Intuit’s Alex Chriss on Intuit Workforce, QuickBooks Self-Employed and Independent Workers

spend analytics

Spend Matters has been reporting on the emergence of the independent, self-employed contingent workforce that is not intermediated through staffing suppliers or other service providers. Instead, work engagements are mostly intermediated through digital channels, including work intermediation platforms. The work performed and the structure of engagements varies widely from micro tasks to gigs, all the way to projects requiring highly skilled workers.

Early this year, Intuit entered this new area with a new offering, QuickBooks Self-Employed, designed to meet the administrative needs of independent workers for accounting, tax records and filings. More recently, the company also launched Intuit Workforce, a kind of human capital management solution for WIP businesses that engage large numbers of these workers. Intuit consistently refers to the workforce it focuses on as “on-demand,” suggesting the needs addressed by its 2 new solutions are meant mainly for gig workers engaged through on-demand platforms like Uber and TaskRabbit.

A Discussion with Alex Chriss

We recently had the pleasure of talking with Alex Chriss, Intuit’s vice president and general manager of the Self-Employed Solutions business unit. Alex is the executive overseeing Intuit’s initiative to address needs in the expanding self-employed labor market. Below is a summary of some of the key points that came up in our discussion:

The Big Picture

Alex first talked about his view on on-demand work. From his perspective, this is not a phenomenon to look at in isolation but rather as a part of “a fundamental shift in employment over the past 20 years.” According to Alex, the independent workforce was about 6% of total workforce in 1989 and is projected to be 40% by 2020 – perhaps 50% if moonlighting gigsters are included. On-demand, Alex said, is just the next iteration of reducing friction between supply and demand in the labor market.

Intuit Workforce  

Alex emphasized that this most recently introduced offering was really targeted at the WIP businesses, which engages very large numbers of on-demand gig workers. Alex clarified that the offering is not intended to be used by other small and medium-sized businesses, just platform businesses, such as Deliv, OrderUp, Washio and Saucey. According to Alex, Intuit Workforce is specifically geared to these platform businesses, which start small but scale rapidly, often onboarding thousands of workers over short periods of time. The ability to support such rapid scaling is one of the key differentiators of Intuit Workforce, said Alex, and a crucial capability for businesses that, in many cases, start climbing their steep growth curves using Google Sheets.

QuickBooks Self-Employed  

Intuit launched this offering at the start of 2015 to assist independent workers to efficiently and easily manage core administrative activities such as accounting, invoicing, accounts receivables and tax filings. Alex elaborated on the vision for this offering, providing a broader range of services to support workers. Moving beyond the “employment economy,” there are many crucial needs of workers that are no longer met, including health insurance, savings vehicles and withdrawals, and tax planning in lieu of payroll withholdings.  

The goal, Alex said, is to provide capabilities and services – sometimes through an ecosystem of partners – that will enable these workers to achieve stability in their work and lives. Accordingly, other enabling features could include time management, financial management and planning, and capabilities that would enable the management of work, scheduling and payments across a number of different platforms with which a worker may simultaneously engage. Besides enhancing existing capabilities and providing new ones, data analytics will also become increasingly important. Another important step on the overall roadmap, Alex said, is integration between Self-Employed and Workforce.

Spend Matters Observations

Intuit has set its sights on the labor economy, in which a growing independent workforce is engaged in different kinds of work arrangements, mainly through digital channels or platforms.  Focusing on the on-demand gig work segment, addressing needs of both the platforms and the workers, seems like a sound bet to make.

Both platform businesses and workers represent expanding, underserved markets, with an opportunity for Intuit to dominate this segment through the development of a comprehensive ecosystem. There appear to be very few solution or services providers making such an effort to support the worker side of equation – something that has to be done.

The applicability of the Intuit Workforce solution seems restricted to on-demand, gig WIPs that will scale rapidly. (Note: The solution is provided at no cost, which could suggest many things.) However, it appears that the application of QuickBooks Self-Employed could potentially go beyond the on-demand workforce and be adopted by many other kinds of independent workers. In this scenario, Intuit has the potential to become the dominant platform for independent workers. Time will tell.

A final observation directed at Spend Matters contingent workforce/services procurement practitioners: All of what is described above supports our case that, in bits and pieces, a whole new digital services ecosystem is emerging that will enable many new forms of engagement between enterprises and the growing independent workforce.

For more on our perspective, see: Is Total Talent Management Really the Next Big Thing? Or is There Something Else? and Work Intermediation Platforms – The Emergence of New Labor Services Ecosystems.

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