The move to the cloud is in full swing! Many accounting professionals and small businesses are moving to QuickBooks® Online. This is the first in a series of articles to help you create an action plan for moving your clients to QuickBooks Online; this one focuses on identifying which clients to convert first.

I’m a long-time QuickBooks Desktop user, and I knew it inside and out. In fact, I started teaching QuickBooks seminars in 1999, written books, presented numerous training courses and co-authored the Advanced Certification. I was apprehensive about QuickBooks Online, initially. However, after learning more about QuickBooks Online, navigating tips and more, I now love and prefer QuickBooks Online over desktop.

In fact, now the thought of working with desktop clients seems painful. The wasted time sending files back and forth, worrying about compatibility between versions of QuickBooks, data file problems and more are all a thing of the past if you use QuickBooks Online.

If you haven’t checked out QuickBooks Online within the last year or so, you really need to do it! Start by joining the QuickBooks ProAdvisor® Program that has a free membership level for QuickBooks Online. Next, I really encourage you to become a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor for QuickBooks Online. The training and certification is included (all free) and you can do it all online. Plus, there are other training resources provided by Intuit’s Accountant University to help accounting professionals learn more about QuickBooks Online, converting and more. Intuit® invests a lot to help accounting professionals enhance our knowledge and skills so that we can confidently support our clients and help them move to QuickBooks Online.

Which Clients to Convert First?

How do you start converting desktop clients to QuickBooks Online? First, start by converting your own firm. This will help you gain confidence and familiarity with the process. When you sign up for QuickBooks Online Accountant (free for accounting professionals), you get a free QuickBooks Online Plus subscription for you to use for your firm’s books.

Next – and this is really important – realize that you don’t have to convert all of your clients at once. You can do a few at a time to help ease the transition. I recommend you choose the easiest ones first and save the challenges for a later time, after you have more experience converting the easiest clients from desktop to QuickBooks Online.

How do you determine which clients to convert first? Consider clients who:

  • you need/want to share the data with the client;
  • have owners or workers in various locations and need to share the data;
  • are tech savvy and perhaps asking to move to the cloud;
  • are tech challenged or don’t want to manage their own server or IT;
  • have workers in the field who would benefit from entering invoices, receiving payments, entering expenses and more from a mobile device;
  • are a service based businesses – they are easier to convert; and
  • may not require a third-party app.

Perform a Needs Assessment

Next, you’ll want to ensure QuickBooks Online will be right for your clients and if there are any third-party apps to consider to help enhance QuickBooks Online. A needs assessment helps identify specific requirements, as well as identify opportunities to streamline and automate their processes. Have conversations with your clients and/or their employees to gain an understanding of how they operate in all areas: sales and receivables, purchase and payables, operations and inventory, payroll, other special needs of their business, and more. I discussed performing a needs assessment and determining which QuickBooks is right for your clients in a recent QB Power Hour webinar, and I encourage you to watch it for more details.

Differences Between QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online

While QuickBooks Online (alone or with third-party apps) may meet the needs of most of your clients, keep in mind that it is not the same as QuickBooks Desktop. There are some features in desktop that are not available in QuickBooks Online at this time (there are monthly updates to QuickBooks Online, so this may change in the future). If you have a client who needs these features, then you’ll need to use a third-party app. There are hundreds available in the App Center.

A few key features to be aware of include:

  • Robust Inventory – QuickBooks Online has basic FIFO inventory (vs. average cost in desktop) and no groups, assemblies, or units of measure.
  • Robust Job Costing – QuickBooks Online Plus allows you to do basic job costing, reimbursable expenses, customizing of a profit & loss by customer/job, income by customer, summary, and more. However, you cannot allocate payroll to the customer/job without doing it manually, doing progress invoicing (without a cumbersome workaround that I don’t recommend), or getting many of the desired reports.
  • Sales Order – In QuickBooks Online, you can enter an Estimate, but you cannot create a Purchase Order from an Estimate. In QuickBooks Premier and QuickBooks Enterprise, you can create a Purchase Order from a Sales Order.
  • Price Levels – Not available without a third-party app.

I recommend using the QuickBooks Online Test Drive for testing to determine if it will meet the needs of your clients. Here, you can enter sample transactions and run reports, for example. Nothing is saved and the system resets every time you open it. Tip: Share the link for the test drive with your clients for them to practice with QuickBooks Online, too.

In addition, QuickBooks Desktop users may prefer to use the QuickBooks Online app for Windows or Mac. This desktop app provides a “special browser” to access QuickBooks Online without going through Explorer, Chrome, Safari, Firefox or any other browser. The app also allows you to have multiple windows opened (similar to tabbed browsing in Chrome or Firefox), but it auto refreshes the windows, which is helpful. The app also supports keyboard shortcuts and has a menu bar with drop-down menus like the ones found in the desktop version of QuickBooks. This may ease the transition to QuickBooks Online for long-time desktop users, especially clients on a Mac who are seasoned desktop app users.

Converting a Desktop File to QuickBooks Online

Most of the time, the actual conversion process is really quick and easy. First, you’ll want to set up the subscription for QuickBooks Online from your QuickBooks Online Accountant dashboard (free for accounting professionals). Next, in the QuickBooks Desktop file, click on Company > Export Company File to QuickBooks Online and follow the conversion wizard prompts. Finally, you will receive an email confirmation notifying you the data was converted.

That’s the basic, easy conversion process. I encourage you to take the first step – convert your own company or your first client to QuickBooks Online today!

Action Steps you may need to take:

In future articles, we’ll discuss more details about converting to QuickBooks Online and refer to it for more information and details.

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