(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
Last month Intuit Inc. (the maker of QuickBooks Online) and HubSpot, Inc. (the maker of uh…HubSpot) announced an integration between their two products. So if you’re a QuickBooks Online user and you want a CRM solution should you run out and get this integration? I’m not so sure.
Please don’t misinterpret: I love both QuickBooks and HubSpot. They are each very powerful applications. QuickBooks, of course, is the accounting and tax platform that millions of small businesses use to manage their finances. HubSpot is an excellent inbound (and outbound) marketing application that incorporates its own customer relationship management modules to enable those same small businesses to attract leads, manage pipelines and nurture customer and community relationships with content and engagement.
The two companies promise that, by integrating both platforms, their users will enjoy a reduction in manual data entry as contact information and sales entries are automatically transferred between both databases. They will also benefit from a more centralized location of both accounting and marketing detail for each customer and the ability to create customized workflows to move invoices from draft to review to approval between HubSpot and QuickBooks (this first enhanced integration is only available for QuickBooks Online Advanced customers for now). The integration is free. But each application is priced separately.
Sounds great, right? It’s probably useful. However, there’s just one problem: I’m not sure how much it will be used. For years, my clients have frequently asked about integrating their accounting and CRM systems. My prospective clients always seem to have this perceived need on their list of demands. But there’s one problem. Few ever do this. Why?
Because behind all the integration hype there’s a simple reality: the core customer base of Intuit and HubSpot are small businesses. These people do not employ the programmers, database experts and tech geeks that Intuit and HubSpot do. When it comes time to actually accomplish any integration between an accounting and CRM system the reality of what’s involved becomes daunting. In other words, many of my small business clients have eyes bigger than their stomachs.
That’s because no matter how simple it seems the fact is that once you dig into integration, issues arise. How do we make sure some people only see the information necessary for their jobs? How is security addressed? How will we convince our accountants and bookkeepers to give up access to their precious systems and allow (gasp!) salespeople to put their grubby fingers in the pie? What happens when either Intuit or HubSpot upgrades their platform and then – as software tends to do – the interconnectivity breaks? Who will be supporting this integration? Who will be setting up all those great workflows and processes that promise to make our life so much easier? And then fixing them when something goes wrong? Who, who, who?
But most importantly, what’s the ROI? Say a small business jumps through the hoops to get this integration up and running, what exactly is being gained? Are we saving that much time or getting that much better information to make the time and effort needed to get this working worth it?
My small business CRM clients love the concept of integration. They desire that one-system-does it all fantasy. But then when they look at everything that’s involved to really leverage these benefits, and then consider that we’re only talking about a small number of transactions a day, many wind up deciding that it’s not really worth the hassle. I’ve found that when it finally comes time to satisfy that long-desired nirvana of integration, most of my small business clients have lost interest…or don’t have the time or money.
Go and and integrate HubSpot and QuickBooks. But please, be careful. Make sure you have resources and support. Think the integration through and make sure it’s worth it. Trust me that both companies want it to work for you. But it won’t be magic.
Oh, and be ready for more changes down the road. Because, according to Bobby Morrison, chief sales officer at Intuit, “This is the first step in a multi-pronged relationship that will only grow over time.”