Intuit: Democratizing AI and ML for Small Businesses

Intuit wants to democratize artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for small businesses—many of whom lack the time and expertise to take advantage of these technologies on their own.

To that end, the vendor has been steadily turbo-charging its solutions with AI and ML capabilities to make them “smart”. In 2019, Intuit increased the number of employees working in AI by 60%. The company has developed 104 machine learning models and has filed 447 AI patents.

At QuickBooks Connect 2019, Intuit offered us a glimpse into how it is putting these technologies to work to help small businesses. QuickBooks users manage their businesses more easily and get the insights they need to make better decisions. Intuit is focusing these initiatives on three key areas – Smart Money, Smart Decisions, and Smart Connections. Below, I highlight recently added, new and coming soon capabilities in each of these domains.

Smart Money

Smart Money solutions are designed to help small businesses manage cash flow—money in and money out of the business—more easily and effectively. Some of the latest enhancements include those in:

  • QuickBooks Payments. Everyone wants to get paid faster—and these new Payments capabilities help small businesses do just that. Intuit is adding instant deposit payments to give users immediate access to funds once they get paid via bank transfers or credit cards. Businesses can also create invoices with hours, expenses and mileage automatically entered from QuickBooks via embedded AI. Using a new AI and ML-driven ACH model, QuickBooks Payments can process money transfers even if users mistype bank account details. Intuit has also added new features to GoPayment, its mobile payment app, allowing business owners to create roles and permissions so that employees can accept payments on the job site.
  • QuickBooks Payroll. While Intuit still supports its legacy desktop payroll solution and Intuit Online Payroll, the vendor is focusing a majority of new development on QuickBooks One Payroll. Intuit has fully integrated TSheets time management (Intuit acquired TSheets in December 2017) to automatically feed hours from TSheets into Payroll, notify owners via email, and give them the option to check payroll first or to automatically run it for same-day or next-day employee payments. Knowledge engineering capabilities digitally encode millions of federal, state and local regulations, helping small businesses to improve compliance with overtime laws and tax compliance.
  • QuickBooks Capital. Since launching two years, ago, QuickBooks Capital has funded more than $500 million in small business loans. Intuit’s lending service uses a direct feed from QuickBooks Online (QBO) to dramatically reduce the time and paperwork required in the lending process. Users can apply for the loan from within QBO, and get a decision instantly at the earliest, and within 2-3 days at the latest. At QuickBooks Connect, Intuit announced that it is making QuickBooks Capital loans available to QuickBooks Desktop users in addition to those using QBO.
  • QuickBooks Cash Flow Planner. Slated to launch in Q1 2020, the Cash Flow Planner will use AI-fueled, predictive intelligence models to project cash flow for up to 90 days and provide guidance regarding actions to take to help correct negative cash flow. Behind the scenes, Intuit uses aggregated, anonymized user data to generate predictive scenarios and answer “what if” questions to help businesses maintain positive cash flow.

Smart Decisions

Smart Decisions capabilities help QuickBooks users automate bookkeeping, save time and make better business decisions. Recently launched, new and soon to be available functionality across the portfolio includes:

  • QuickBooks Mobile Receipt Capture. Users can upload, email or snap receipts for expense management, and Receipt Capture extracts the necessary data from the receipt and provides auto-categorization functionality. AI and ML capabilities suggest an expense category based on past transactions, or users can create new categories. To date, Intuit has achieved 80% auto-categorization accuracy across more than one billion QuickBooks transactions.
  • QuickBooks Mileage Tracking. Intuit has also added its mileage tracking technology (first available in QuickBooks Self-Employed) to QuickBooks Online, enabling users to automatically track and separate business and personal mileage and ensure they maximize tax deductions.
  • QuickBooks Online Advanced (QBOAV). Introduced in 2018, QBOAV is designed to provide companies that are outgrowing QuickBooks with greater scalability, additional reporting functionality and personalized services they need to grow. Intuit is adding new functionality to automate transactions and workflows as well as new integrations with third-party tools from spreadsheet programs to a leading cloud-based CRM vendor. Other new capabilities in the works include more advanced visualizations for reporting, custom roles and permissions, and the ability to set up automated workflows.

Smart Connections

According to Intuit, QuickBooks is now the world’s largest small business network, with over 7 million small businesses and self-employed workers, 1 million accounting partners, and 5,000 application developers. Smart Connections is intended to provide QuickBooks users with easy access to the expertise they need to manage their finances. Innovations here include:

  • QuickBooks Live Bookkeeping. This new service has exited beta and is now generally available in the U.S. via a monthly subscription. It leverages AI and data to match QuickBooks customers with skilled, QuickBooks Online certified bookkeepers. Users can contact their virtual bookkeeping team on-demand when they need help, and receive guidance via chat, screen share or SmartLook, a one-way video conferencing system. Through QuickBooks Live, small businesses get much-needed bookkeeping assistance on everything from a customized setup, expense categorization, account reconciliation, month-end close and more, all with an accuracy guarantee, giving business owners the confidence their books are done right plus more time to focus on delighting their own customers and growing their business.
  • QuickBooks Customer Care. Intuit is using AI and ML to make it easier for customers to get answers when they have questions. Help articles are automatically recommended when customers search, reducing the user call rate. Additionally, QuickBooks Assistant Chatbot can determine the nature of customer inquiries, answer them and/or provide more drilled down information and route the user to customer care staff if needed.

Perspective

Intuit isn’t usually top of mind for most people when they think of AI and ML.

But maybe it should be. Intuit’s approach to AI and ML-powered technologies and services offers small businesses a practical and powerful way to put AI and ML technologies to work for their businesses. Intuit takes care of figuring out how to make these technologies useful, and small businesses can then reap the advantages.

Intuit’s huge QuickBooks installed base also gives it an enormous advantage in these endeavors. It can draw billions of aggregated, anonymous data sources from millions of QuickBooks customers, customers to inform and power its initiatives, algorithms, solutions and services.

Judging from this quarter’s results, small businesses like what they see. Intuit announced financial results for the first quarter of fiscal 2020, which ended Oct. 31. Small Business and Self-Employed Group revenue rose 15 percent to $1 billion, and the Small Business Online Ecosystem revenue increased by 35 percent.

Looking ahead, Intuit’s deepening expertise in AI and ML, coupled with its deep understanding of the market, position it for continued success in extending the benefits of its innovations to small businesses.

©SMB Group, 2019

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

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