accountant and, of these customers, 20 percent are connected to third party apps. Accountants are always looking for apps to recommend to their customers so they can serve as trusted business advisors. That's the focus of our platform - connecting small businesses, developers and accountants to create a network effect that will benefit all parties.
ADM: If a developer wanted to enter the small business apps market, what is one piece of advice you would give them?
Barnett: Your solution should have the goal of helping small businesses work smarter. I would recommend talking to small business owners and accountants and listening to their pain points. Small businesses are always looking for new ways to run their business and accountants need tools that can recommend to their small business clients. If you can create an app that solves the everyday challenges small businesses face and can simplify complex, time-consuming tasks, there is potential for your app to make a real difference in the lives of small business owners.
About Alex Barnett
Alex Barnett is Director of Developer and Partner Platform at Intuit, leading developer relations, product management and partner integration solutions, focusing on driving developer success and growing Intuit's 3rd party apps ecosystem.
Barnett brings more than 17 years of developer platform leadership. Prior to returning to Intuit after a four-year stint away, Alex was VP of Developer Relations at Risk Management Solutions (RMS) - the world's leading catastrophe risk modeling company, responsible for building and developer network and ecosystem around RMS(one) - the insurance industry's first risk management, modeling and analytics open platform. Previously, he served as the group manager of developer relations at Intuit for 5 years, VP of Developer Community at Bungee Labs, a pioneer in the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) space after spending five years at Microsoft Corp. in various product management and marketing positions, including SQL Server and MSDN. Before joining Microsoft, Alex was COO at a leading digital marketing and Web development agency (Bluewave) for seven years. Alex played professional cricket for eight years (Middlesex and Lancashire).
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