Intuit Bakes Community Directly in Quickbooks Product

Left Image: This sample screenshot of the embedded community experience from the Quickbooks site.

Over the next few years, expect your friends and network of experts to be interacting with you as you use desktop software –community will be integrated within your products.

This weekend, I had a discussion with Scott Wilder at Intuit, who is one of the practice leaders when it comes to community and how it impacts business. He’s one of those leading the charge at Intuit, who has developed very large communities that thrive beyond the product itself and serve the lifestyle of the community.

Scott discussed his strategy of embedding the community features right in the software products –extending the discussion, network, and peer to peer strategy past awareness, consideration, purchase all the way to support and development. Although this is mainly a supporting objective, when brands embed community this close it’s naturally going to lead to ’embracing’. Watch this video to learn about all five objectives: listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing.

[Software products will integrate your contacts in the application experience –encouraging peer learn, self-support, and community improvements]

The software product embeds the community features right into the Quickbooks, not a link, not a popup, but as part of the product experience.

Of course, more challenges lay in wait for Intuit: 1) They need to have a plan to ensure the community will understand and adopt these changes 2) Need to make it clear what the scope of this community is and what it’s not 3) Be internally prepared for what changes this brings to future product development and how it impacts support –undoubtly, customers will make product suggestions, and others will chime in.

How can this cascade to other products? Microsoft, Dell, Oracle, SAP, IBM, HP, Symantec, Electronic Arts, Hitachi, Adobe, Autodesk (Bill Johnston leaves this comment), and Apple can start to embed community into their desktop operating system and software. TV shows can start to allow users to embed community actually on the TV set (we saw an early taste of this with Current TV during the elections), and the possibilities can continue on.

Now if you have a software product and a community, forward this post on to them, and initiate an internal discussion, to find out if customers are really core to your mission, and when this would make sense to trial or even put on the roadmap.

All of this points to the larger trend how people are connecting to each other, and forming their own power bases, some companies who embrace this stand to benefit –but only if they are prepared.

  • “can this cascade to other products? Microsoft…”

    Well, Microosft has had this feature for a while. Visual Studio 2005 has a feature in the help system that will return the best rated content from the Codezone community sites and answers in thre MSDN forums including contributions from MVP experts, the product’s help system, and the MSDN site, which includes contributions by the community wiki-style.

    Kudos to Intuit, but this was done some time ago. I guess I am biased because I was part of the team

    http://blogs.msdn.com/devmktg/archive/2005/10/28/486547.aspx

  • I don’t think that it’s a big deal where the HTML files are embedded. What is important is that they have started a community for their clients. Having it in the software does help and simplifies things for sure, no questions there. The cool thing that I noticed on their community was that related content shows on your right side depending on what you are doing on the left. Blogtronix is working on similar, but smarter (Web 3.0) technology and I can appreciate what they are trying to do- helping their clients.

  • Vassil

    How’s it bud? It does make a difference where it is, as it’s now in context of the application. This means that using applications are no longer a solitary experience –it’s social.

    Having a standalone separate community is walking, but integrating with products along the way is running.

  • For new products it’s not about ’embedding’ a community – the collaboration is baked right into the workflow of the app. For eg: At Spiceworks we’ve built asking questions, rating products, discussing the latest IT news with other users right into the workflow of our network management software for small-and-medium businesses. Another example is Tuneup from FiveRuns where collaborative debugging is built into the workflow of code profiler.

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  • I wonder how their customers will feel about participating in a community through their financial application? I am thinking of privacy concerns. I know that Intuit works very hard on privacy issues, but wonder if that is a hurdle they need to get over?

  • I am an old advocate of this concept; here a blog post a couple weeks ago: http://selvascano.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!D7439E6DC600CAE9!1555.entry I also was part of the team that delivered the integration Gerardo mentioned above (BTW; that included both the MSFT owned communities as well as 3rd party community sites that addressed relevant topics).

    My key concern for this approach is how to make it work when you may have a product that addresses more than one target audience; maybe the answer is to package those separately.. i.e. if I have a product that appeals boomers for x reason and youngsters for y reason (different reasons) I may want to have those communities separate so they can be relevant to each target audience in their own way.. Thoughts?

  • correction to the url above: http://tinyurl.com/6zphdf

  • Jeremiah,

    Since you mentioned Autodesk specifically, I wanted to point out that the product and community teams were experimenting with integrating community experiences in to products starting in 2000.

    A couple of key points:
    – Most users / members don’t want the web-based UX shoved in to the product interface.
    – It’s key to provide the appropriate content / experience at point of need (like relevant discussion threads as part of a help experience).

  • Thanks Bill, I learn something new everyday. I’ll update the post and point to this comment.

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  • Disclaimer: I am from Intuit and mentioned above.

    Jeremiah:

    Thanks for mentioning us. Just a few points to follow up on the topics raised above.

    – Concerning the privacy issue, we do give users the option to turn it off can close the window. (also note that we discussed this with many users before launching it)

    – It is important to note that this in product experience is integrated with our existing community…..so day 1 — lots of answers flow into the product

    – The answers that flow into the product go beyond just product related questions. Users can also share advice and information about general small business issues

    – As Bill Johnson mentions — it is important to provide information at point of need or ‘in context.’ So, all the questions and answers are relevant to where the user is in the product. (or as someone else said — in sync with the users workflow)

    All the comments above are great. So feel free to send me more. I am interested in learning more from you all.

    Scott

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