Propelware has built a successful business developing software that integrates with, and extends the usefulness of, Intuit QuickBooks—but when it came to extending its own software to the cloud, Propelware needed help. That help came in the form of the Microsoft Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform using Windows Azure. To host its QuickBooks-connected application on the Windows Azure platform for cloud computing, Propelware received free training, technical support, testing tools, and marketing support from Microsoft. The results: Development time and cost was cut in half; compatibility and security testing work was reduced from two weeks to two days; and Propelware expects to expand its market reach by 300 to 500 percent—while cutting the cost of reaching that audience by 75 percent.
Probably few people know more about integrating applications into Intuit QuickBooks than Joe Dwyer. Still, when Dwyer wanted to integrate his latest software product with Intuit through a cloud computing platform, he wasn’t above accepting some help.
Dwyer founded Propelware in 2000 to provide system software integration solutions, mobile applications, and custom software for small businesses. His goal: to relieve small companies of at least some of their technology burden, so that they could focus more clearly on their core businesses.
When Intuit released application programming interfaces for its QuickBooks software, Dwyer saw the potential to use them to integrate QuickBooks with what were then called personal digital assistants (PDAs). “I wanted QuickBooks on my PDA,” he recalls. “That’s what I wanted to make, sell, and use. That’s how I got started in apps that integrate with QuickBooks.”
That first application, called MobileBiz, now makes it possible for users to take QuickBooks with them on their phones. It’s been joined by Autofy, which integrates a customer’s accounting system with QuickBooks, eliminating redundant data entry, and by a custom solution that integrates multiple accounting and customer relationship management systems.
For his newest product—named Office Manager—Dwyer wanted to give his customers a web-based tool with which they could connect from anywhere, to manage both order processing and invoicing. Previously, businesses needed desktop software to merge their data into QuickBooks. With Office Manager, Dwyer envisioned, businesses would get their sales data into QuickBooks in the cloud, without needing any special desktop software, and then use Office Manager both as a business intelligence tool to analyze orders, and as an automated invoicing tool.
The Microsoft Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform was central to Dwyer’s plan for the successful development of Office Manager. Intuit Partner Platform provided both the technology and the marketing resources to speed application development and help expose partner applications to millions of QuickBooks users. Another central requirement for Dwyer was finding a home in the cloud for Office Manager and the data that customers would upload to it.
“We aren’t a hosting company and we didn’t want to be one,” says Dwyer. “We’d had some good experience with the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service in the past, so we began hosting the early beta of Office Manager there.”
But then Dwyer heard something that made him change his mind. Solution
That “something” was news from Intuit that it was working to optimize the integration of QuickBooks and the Intuit Partner Platform with another cloud computing environment: the Windows Azure platform hosted by Microsoft in its data centers around the world.
“Intuit suggested I check it out,” Dwyer recalls. “And I did.”
||We’re a small company, and we appreciate all the help we can get. What we’re getting from Front Runner is just fantastic.
The more he saw of the Windows Azure platform, including the Microsoft SQL Azure data management service, the more he liked it. Propelware was a “Microsoft shop” and Office Manager was being developed with the Microsoft .NET Framework 4. The company’s mobile application already ran on Windows Phones. So, hosting Office Manager on Windows Azure would mean it would be based on one interoperating set of technologies from end to end. That in turn could contribute to faster and easier development and greater reliability.
Microsoft and Intuit also provided a program for Propelware, and for independent software vendors (ISVs) similar to it, to maximize the benefits they gained when they created applications for QuickBooks and hosted them on Windows Azure. That program is “Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform using Windows Azure.” Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform is the latest in the Microsoft series of Front Runner partner programs designed to give technology and marketing support to ISVs as they develop applications using Microsoft technologies.
Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform includes components to help ISVs develop, test, and market the QuickBooks integration applications that they host on Windows Azure. Dwyer has already taken advantage of the development and test support and, as Propelware continues to look for exposure for Office Manager, he expects to utilize the marketing support as well.
Propelware used a range of Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform offerings to facilitate the development of Office Manager on Windows Azure, including, software development kits, videos, webinars, and personal support. Microsoft technology evangelists were available to Propelware throughout the development process, and a Propelware programmer called on those resources as much as several times a day.
When it came time to test the Office Manager application’s security and compatibility with the Intuit Partner Platform and Windows Azure, Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform provided access to independent and in-house verification. The third-party verification company that tested the application’s security looked both at the process of logging in to the Intuit App Center and the passing of credentials between the App Center and Windows Azure.
