Intuit aims to give small business spin to big data

Intuit's master plan is to democratize big data, build new businesses and become an enabler for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs).

Intuit said that big data will ultimately be democratized to the point where small businesses will also benefit, according to Brad Smith, company CEO.


The company, which basically serves as the enterprise resource planning and financial system for small businesses, already has a ton of data on its customer base. The master plan is to democratize big data, build new businesses and become an enabler for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs).

On a conference call, Smith outlined Intuit's internal big data efforts. After all, Intuit has insight on commerce, taxes and how its products are used. Of Intuit's 60 million customers, 45 million use cloud, mobile or digital services. That sum translates into a big data pool.

"We could have gotten started a lot earlier," said Smith, referring to Intuit's big data analytics efforts. "We simply weren't stepping back and looking at how to use the data." Now, Intuit has coalesced around the big data for SMBs mantra.

Intuit is in a unique position to be a big data enabler for SMBs. Its QuickBooks Online has a trends feature to show how businesses stack up to other ones in the area. Other products such as Demandforce, Loan Finder and Mint all have analytics angles.

The big idea for Intuit is to democratize data. In a report, Intuit said:

Previously the exclusive domain of statisticians, large corporations and information technology departments, the emerging availability of data and analytics – call it a new democratization – gives small businesses and consumers greater access to cost-effective, sophisticated, data powered tools and analytical systems. This new data democracy will deliver meaningful insights on markets, competition and bottom-line business results for small businesses, as well as shape many of the decisions we face as individuals and families.

The growing access to this massive volume of information – and the ability to refine and analyze it – makes it a new type of raw material, on par with capital and labor. Advanced analytics will move from the domain of specialists to everyday users.

What Smith and Intuit are ultimately tapping into is the idea that employees and the general population will become data literate. The idea was floated at ZDNet's TechLines roundtable on big data and how more information will transform business and governments. "By 2020, hypertransparency will be the norm," said Intuit in its report, which projected big data usage into the future.

TechLines panel: Debunking big data [full video]

It remains to be seen whether Intuit's big data democratization pitch for SMBs plays out. At the very least, Intuit can leverage its information internally. Cowen & Co. analyst Peter Goldmacher has said that Intuit is a big data play in many respects.

In a recent report, Goldmacher noted:

Data is Intuit's core asset. Data at the core of product development enables Intuit to do many things better. It can rewrite old apps that will now customize flows for familiar users. A single 22 year old should have a very different tax experience than a 42 year old father of three. It can create new apps that add value to the user based on an understanding of inter relationships, networks and past behaviors. If I am a landscaper, Intuit should tell me that there is a local supplier that offers better prices than my current supplier. It can embed first and third party content into a process to add value beyond simple automation. If I am able to embed Linked-In data into my customer records, I should be able to customize a more effective product. Data will drive all of these opportunities and all of these opportunities will improve INTU's ability to add value to its customers. We believe the technology is ahead of the use cases, but we expect the use cases to catch up very quickly.