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I, like my publisher Gary, was fortunate enough to be invited to Intuit's World Headquarters for a Summit covering everything from their newest products, to their development strategies and methods, future designs and other 'hush hush' topics. We also examined the future of accountancy and how accounting and consulting practices will need to adapt to the changing ecosystem driven by client demands, user preferences and regulatory requirements.
Now readers, I realize this is a long read, especially for a non-technical topic, but I can hardly fit in everyone I must thank...so just think of this as one of those long-winded thank you speeches at an awards ceremony and 'hang in there with me.'
I was in the company of such noted experts as Jim Baker, Dawn Brolin, Peter Cullen, Beth Damis, Seth David, Daniel Hood, Jennifer Katrulya, Stacy Kildal, Michelle Long, Laura Madeira, Ali Maloy, Gail Perry, MB Raimondi, and Eileen Sass, all of whom I either got to "work with" (yes we really did 'work' at this gathering) or at least pick-their-brains during chats. (Now I know there are many whom I am not mentioning, so to them I say 'please don't be offended', but I wasn't fortunate enough to sit at your table.) Of course such giants as Randy Johnston, Charlie Russell, Doug Sleeter and Joe Woodard were there to lend their own unique outlook on the future of our industry.
Beyond this group of elite from the USA, Intuit also made this a truly 'global' event since a big part of our focus was on how the global economy and internet have changed the way we work and play with others. Charlie Carne and John Stodyk of the United Kingdom were both insightful in terms of how our once sovereign does things, as well as the UK's unique perspectives and needs.
Marnie Stretch, who I have e-chat with several times in the past, came from Canada to 'sit at my table' the first day, (or maybe I was sitting at 'her table'); she was a delight and hard worker. On the trip to the airport I also got to chat briefly with Esther Friedberg-Karp, another Canadian who works with companies both there and in the USA.
But our global perspective didn't stop there, Margaret Carey and Diane Lucas both came from Australia to give insights as to how the "land down under" does things. I forgot to ask them if Koala prefer their QBO run on iPad or Android.
Aniket Talati and Kamlesh Vikamsey came from India, I found it very interesting that even though India has adopted the International Financial Accounting Standards, they are still producing two sets of financials. Both of these guys are leading the way for QBO in India.
To all of my fellow participants, thank you for making this a great experience. So now let me begin by thanking all the hundreds (if not thousands) of Intuit employees who worked both in the forefront and behind the scenes in making this Summit 'a wonderland of learning'.
A big Thank You to Brad Smith, Intuit President & CEO who gave the opening address with a vision of where Intuit is headed. But more importantly he did not simply take credit for their achievements, he admitted past weaknesses while simultaneously expressing earnest interest in learning from not only us, but every user of Intuit products. He also gratefully acknowledged the contributions of the thousands of Intuit employees who bring concept to reality.
Amit Walia, VP of Product Mgmt. for the Accountant and Advisor Group, along with Terry Hicks, VP of Small Business Financial Solutions, gave us an overview of the New QuickBooks Online speaking on the major enhancements to speed, usability, and of course appearance. After which we were put through a series of exercises using QBO. Thanks Amit and Terry for giving us a taste of the new QBO, even if Laura and I had to use it from a 'Mac' (it only took us twice as long since we are not that Mac literate but we succeeded anyway.)
After hearing more on goals and objectives as well as the processes Intuit uses from Jill Ward, Sr. VP and GM of the Accountant and Advisor Group, Dan Maurer, Sr. VP and GM of the Small Business Management Group, and Dan Wernikoff, Sr. VP and GM of the Small Business Financial Solutions Group, after which there were a lot of questions, this is where some of that 'hush hush' came out. At the end of the Q&A they gave us, "the Summit-40", our mission to design three new features, and so "our" work pretty much began. Thank you Jill, Dan and Dan for teaching us "the Intuit Way".
Our goal to brainstorm, banter back-n-forth, and ultimately design from hundreds of ideas down to 3 potential new product features. You can only imagine how 40 different people, plus at least a dozen or more Intuit facilitators, go through this 'design-for-delight' process. Not only taking a general idea but tracking out the various aspects so that Intuit engineers could then write code to produce a working prototype.
I can no longer imagine a world without lime-green post-it notes. Stacy would write an idea on one sticky, and then clump 49 other green sticky's to it to enunciate her idea (I never knew there were so many synonyms for fabulous). Our 27" x 34" easel had tails 6 feet long at times until (thank goodness) Aruna Harder, a Sr. Product Manager for QB-Online, and our Intuit Facilitator at that first day's table, was able to whittle those tails down to 1 concise concept. Thanks Aruna for helping our table become cohesive.
Let me not forget to mention that Intuit's founder, Scott Cook, came and quietly sat and took notes at our table before moving on to another table. I probably wouldn't even have noticed if Stacy and Laura hadn't turned that into an undercover photo opportunity; I only figured it out when I realized that for the first time Stacy's iPhone camera was facing her rather than away. Thanks Mr. Cook for putting up with our table.
Since the Intuit story begins with Scott Cook and his wife sitting around a table talking about balancing the family checkbook (from which Quicken was born), it almost seemed as though the story had come full circle. Alas our table's concept will not be the next Quicken, our idea lost out in the overall process to an entirely different concept. Even with that, this was a great experience for not only learning the needs and wants of others, but in establishing a single goal from an almost endless number of suggestions. Thanks Intuit for teaching me a 'new way' to conceptualize.
Our second day culminated when Kevin Kirn, Intuit's Group Product Manager for QuickBooks Online, and his team revealed the feature which the 'Summit-40' conceptualized. While it was still rough-around-the-edges, as one might expect after just a single night's programming, it provided the basic feature set which had at it's foundation all those lime green sticky notes posted by the collective. A great big thanks to Kevin and his entire team for many late hours work in turning concept into reality. I also need to thank Karen Stroup, Intuit's Dir. of Product Mgmt. for Accountant & Advisor Group who served as our table's facilitator on day-2.
I can hardly begin to thank Intuit for the hospitality they showed us, you gave the "Summit-40" an experience of a lifetime. A special thanks to Kim Amsbaugh, Sr. Communications Manager at Intuit, for helping to not only keep me on schedule, but 'media source rich' with details. I also want to thank Woody Adams, Product Specialist at Intuit, who gave me the opportunity to plug, re-plug, and re-plug again, Intuitive Accountant in an Intuit video produced during the Summit.
Last, but by no means least, let me thank the thousands of hard working Intuit employees around the world who are striving every day to improve our financial lives so profoundly that we can't imagine going back to the old way.