Dwyer is now preparing to take advantage of the marketing tools available to his company through Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform. He has published Office Manager in the Intuit App Center, where it will be available to 26 million QuickBooks users. He also expects to use marketing funds provided through the Front Runner program to support direct mail efforts, including purchasing lists, printing mail cards, and distributing them. Front Runner also gives Propelware access to Microsoft websites to help promote its software.Benefits
Propelware used Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform to cut the time and cost of development in half, to quickly achieve “marketable” security, and, Dwyer expects, to expand its market reach by up to 500 percent, while cutting the cost of that marketing by 75 percent.
Saves 50 Percent on Time, Cost of Development
Despite the apparent benefits of hosting his Office Manager application on Windows Azure, Dwyer also recognized that there were inherent risks in any first-time adoption of a new hosting platform—and he wanted to minimize those risks.
“I was apprehensive about developing for a new platform,” he says. “Time and money are always tight resources. We didn’t want to get lost trying to figure out how to code for this.”
||Microsoft was there every step of the way for us with guidance, advice, and instruction.
Dwyer needn’t have worried. “Microsoft was there every step of the way for us with guidance, advice, and instruction,” he says. “That was a huge help to us. Without that help coming to us through Front Runner, we could easily have banged our heads a few times, decided it was taking us too long, and given up.”
Beyond the direct support from Microsoft evangelists, Dwyer praises the knowledge transfer available through Microsoft videos and white papers. “The videos not only gave us a general understanding of Window Azure, but also gave us a deep dive on the technology, and how to work with it. We watched some videos two or three times to confirm that we were working correctly. The videos and white papers were key.”
Propelware didn’t just get it right with Front Runner—the company got it fast as well. The process of getting Office Manager onto Windows Azure took the company 10 days—compared to the 4 weeks that Dwyer estimates it could have taken if his company had worked without Front Runner assistance.
That’s a savings of 50 percent in development time and budget.
“Sleeps Comfortably” with Platform Security
The support of Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform also made it easier for Office Manager to pass security testing easily, and in what Dwyer considers record time.
“Our tester knew that the application was hosted in Microsoft’s high-quality data centers, and that eliminated a lot of potential questions right there, because Windows Azure is so secure,” says Dwyer. “Other developers moan that they’re drowning in testing requirements. But we’d used Intuit Partner Platform and Microsoft tools specially designed to support QuickBooks-integration apps on Windows Azure. We had a couple of phone calls with the tester, made a few minor tweaks over a weekend, and we were done. Front Runner probably saved us two weeks in meeting security requirements.”
Beyond saving time and effort, the security of Office Manager on Windows Azure is downright marketable, according to Dwyer. “We have more confidence going to our customers, because we’re not the ones saying that our product is secure,” he says. “We have independent verification. With Amazon, it was always possible to introduce misconfigurations or viruses into the system. But we’re running on Windows Azure, so we can sleep comfortably.”
Extends Market Reach 300 to 500 Percent; Saves 75 Percent of Marketing Cost
Dwyer says that the marketing support that Propelware gets through Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform is nothing short of “awesome.”
Dwyer estimates that Front Runner marketing support will expand the audience that Propelware reaches by 300 to 500 percent compared to the audience that the company could afford to reach on its own. In addition, Propelware will spend just 25 percent of what it would otherwise have to spend to reach this larger audience, a potential savings of 75 percent.
“With our use of Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform, we expect to reach more potential customers and to do so for less than we possibly could have achieved on our own,” he says. “We’re a small company, and we appreciate all the help we can get. What we’re getting from Front Runner is just fantastic.”Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform using Windows Azure
Microsoft and Intuit have come together to help deliver a better service for developers. We’ve created Front Runner for Intuit Partner Platform, to make development of Intuit and Windows Azure compatible applications simpler. Partnering with Microsoft and building your application on Azure helps give you the reliability you demand and security your customers need at a lower development cost. Partnering with Intuit gives you the opportunity you need to grow your SaaS business. You can build the apps but can you reach millions of customers? Intuit has 4 million small business customers. Each of these customers has employees creating a total of more than 26 million QuickBooks customers who you can be selling to right away via the Intuit App Center.
For more information, visit: For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
For more information about Intuit products and services, visit the website at:
For more information about Propelware products and services, visit the website at: