As anyone with a small business can attest, a crucial part of remaining healthy and growing involves financial planning and the ability to reevaluate and adjust budgets as needed, in real time. But what is the best way to do this? The latest developer in the Intuit Developer Spotlight series has the solution.
“LivePlan is a Lean Planning application that helps companies easily forecast their financial future, track their financial progress, and quickly refine and revise their budgets and forecasts as business conditions change,” says Palo Alto Software COO Noah Parsons. “Budgeting and forecasting is useless unless you keep your forecast up to date based on your goals, and you compare your actual results to your forecast. When you regularly monitor the health of your business, you improve your chances of success exponentially.”
Since its beginnings in 1988, Palo Alto Software – the developer of LivePlan – has been helping businesses grow and succeed. With LivePlan, says Noah, “we set out to re-invent business planning, using our deep knowledge in the field and a forward looking vision of what planning and forecasting should be.”
A Heart for Small Business Success
Palo Alto Software knows what it’s like to be a small business. They grew from one employee to nearly 80 employees, with all the challenges and hurdles of startup along the way, and wanted to develop products that helped other small businesses based on their experience. In a Firm of the Future blog post, LivePlan: Budgeting, Forecasting & Financial Dashboards That Help Small Businesses Grow, Kathy Gregory, Palo Alto’s Director of Strategic Development, notes: “[LivePlan] brings the type of planning and reporting that big businesses do for their boards and management, to a small business owner, who often does not have the training or staff to handle it.”
According to reviews in the QuickBooks App Store for LivePlan, LivePlan has truly succeeded in what they set out to do. One reviewer said: “The entrepreneur in me appreciated the framework that the solution offers, keeping me focused on the key elements of planning and forecasting both a new venture and existing operation. I wish I had used LivePlan throughout the many years I ran my technology company, and I could have really used the modeling tools through the due diligence phase of selling my company.”
So what exactly can a small business do with LivePlan?
- Turn accounting data into easy-to-understand dashboards that help guide decision-making.
- Create smart budgets, forecasts and visual financial reports in minutes.
- Understand the future profit and cash position, and be confident in making spending decisions.
- See how the company stacks up against competitors with Industry Benchmark data.
- Sync QuickBooks data with LivePlan in real-time, providing instant updates on key business metrics.
Additionally, accountants can use LivePlan to deliver efficient and profitable advisory services. They can help their business clients set smart goals, track their profits and cash flow and refine their strategies — all within a step-by-step framework. LivePlan’s accountant’s program also offers online training and certification.
How QuickBooks and Intuit Developer Set Up LivePlan for Success
As Noah says, “The QuickBooks developer platform is one of the most robust in the accounting world and provides the data LivePlan needs to help businesses understand how their business is working and growing. QuickBooks also reaches such a large percentage of small businesses, that it makes sense to focus on working with the platform.”
LivePlan developers appreciate the accounting data service, and support that Intuit QuickBooks provides. It allows them to help their users track business performance, and gain insights into their operations. In addition, many Quickbooks users are accountants who are sophisticated app users that support their small business owner customers through LivePlan. With Intuit’s help, they are better able to help small businesses.
In addition to their robust developer platform and data services, Intuit Developer continuously improves their API documentation and developer guidelines, offers a developer forum for common technical questions, and has a developer support team that is very helpful. As one LivePlan development team member says, “When we ran into technical questions during development, Inuit developers were very approachable and helped troubleshoot our issues in a prompt fashion. Intuit also helped review and pen-test our application, and continue to give useful feedback on user flow of the integration.”
In terms of getting LivePlan into the hands of customers, the QuickBooks App Store for LivePlan provides a clear, concise summary of the app’s key features and how it works with QuickBooks. According to Kathy, “Intuit has provided support and guidance for our app card and the apps.com customer experience, in the form of performance metrics and qualitative feedback. We are continuously working to iterate our content there and are grateful for Intuit’s support and vision for apps.com.”
What’s On the Horizon for LivePlan
As a forward-thinking business, Palo Alto Software will continue developing and growing LivePlan to provide more features for small businesses to manage their growth through strategic planning and financial insights. In LivePlan, the business owner has one place for both housing their business plan and managing their business through dynamic forecasting and reporting – LivePlan will look for ways to better connect small business owners with LivePlan Expert Advisors when they want help in these areas.
Additionally, LivePlan – which is integrated with QuickBooks Online APIs – will be migrating to OAuth 2.0 which will simplify integration with QuickBooks.
From One Developer to Another
LivePlan team members had the following advice for fellow developers using the Intuit Developer platform:
- Read their documentation, which has continuously improved over the years. Do not hesitate to submit support tickets to Intuit developer support, who have been quite responsive and very helpful.
- Set up sandbox environments to test app integration with Intuit APIs.
- Know your customer and the problems they are solving. Solving real problems for your customers is far more important than any technology choices you make. Get your solution in front of customers as quickly as you can, and then pay attention to how they actually use it. Check out these tips on how to connect your app to the right customers.
- Instrument your connections to all 3rd parties (including Intuit) so you know where you’re seeing errors or slowdowns.
- Machine learning and AI have been increasingly useful in business analysis and decision making. This will be growingly ubiquitous in web applications, especially where accounting data is involved.
Matt Guingrich, Palo Alto’s Product Manager says, “I’d recommend using every opportunity to work with the Intuit Developer Group, and take action based on their feedback. Following a conversation with their Customer Success team that was centered around our signup flow, we were able to implement changes based on their feedback and increase our connection rate by 40%+ in the process.”
Are you a developer looking to partner with QuickBooks? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us with your questions and check out the latest Intuit Developer Blog to stay on top of what’s happening in the developer community.