Anyone who has ever investigated the world of small business accounting software knows the name QuickBooks. Long the market leader, QuickBooks has won numerous awards thanks to its usability and a smart set of accounting tools. The software family has been around since the early 90s, when QuickBooks for DOS was launched.
Over the years, the product range has grown. QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions is the newest (though it's at least a decade old) member, and the most sophisticated. It looks and works exactly like the more junior versions of QuickBooks, which means it uses simplified language and a clean, attractive user interface, along with straightforward navigational tools to make accounting more understandable for non-accountants.
QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, being at the very top of the Intuit food chain, adds complexity and capacity in many areas. It's superior to the rest of the line in areas like pricing flexibility, inventory management and reporting. It can track tens of thousands of people, items, accounts and so forth, and up to 30 employees can access it simultaneously.
That would imply that QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions can be used by companies large enough to have 30 people working on the financial books at the same time. It's unlikely that the application would be used by such a sizable business, however, given that it's not scalable. It's rooted to the desktop (unless it's hosted) without the benefit of a lot of comparable add-ons (it can integrate with options in the Intuit App Centre, but they're not built to take advantage of midrange solutions, except for Salesforce), and it lacks some of the automation and depth offered by the midrange solutions.
Like Sage 50 Quantum, QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions touches the low end of midrange accounting applications (though it doesn't have the inventory management muscle to rival Sage 50 Quantum unless you pay for the Advanced Inventory module). It's gone about as far as it can go in terms of meeting small business bookkeeping needs without overwhelming its target market with too much.
Therefore, for the past few years Intuit has focused on giving users better access to their existing data and streamlining the interface. Its core is a solid double-entry, GAAP-compliant accounting solution, but as it faces the user, it replicates the tasks they were previously doing manually. It maintains a general ledger and provides record and transaction forms for managing accounts payable and receivable, inventory and payroll, and reports.
Because it's a desktop software product, though, it makes those financial chores faster and easier, and the results more accurate. Once you create a customer record using the templates provided, for example, you can insert that data anywhere it's needed – on an invoice, in a collection letter, in a report, and so on, without ever having to type it in again. All of the program's individual elements are integrated, and they're designed to accelerate the daily workflow and ensure that accounting rules are followed, warning the user when something isn't being done correctly.
Above and beyond
QuickBooks Pro and Premier do all of those things, but Enterprise Solutions adds functionality and flexibility to every part of the product. Forms have more custom fields. You can work on two company files simultaneously and create consolidated financial statements. You can do more tasks on a global and/or multi-user level, like change price levels or set defaults, or adjust inventory. Pricing levels are far more flexible: You can establish hundreds of them.
Inventory management – always the weakest area in Pro and Premier – is much stronger. You can manage multiple warehouses and always know where your stock is down to the bin level. Bar code scanning and serial or lot tracking are also available. It supports two costing methods: Average cost and FIFO (Sage 50 Quantum and true midrange solutions offer more). QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions also supports connections to ODBC-compliant applications for custom report creation.
A new look
In 2012, Intuit completely revamped what had been an old, cramped user interface on all of its products, including QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions. The results were effective. The home page is now much cleaner, more open and less confusing. A large interactive process map with icons for the most commonly-used tasks is planted there. To the left is a new icon bar that can be moved to the top or hidden. The program shortcuts at the top of the pane can be customised to accommodate your own workflow preferences. You can click on other bars in the pane to toggle between your shortcuts, account balances, your favourite reports and a list of open windows.
You can also use the standard menus at the top of the screen for navigation. And once you get into record and transaction screens, you'll now work with a Microsoft Office-like ribbon bar that displays activities related to the open form, like Find, Save, Memorise, Print, or convert to another type of form (estimate-to-invoice, for example). You'll enter data and make selections from drop-down lists to complete the fields in these screens.
I think this look and navigational screen is easier to use and more attractive than Sage 50 Quantum.
Intuit includes a year's worth of unlimited help in its subscription price, as well as online backup and software upgrades. This is especially critical for QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, since its program-based help is rather lacking.
Also lacking are features that Sage Quantum also doesn't offer. QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions falls short in areas like automated processes and approvals, revenue recognition management, customisation and easy custom reporting, and real-time access to project costs, revenue, profitability, etc. By missing some of the features and capabilities that would make them true midrange accounting solutions, they're less able to help company managers make more informed business decisions and reduce overhead costs.
Intuit doesn't position QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions as a peer of NetSuite, Intacct or Microsoft Dynamics GP. But it's at the top of the QuickBooks solution family – as far as current users can go without making a drastic software change. Dedicated users will begin to spend more time outside of the application, on things like spreadsheets and workarounds, to avoid that switch.
QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions would be a good choice for a small business that's already using a QuickBooks product but needs to manage the financial books of multiple entities and maintain inventory at more than one location, and which needs more generous data limits. When more is required – the native anytime/anywhere access, robust flexibility, extensibility and financial analysis, and automation – it's time to leave the Intuit family and move up to a midrange product.