Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Intuit's Innovation And A Role In Creating New Jobs

Posted by Tom Foremski - September 7, 2010

Last week I attended Intuit's "Innovation Walk" a collection of Intuit business groups and partners offering a range of services and products such as Mint's personal finance, mobile payment services, and much more.

Intuit is in a unique position. As the tax preparation service for tens of millions of individuals and small businesses, it has access to a lot of data -- data that can help its users.

I spoke with Tayloe Stansbury, Chief Technology Officer, and Kris Halvorsen, Chief Innovation Officer about some of Intuit's initiatives and plans for the future.

One of the new services Intuit offers its customers is the ability to benchmark their business against other similar businesses. The data is collected and shared in such a way as to prevent it being identified with any specific business. It allows companies to check that they are in-line with expectations for their category and that their operation is being managed well.

I pointed out that this type of data could also be very useful for people starting a business. With high levels of unemployment there are many that would like to start their own business and if they could do that with realistic expectations of expenses, payroll and profit margins, it would go a long way in helping small businesses become successful.

Small businesses are the largest employer in the US and thus such innovative use of business data could help improve employment numbers in the US.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a former senior executive at IBM and its chief strategist, writes that unemployment levels are the largest since the Great Depression. He writes that there is an urgent need for innovation in job creation.

He points out that: "Joblessness is more devastating to families and communities than poverty. Many of the social ills in inner cities can be attributed to their loss of jobs in the 1970s."

The same technologies that have enabled companies to shed jobs should also be used to help create new jobs.

We are living in a time of great innovations, as we are leveraging our sophisticated, new technologies to develop new products and services, transform just about every industry and achieve major productivity growth in the economy. We need to focus at least a portion of our innovation efforts to explore how these same great new technologies can be used to help us create new jobs, both in the short and long terms.

For example, we should explore how to better leverage social networks and collaborative platforms for training and education, to help teach new skills to job seekers that better match current business requirements.

Maybe here is a direction for Intuit to take with its focus on innovation, helping not only to distribute data on businesses but also take a role in the vital education process that a new workforce needs.

I was impressed with Intuit team and executives I met. Also, it was good to see an old friend, Annie Kim, now working at Intuit in a key role.


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