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Intuit expands QuickBase collaboration service

The hosted service is picking up a growing number of business functions and appealing to big companies as much as to small businesses.

Intuit released a number of new applications for QuickBase this week, turning the online service into even more of a multipurpose tool for corporate tasks.

Intuit launched QuickBase two years ago as a hosted service for collaborating on documents and sharing corporate data with remote workers. The service has since grown to encompass a variety of business tasks, including an array of project management features, sales and customer support tools and applications for job functions such as marketing and public relations.

QuickBase, which competes with server-based collaboration product such as Microsoft's SharePoint, is most commonly used for collaborating on tabular data typically saved as a spreadsheet. With QuickBase, workers instead herd data into customized forms that can be manipulated on the fly, eliminating the typical back-and-forth with office documents.

"Our biggest competition is e-mail and spreadsheets," said Jana Eggers, general manager of Intuit's QuickBase division. "We let people finish a report in a few minutes instead of spending days to try to merge 17 versions of a spreadsheet."

The product was initially aimed at the small-business segment Intuit has focused on in recent years, but QuickBase has also found fans on the information technology staffs of big companies such as Sprint and Fleet Bank, Eggers said.

"When QuickBase launched, we were looking at it as a small-business tool for people without IT departments," Eggers said. "But as we've looked at it being used, we've seen that very large businesses are just as interested.

"We found that small work groups in large organizations have a lot of the same needs and limited resources as small business," she said. "They need to solve individual problems for themselves, because IT's worried about keeping the business running."

Part of the appeal is that QuickBase's forms-based design allows easy customization to suit specific business tasks, and formats can be shared with partners and the world at large. Several of the new applications, which are aimed at professional services and "process excellence" projects, began as customer-created tools.

Eggers said Intuit is working on a number of enhancements to QuickBase, including features to improve the transfer of data back and forth from spreadsheets created in Microsoft's familiar Excel application.

"We have some nice tools that make QuickBase similar to Excel and e-mail, and we can take that further," Eggers said. "We find a lot of the things people are doing involve importing things from Excel into QuickBase. We can make it so that they can do more in QuickBase."