The new custom fields are by far the most powerful feature offered in QuickBooks Online Advanced, or at least it is supposed to be. Unfortunately, due to the limited access to these fields across all QuickBooks Online Advances features and more importantly, the inability to access the fields through the QuickBooks Online API, we still have not truly seen what these fields are capable of.

Access across all QuickBooks Online Advanced features:

Appreciating that the initial code for custom fields was part of an early version of the API, I can understand how the differences of code may make it difficult to access the fields in features written under a new code base.  As a primary difference between QuickBooks Online Plus and QuickBooks Online Advanced, it is imperative that subscribers be able to utilize the custom fields throughout all the advanced features.

While the batch transactions function provides users of QuickBooks Online Advanced an efficient method to bulk create new transactions, the software does not allow the user to take advantage of the custom fields during the creation of those transactions.  The recent improvements to batch invoicing introduced the ability to copy and paste data into the datasheet, unfortunately the copy and paste does not work for the custom fields.

QuickBooks Online Advanced also recently introduced a batch edit feature for invoices however custom fields are not available on the edit screen. Without this edit functionality, the only option to add the values to the custom fields is through manual data entry.

Currently custom fields do not transfer to invoices that are generated within a project.  Even if the parent customer record has custom fields assigned, these values will not transfer to the project level.  The only way to add these values is to manually update the information one invoice at a time.

Access through the QuickBooks Online API

It has always been my opinion that the true power behind any cloud-based accounting platform is the ability to connect third party applications.  Prior to cloud accounting, small business owners often designed their workflow around the functionality of the software and its outputs. Now, small business owners can select from an ever-growing list of applications that solve challenges which are often unique to a specific niche. Thanks to the relationships between QuickBooks Online and the apps in their app marketplace, Intuit had been able to defer the need to expand their product skews to industry specific versions like their desktop environment.

While speaking with Fred Willerup, the CTO of LeanLaw, about their integration with QuickBooks Online, he shared with me some of the use cases they are hoping to serve once access to custom fields allows them to generate industry specific (mid-market law firms) reporting. Depending on the size of the firm using LeanLaw, the number of custom fields needed to generate useful reporting tends to increase. Examples of the information being tracked through the custom fields include:

  • Practice Area: Generate sales reporting based on the different types of cases being worked by the firm.
  • Originating Attorney: Allows the administration team to track which partner brought the revenue into the firm the workload of the different partners and the revenues being generated.
  • Lead Attorney: The lead attorney is the primary point of contact for a case. By tracking the lead attorney, the partners of the firm can track who is generating the most revenue.
  • Timekeeper: All invoices reference the employee responsible as the timekeeper.
  • Type of Client: Depending on the practice area, some firms take cases on contingency and need to track the specific revenues and expenses of that case.

LeanLaw’ s Estimated Market share:

Based on LeanLaw’ s market research, the legal industry presents a 400+ million-dollar opportunity with more than 900,000 potential subscribers. If we included potential professional services subscribers, the total market opportunity increases beyond one billion dollars.

As a workflow specialist, I find myself manipulating large amounts of data almost every single day.  Thanks to CDATA’s ability to call on Intuit’s software development kit to display the company file information inside of Microsoft Excel, we can quickly add, update, or remove transactions in bulk.

Recently, while helping Lynda Artesani with a large file conversion from CosmoLex Practice Management software over to QuickBooks Online Advanced and LeanLaw, we needed a way to import over 400 invoices and the custom data point the law firm had been tracking.  To accomplish this task, we was able to use CDATA, a data import tool that works with Microsoft Excel.  After mapping out the data fields extracted from CosmoLex with the necessary fields in QuickBooks Online, we were able to push all the invoice data into the new company file in less than an hour, except for the custom fields.  With more than three custom data points being tracked, and no access to the fields through the SDK, it required someone to manually add the values to each of the 400 invoices.

Due to the timing of this project, the new custom fields were not available for use in the batch invoicing CSV import option and the copy and paste feature also did not exist.  While these new features have made it much easier to import the basic invoice data, they still do not allow a user to past in values through the custom fields.

Without access to the custom fields as part of the SDK, any QuickBooks Online Advanced user who attempts to restore the financial data through the new Backup & Restore (aka. ChronobooksChronoBooks Review) feature will be surprised to learn that all the custom field data will need to be reentered into the new company file.  Without a way to update custom fields in bulk, this will be a very manual process. This is a major issue since Backup and Restore is now only available to advanced users.

Method CRM currently has more than 1400 review in the Intuit App Marketplace. Its claim to fame is the flexibility during setup for a business to customize the information being tracked within the CRM around the needs of any business. While this information may be available within Methods database, the only way to use the fields in Method currently requires the users to export all the data from both Method and QuickBooks Online before creating custom reporting packages.

If Method had the ability to map their custom fields to the custom fields in QuickBooks Online Advanced, their users could generate financial reporting based on the custom fields in Method.

With the introduction of the new payroll SKU’s that include TSheets, users will expect the custom fields in TSheets to map to the custom fields in QuickBooks Online Advanced.  These custom field will be important for proper job costing capabilities.

Collaborating to capture more marketshare:

Since its introduction to the market, Intuit has been focused on growing the number of QuickBooks Online Advanced subscribers. By focusing on opening the custom fields to third party app providers, Intuit has an opportunity to turn each app company into a marketing partner.  Since QBO Advanced is the only SKU that provides the additional custom fields, app companies like LeanLaw, will be motivated to sell subscriptions as part of their designated app stack.

Once the custom field data can sync freely between QuickBooks Online and third-party applications, accountants will finally have access to the data they need to provide advanced advisory service.

Sign the petition:

For additional information and insights about the importance of custom fields, contact Matthew Fulton of Parkway Business Solutions.

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