Wednesday 9 May 2007

Quickbooks upgrade and sunset policy

I love Quickbooks, it is fantastic software, and I happily recommend it to anyone who will listen. It is far superior to Sage.

But I don't like the way they handle their upgrade policy. Every couple of years, they release a new version and eventually stop supporting old versions. This is perfectly sensible, and we also upgrade every few years, as our version approaches its "sunset" date (the date when they stop supporting it, and stop offering payroll tax table updates).

We prefer not to upgrade to the very latest version as soon as it comes out, because new software (whether from Microsoft, Sun or Quickbooks) often has bugs which are only ironed out once very large numbers of users have been bashing away at it for a year or so. Indeed, Quickbooks itself had quite a serious bug in their 2003 Pro edition when it first came out. Plus there was a complex change to VAT reporting in 2005 Pro which, while not a bug, was difficult to handle and we handled it incorrectly causing us considerable problems later on. This was our fault, but nevertheless is another example of why we avoid upgrading too frequently - we don't want to have to spend time every year figuring out this sort of thing.

But Quickbooks always try and bamboozle us into upgrading nearly a year before our current version sunsets, by refusing to sell us a payroll subscription for our version, on the basis that that version will sunset a few weeks before we have had a full twelve months' use out of that payroll subscription (because we first subscribed in May 2001, so every year we renew in May, but the sunset date always falls in April.)

We then have a little barney about this, insisting they honour their published sunset date, if that means we lose a few pounds-worth of payroll subscription we really don't mind. And they agree, and we then upgrade about a year later. (And I don't think we do ever actually lose out on the payroll subscription, because we roll it into the new version when we do upgrade).

That's all broadly fine. It is obviously in Quickbooks' interest to persuade people to upgrade more frequently, so I don't object too much to them trying to do that.

But I do hugely object to the telephone manner of the "supervisor" who I just persuaded to renew our payroll subscription. She did this very begrudgingly, saying "but you are just going to complain about this in 2008 when you need to upgrade the software. Every time you contact us it is to complain."

Pop quiz: what's the best way to deal with a customer who complains? Blame them for complaining too frequently? Or try and fix the problem?

(plus, it's not me contacting them, it's them contacting me, trying to sell me something I don't really need.)


Anonymous said...

I am so glad I searched for this - I've just had a similar experience except they've refused point blank to upgrade my payroll subscription. I'm now going back to them having read this so that I can tell em what for!

Thanks for blogging this issue - I'll be doing the same shortly...

Anonymous said...


All I can say is that Sage do the same, MYOB do the same. Stop moaning and get on with it. Besides if they didnt do it, we wouldn't be able to keep in line with the latest HMRC updates. I prefer upgrading every year anyway, that way I know my business is in line with tax laws and I will get any new features that will assist my business. Obviously you people don't know how to run your business if you moan about a couple of hundred pounds.

Company blog said...

There are two separate issues here: upgrading the software and updating your tax tables.

Upgrading the software gives you access to the latest features (which you may or may not want / need).

Upgrading the tax tables keeps you in line with HMRC updates.

Of course you have to pay, once a year, to renew your payroll / tax table subscription and keep in line with HMRC updates. But that is nothing to do with buying the latest version of the software.

And the issue is not the "few hundred quid" (although, in our case, it is well over a thousand quid), but the additional admin time required to manage the implementation of the new software. As I said in my original post, the first time we did that (upgrading, if I recall correctly, to QB 03), there was an actually a bug in the software which caused us problems (Employers' NI YTD figures were handled incorrectly). And the second time (upgrading to QB05) there was a substantial change to VAT reporting which caused huge, huge problems for us (several man-days of auditing to fix, at our expense).

These are issues which you get with technology, but our considered opinion is to upgrade our technology only when we need to, to avoid unnecessary hassle for little benefit.

Plus there is a point of principle here: QB is representing on their website that certain versions of the software will be supported up to certain dates. A user could reasonably interpret that to mean they can keep using the software, including the payroll element, up to that date.

The excuse about not renewing payroll because there is less than 12 months to run until the sunset date is spurious: I am pretty sure the payroll subscription will roll into the next version anyway (it must do, surely? If we had historically had to renew again our payroll sub at the date we upgraded, our payroll renewal date, and QB sunset dates would coincide, wouldn't they?)

Jaya said...

Very curious... I have to admit now that I was the one who posted the anonymous post at the beginning after having talked to the quickbooks UK sales line. The person I spoke with did ask which website I was referring to... I'd certainly be interested in whether or not my anonymous colleague is also an Intuit employee :-).

Amusement aside, I've made a post on my own blog about this but I'll say it here too - the real issue is that it appears two dependent products have licenses that are offset to force customers to upgrade earlier than they need to. It doesn't seem quite fair or honest somehow.

As for moaning about a couple of hundred pounds, the target market for Quickbooks has always been the micro to small business arena. They should know that when they invest in Quickbooks (or yes, ok, Sage and MYOB too) that they are investing the same amount every three years (or less if you use payroll!) and that it's not just a one-off payment. At least they'll buy with their eyes wide open, and may also pay far more attention to the quality of support they are paying for.

Good business people take care of the pennies as well as the pounds - the small ones understand this probably far better than the large ones. If I'm buying into a long term relationship I'd personally want one that had honesty, plain speaking, helpfulness and mutual respect as characteristics.

Thanks again Bruce - sorry for ranting on such a well written article!


Anonymous said...

Just found your post - new year coming round again?

check out

looks like they just cloned QB and MS wont cripple your product.


Unknown said...

We are in this situation - for the third time. And this time I *refuse*. Intuit don't ask you to 'subscribe' to Quickbooks, but to purchase it, and nothing is said at the time that they will effectively disable the software you just paid for, at a time that suits them.

It annoying that yet again the Pound / Dollar exchange rate appears to be 1:1. Yet another example of Brits being ripped off.

Watch out Intuit, Bill G is coming to get you. And in this instance I will be very happy to see Intuit bite the dust because their business practices over the years warrant it.

I don't know yet which software I will be replacing QB with (it seems that Intuit deliberately make it difficult to extract the data file to any other format), but suppose I have to start again from scratch, Intuit have bent me over for the last time.

Anonymous said...

I use an agency called Paybureau and I have no problems - I just leave it all to them.

Anonymous said...

Well this is a bit late to the original post, but I have QuickBooks Pro 2006 and don't need payroll functions, etc. However, they're trying to force me to upgrade because they will stop allowing emailing of invoices from the software at the end of this month. They're just BREAKING it and I don't believe that there's a valid technical reason for that.

Company blog said...

There is no valid reason for these actions. It is purely about forcing you to upgrad, they rely on the fact that most people will not want to start again with a brand new software programme!

Unknown said...

Am assuming if we do everything manually, and dont use any internet related features of QB(2007), we will not need to upgrade to continue using the basic accounting features ?
Would like to at least download checking account transactions, but guess when we bought the software, we must have some how (didnt see it on the outside of the box) agreed to the planned obsolescence policy.
Isnt there a lawyer in the crowd ?

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