Global AI-powered platform and financial software producer, Intuit is popularly known for its products QuickBooks, TurboTax and Mint. Launched in 2018, its product QuickBooks Online Advanced enables businesses to manage data access and delegate use of product features, batch invoice transactions, transform data into dynamic reports, and provide account support.
Recently, Analytics India Magazine engaged in a conversation with Saurabh Saxena, India Site Leader and Vice President, Product Development, at Intuit, to discuss and understand the technology behind QuickBooks Online-Advanced or QBO-A.
Saurabh also leads the product suites of Quickbooks (QB) Online Advanced, QB Desktop, QB Enterprise, Point of Sale, and Intuit Market. An alumnus of IIT Varanasi, Saurabh has been associated with Intuit for the past 13 years. Before that, he was the Engineering Manager at Intel and Software Engineer at Wipro Technologies.
Edited excerpt from the interview:
AIM: How is QBO-A beneficial to small and medium businesses?
Saurabh Saxena: As a financial management platform, Intuit plays a critical role in assisting small businesses, the self-employed, and customers in determining the best financial management solutions. The key differentiators that make QBO-Adv valuable to small and medium-sized businesses are:
- Enabling product business fit: AI and ML-based smart features like anomaly detection, smart invoicing, right for me recommendations and suggestions.
- Helping in decision making: constantly generating insights to help businesses surpass goals by 15 per cent. QBO-Adv offered as a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) gains intelligence with every new customer, partner, or new data added and mines for patterns and insights to identify new channels for customer growth.
- Virtual experts: Human and AI collaboration elevates skills and work. As experts use the product, the product gets smarter, which helps businesses unlock a bunch of flexible expertise that expands, contracts with, and even anticipates their fluctuating needs.
- Compatible, customisable and consolidated: QBO-Adv is customisable specific to the industry needs and gains access to a suite of ecosystem offerings (payroll, payments, time tracking, human capital management, advisory services). This move enables customers to keep their data in QuickBooks in sync with the apps they use every day to run their business and ensure data assets across systems are beyond just compatible but consolidated.
- ERP market disruption: With a tailor-made QBO–Adv, we are going beyond product-market fit to achieve product-business-fit cost-effectively and with lesser complexity. The innovation through QBO Advanced is disrupting the current ERP market, changing how mid-market businesses shop for and use business management tools.
AIM: How do you leverage AI and ML technologies in QBO-Adv?
Saurabh Saxena: QuickBooks uses data and AI algorithms to minimise manual effort and provide cash flow insights. Thus, helping small businesses make decisions to increase cash flow and profit margins.
Our AI-powered expert platform analyses a company’s financial health, allows quicker payments and connects users with financial help when they need it. AI and ML-based smart features are used to enable product business fit. Few of them being:
- Smart invoicing
- Recommendations and suggestions
- Reducing human errors and fraud with ML-based anomaly detection
AIM: Share details of the tech stack.
Saurabh Saxena: Our tech stack is a constant journey of building and modification. Our agile approach renders operational ease and enables our teams to innovate and transform their applications and services by breaking down barriers and making solutions more scalable, seamless and affordable. We have migrated over 400 applications in six years.
We use native cloud technologies such as Kubernetes to build a modern developer platform that provides continuous integration, delivery, and operations to accelerate productivity for developers. Through this, we contribute to the community by powering open-source solutions such as Argo CD for Kubernetes.
For managing large-scale and big data, we are using technologies like Kafka and Aurora. Application development follows a microservices approach with Spring Boot, GraphQL, React, and Flutter.
We have a great focus, observability and operational excellence and use technologies like open telemetry. We are thus leading the way towards scaling, building and deploying AI capabilities in the public cloud and have moved to AWS 100 per cent. This migration to the cloud enables us to deliver on our vision of being an AI-driven expert platform. We are optimistic about the opportunities that the cloud will provide, and we are experimenting with serverless computing, open-source, and containers to move with even greater speed to deliver on our goals and for our customers.
