Now That’s What I Call Customer-Driven Innovation

By Matthew Rhodes

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Matt Rhodes, VP Finance, Strategic Partner Group at Intuit

San Francisco-based CPA and tax lawyer Jim Hastings is no stranger to software that makes lofty promises of saving him time and money. Over the years, he’s used numerous services and tools to help run and grow his practice—some have delivered the stated customer benefits, some not so much.

At Intuit, we talk proudly about our customer-driven innovation, meaning that observed problems experienced by our customers inspire our product innovation. In Intuit parlance, we work “customer-back.”

Hastings (for full disclosure, a longtime user of Lacerte and QuickBooks, Intuit products), has taken that to whole new level, working back from his own unsolved problem to invent his own solution—painless engagement letter generation coupled with effortless client payments.

After struggling with multiple tools to manage these aspects of his workflow, Hastings developed and recently launched Engage, an online application that automates engagement letters and enables firms to get paid faster.

“I saw an opportunity to use my expertise to solve a long-standing problem: Creating and automating the content necessary to quickly generate engagement letters, while getting paid in the process. This helps eliminates hours of drudgery for professionals like me, as well as our clients. Not to mention, it provides important protection and a process for when things don’t go as planned. Engagement letter templates or cut-and-paste jobs leave accountants open to liability and legal issues.”

Hastings benefits from the cloud at every turn. His development process has been scrappy, utilizing tools like Slack and Basecamp to collaborate with developers and other experts. Marketing and customer sign-up happen online, and Engage itself is entirely cloud-based. Hastings envisions integration with other leading online apps that accountants already use, enabling greater customer delight.

“This has been a wild ride, for sure,” says Hastings of his journey to fund and launch his own software solution. “I’ve learned a lot working on Engage over the past several years, and I look forward to getting it into the hands of more customers in the near future.”

And as my mama used to say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Writer’s disclosure: I’m the finance leader for Intuit’s ProConnect Group, which develops Lacerte, ProSeries and ProConnect Tax Online software for accountants. I’m also a strategic advisor to Pine Street Software, which owns Engage software.

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