Five questions with Intuit CTO Tayloe Stansbury

We caught up with Intuit CTO Tayloe Stansbury to talk innovation, the importance of Mint, mobile and data integration.

Intuit last week forged a partnership to couple Salesforce.com with its QuickBooks ecosystem. In addition, Intuit showed off some interesting technologies in New York.

Among the highlights:

  • Demos of tax filing via iPhones.
  • Potential mobile wallet technologies.
  • And a well-established health portal that integrates QuickBooks with patient management for small physician offices.

With those technologies as a backdrop, we caught up with Intuit CTO Tayloe Stansbury to talk a little shop. Here's the recap of the conversation.

On the intersection of innovation and data capture: Stansbury said Intuit's various parts can lead to a better picture of customers and enable new innovation. For instance, Intuit in January launched a system where people with 1040-EZ forms can file taxes through their iPhones. In a nutshell, a customer takes a picture of their W-2, sends the encrypted data and Intuit does the rest by combing its own data and third party information. In addition, the acquisition of Mint enables Intuit to cull other data, say 1099s from banks. "We're doing a lot of data integration," said Stansbury, who added that the goal is to have all of Intuit's software and services running on a common data engine. "This engine ties all the products together from tax to QuickBooks to Mint," he said. All of this data formatting will ultimately allow Intuit to reach customers on any device.

Where will this data live? Intuit has two data centers in North America---one leased and one owned. It also has three data centers outside the U.S., but is consolidating to two. Stansbury said that Intuit is refreshing its data centers and consolidating at the same time to reach standards for quality, reliability and manageability.

How do you cultivate innovation? Stansbury said Intuit engineers devote 10 percent of their time to independent projects. The tax filing by iPhone came from one of those projects. "There are 100 products and features that are a direct result of that time," said Stansbury.

On the Intuit business model: The company will increasingly work off of a software as a service model going forward. And mobile will increasingly represent a growth market. Intuit started on the desktop, but now 60 percent of its customers are online after a decade. He expects mobile access to follow the same path. As a result, Intuit is focusing on its ecosystem. Intuit's marketplace has more than 80 third party apps that plug into QuickBooks, essentially the de facto ERP system for small businesses. Stansbury said Intuit's goal isn't to create a massive app count, but to curate third parties that integrate well with the core business. "We're trying to fill in spaces with all the things needed to run a business," said Stansbury. "We're fleshing out the ecosystem."

How important was the Mint acquisition? Stansbury said that Mint brought a lot of talent to Intuit and passion. "Mint had a vision for its product and a passion to change the world," said Stansbury. Intuit likes to work in small teams and integrate across product lines. Mint fit that mold well. One example of how Intuit plans to use integration to create more value is its payment system. Intuit can use its 4.5 million QuickBooks end points to offer seamless payments with buyers and sellers while managing things like invoices. Intuit takes 50 cents each payment.