It might seem a strange choice, but US-based Intuit chose Ireland as the next step in its expansion for a reason. True, with a population just shy of five million it’s not exactly the most populous place on Earth, but it is, nonetheless, attractive.
For a start, there is the structure of the economy. While the global giants who have made their European headquarters here often dominate the headlines, the country’s domestic economy is more varied.
Figures from the Central Statistics Office’s (CSO) Business in Ireland 2019 survey show that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) combined accounted for 23 per cent of Irish gross value added (GVA)— and a further 19 per cent was generated by micro-enterprises that employ fewer than ten persons. In addition, the total SME workforce in 2016, the most recent year the 2019 survey covers, was over one million, representing 68.4 per cent of the overall workforce. SMEs also accounted for 50.2 per cent of the financial turnover in the country.
Clearly, this was not lost on Intuit, which has now launched QuickBooks Ireland, cloud-based accounting software aimed squarely at these businesses – and at their accountants.
“Ireland is attractive for a number of reasons, primarily the challenges that small businesses have, with which we think we can help,” said Jolawn Victor, director and country manager for emerging markets and global expansion at Intuit.
Victor said that the country represented an ideal market for expansion because of the characteristics.
“There is a critical mass in Ireland of really savvy, tech-forward small business enterprises that are ripe for the capability that QuickBooks can bring.”
Intuit’s first move was to put a team on the ground. This team lived in Ireland, worked here and consulted with accountants. During this process it uncovered four so-called pain points in Ireland: Vat compliance, doing business across the EU, getting paid faster, and being “tech-forward”.
Vat is an issue due to the specificities of the Irish regime, and launching an Irish product aims to change it utterly: hitherto, using the international editions of QuickBooks meant the Irish Vat regime had to be set up manually.
This was no easy task, said Victor.
“Our product specialist did a time-lapse video, and it took him three hours to set up Vat manually before we launched the Ireland product – and he is an expert,” she said.
QuickBooks Ireland vastly streamlines this work.
“It’s very complicated and there’s a lot of knowledge required. We’ve gone from that three-hour process to a three-click process. It doesn’t require research.”
Intuit also noted the number of Irish businesses working across the EU and ensured the likes of the old manual Vat process didn’t have to be replicated time and again with internet research on local regimes.
Another specificity of business in Ireland isn’t regulatory, though. It’s cultural: late payment.
During its research period, Intuit found that cashflow was a bigger problem in Ireland than in other countries and worked to automate invoicing and messaging about invoicing.
This is obviously now more important than ever.
“Getting paid right now is so important, with the coronavirus. Chasing payments is such a thing in Ireland,” said Victor.
“We’re actually rolling out a feature this month called a Cashflow Planner: we can predict what you will have on hand.”
The fact that Intuit considers Irish business tech-savvy also had an impact.
“In terms of being tech-forward, we saw people who were running their entire business off their phones.”
QuickBooks Ireland is software-as-a-service (SaaS), with nothing to install, and allows for working in this manner. Data can be captured from receipts manually, of course, but also from photographs. In addition, it connects directly to banks like AIB, Bank of Ireland and Revolut.
“As you know, your bank statement is the source of truth,” said Victor.
It also reduces IT infrastructure costs.
Of course, businesses themselves are only one part of the equation. The other, equally important part, is accountants. Victor said that Intuit’s goal is to help accountants move from bookkeeping to consulting by streamlining the processes.
“Value billing is on the rise and that’s very exciting for accountants. The value is still the same, but it doesn’t take eight hours of time to perform the same task. So, instead of being transactional, you can be more of an adviser,” she said.
The response has been positive.
“We saw a 48-point increase in the product recommendation score. There’s been massive satisfaction among customers,” she said.