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An interview with Palo Alto Software’s CFO Trevor Betenson, on why he switched the company from QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise Edition to QuickBooks Online, and why he feels QuickBooks Online is ready for most businesses.
About the interviewer: Kathy Gregory is the Program Manager for the Accountant’s Channel at Palo Alto Software.
About the interviewee: Trevor Betenson is the Chief Financial Officer at Palo Alto Software
We often hear from accountants (this is the leading question) that QuickBooks Online is mostly for small, simple companies and it can’t handle a more complex structure. With this in mind, can you describe Palo Alto Software from a CFO’s perspective, or an accountant’s perspective? Please address those things that impact your choice in an accounting solution.
Palo Alto Software has been around since the late 1980s. We transitioned about six years ago to primarily developing and selling an online product called LivePlan. We have almost 70 employees and a wholly-owned subsidiary in the United Kingdom.
I think that as you’re looking at what accounting system works best for your company, it’s important to think about your internal processes and what functionality you really need. We’ve used three different accounting products during my tenure here as CFO.
In the last six years, we’ve transitioned from NetSuite to QuickBooks Enterprise to most recently, QuickBooks Online. As I looked at deciding which accounting system to use, it was really about understanding our core financial features and what the executive team needed the accounting system to do.
A lot of times it’s not necessarily the size of the company that matters. I’ve used QuickBooks Desktop for companies that had 30 million dollars in revenue and had a lot of transactions, and it worked just fine. I’ve also used other software solutions for smaller companies, but because of the complexity of how they did things, QuickBooks didn’t work.
For us, it was just really about determining that we needed a strong accounting program, which QuickBooks Online does really well.
For us, it was just really about determining that we needed a strong accounting program, which QuickBooks Online does really well. We have other systems that keep track of our customers, which a lot of companies do. It’s probably more of a function of how you do your accounting versus the size of the company.
How long have you been an Intuit products user?
I’ve been using QuickBooks products for about 15 years. I’ve used Quickbooks Pro, Quickbooks Premier, Quickbooks Accountant’s version, Quickbooks Enterprise version, and now QuickBooks Online. I’ve used the simple version, and I’ve also used the accountant’s version of Quickbooks Online.
Are there any features or aspects of QuickBooks Desktop that you didn’t like?
For me, one of the biggest challenges was the multi-user scenario. It seemed like every company I worked at had problems when it was in single-user mode when really it needed to be in multi-user mode, but that the person responsible for changing it was on lunch break or vacation. Or, the server where Quickbooks Desktop resided had restarted over the weekend, and someone logged in first thing in the morning and it just defaulted to single-user mode. Getting locked out of Quickbooks Desktop for all those different reasons happened more often than I wanted and it was a big pain point. As a CFO, managing the company finances, I need to have access to our accounting system all of the time. Period. Getting locked out due to single versus multi-use functionality was just not acceptable to me.
The other issue I had was with the annual upgrade. We paid for the annual maintenance and support, which gave us the free versions every year. I realize that some companies don’t do that. They might be a couple versions behind, but at some point they stop supporting older versions, so you need to upgrade. Every time we did that, it was a disruption in our workflow. Depending on how things went, sometimes we had to call support and we had to deal with issues related to upgrading.