AIM: Share details of the tech components that are being built in India?
Saurabh Saxena: Our India team has built many foundational capabilities of the QBO Adv product here for Intuit. These include:
- Workflow Automation platform, which empowers workflows across various client segments. Examples include invoices, bill approvals, and customer reminders.
- Reporting and Insights: A reporting platform that aids in corporate decision-making and continuously generates insights to assist customers in achieving their objectives.
- Connect apps and services throughout Intuit and the 3p partner ecosystem in such a manner that they all operate together, are integrated, and provide a consistent user experience.
- Roles based access: Customers can define roles and give permissions, so different business users get to see and do what they need to instead of getting access to all or nothing.
- Customisation: The functionality enables the customisation of forms and reports and vertical-specific 3P apps or features to meet business requirements.
- Power tools for power customers: Bulk actions is a new feature that makes it easier for mid-market clients to enter large amounts of data in bulk, either manually or through imports. Another functionality built to allow is backup and restore.
AIM: How large is the QBO-Adv team at the India Development Centre?
Saurabh Saxena: We give opportunities to our engineers to work independently on projects from start to finish. At the India site, we focus on developing cutting-edge solutions and helping in skilling our talent with skills like design-thinking to bring more solution-driven innovation.
The India development centre leads the end-to-end product development effort for QBO – Adv with a team of around 90 engineers, including specialists in core engineering, mobile, data analytics, Intuit AI, and data platform, as well as skilled designers and product managers, have been working on QBO-Advanced smart solution, which is available as a platform-as-a-service (SaaS).
AIM: What are the advantages and disadvantages of having an India-based team, particularly in terms of tech skills involved?
Saurabh Saxena: Intuit in India is a thriving microcosm with 1,100-plus employees. Being home to nearly 22 per cent of Intuit’s engineering talent, we are a Centre of Excellence for end-to-end product development, technology and platform innovation.
In terms of tech skills, there is absolutely no difference at all for an India-based team. Our teams in India leverage the power of AI, ML, data science, cloud, open-source, NLP and other key technologies, playing a pivotal role in helping Intuit remain ahead of the curve as we focus on enabling our mission of powering prosperity.
We want to leverage the large pool of skilled technology talent available in India and invest in growing key tech capabilities that will drive innovation for their global products and platforms to cater to our 100-million customers worldwide.
AIM: What key points do you keep in mind before hiring for the development centre?
Saurabh Saxena: There’s no denying that in today’s increasingly digital environment, having a basic grasp of computer science is useful for new hires. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t pay attention to the very languages – human languages – that distinguish us as unique contributors.
Engineers, data scientists and product managers must have a solid, in-depth background in Mathematics or statistics and technical abilities like programming and a grasp of analytical tools.
In terms of non-technical talents, success is determined by business acumen, problem-solving ability, soft skills, and a will to create. At Intuit, we prioritise recruiting people with the appropriate talents and experience, but we also look for additional traits, such as a customer-centric mentality, which we have instilled in our firm.
Enterprises must look to invest in their existing employees, who know the pulse of your consumers, to channel a flourishing business.
AIM: What tech trends is Intuit betting on for its growth?
Saurabh Saxena: Large-scale disruption has certainly resulted in the emergence of new technological paradigms over the past year. Supreme customer experiences are the determining factor, based on which there will be a growth in demand for:
- Decision-ready data
- A need for technology and remote work solutions that enable hybrid work patterns
- A desire for simpler operations to manage financial data where intelligence systems like AI and ML are not an add-on but built in the ERP
In the coming decade, nearly every financial function will be optimised or transformed by AI, and finance experts will need to adapt and re-skill themselves to stay connected with their customers.
Intuit is thus leveraging the power of AI to address consumer issues faster. Going forward, the global AI-powered platform plans to expand its India team and add over 350 engineers by 2022. The roles are said to be in the fields of data science, risk analytics, product management, product design, software engineering and data engineering. If you are keen on knowing further about the hiring process of data scientists at Intuit, refer to this article.