Intuit wants to fuel the on-demand workforce

We hear on an almost daily basis that a move to on-demand workforces is an inexorable economic move. Financial software vendor Intuit wants to leverage this shift.

Intuit is today announcing a new product aimed at helping organizations that use on-demand workers fuel their growth.

There has been massive attention of late to the rise of on-demand workforces; services like Uber, Deliv, and OrderUp have all shone a light on a new way of meeting fluctuating demands. Of course, there is a flip side to the growth of the on-demand workforce and, as the growing number of legal cases attests to, there are those who see this development as a damaging one for workers rights and the like.

Setting aside any moral or labor-relations impacts of this development, it is undeniable that, at least for the businesses providing services to consumers, this growth of the on-demand economy has been a massive part of how they've managed to scale so readily. Intuit already fuels a number of the actual service delivery agents via its QuickBooks Self-Employed product. Now it wants to move up the food chain and offer solutions to the organizations that organize those armies of on-demand workers.

Following on from Intuit's acquisition of Playbook HR back in March, the company is launching Intuit Workforce, a free product aimed at helping companies manage their relationships with their on-demand workers. Intuit Workforce covers the following stages of the on-demand worker lifecycle:

  • Find and engage talent: Through the Intuit Workforce API, companies can accept and export data. Companies can then communicate with the talent pool through email and text message, schedule new workers, and review necessary documents.
  • Comply with industry standards: Intuit Workforce allows companies to integrate with industry-standard tools to run in-depth, compliant background checks, send fast, secure, and legally binding e-signatures, and create custom tests and training courses for prospective and current workers.
  • Spend resources effectively: Intuit Workforce enables companies to automate repetitive tasks, such as sending invitations to workers and moving forward with those who meet their select criteria. Using Intuit Workforce analytics, companies can check pipeline health, identify bottlenecks, and compare leads, freeing up time to invest in data-driven improvements to worker outreach.

This is a natural move for Intuit - since acquiring Playbook HR, Intuit has added a number of high-profile companies to the solution, including  Luxe, Deliv , OrderUp, Washio , Favor Delivery, Eden and Saucey. That amounts to some 200,000 possible on-demand workers. And every single one of those workers is a prospective user of Intuits QuickBooks Self-Employes offering. By broadening the Playbook HR franchise, Intuit just gained itself an absolutely massive pipeline of potential customers.

Intuit Workforce isn't a standalone solution. It is integrated with a number of third-party services to deliver as much of an end-to-end experience as it can. Example include  Checkr and Onfido (background checks), Twilio (text messages and phone calls), HelloSign (electronic signatures), and (custom trackable lessons).

Of course, the slightly bizarre thing in all of this is that Intuit Workforce isn't (at least yet) integrated with Intuit's own end user solution, QuickBooks. I raised this with an Intuit spokesperson, who confirmed that:

"There is actually no data integration between the two products [Workforce and QuickBooks] as of now. However, we are certainly looking connecting Intuit Workforce with our broader ecosystem of offerings in the future. Our payments and payroll capabilities are two very logical starting points. QuickBooks Self-Employed has certainly demonstrated the power of not just the QBO ecosystem, but the broader Intuit ecosystem – the integration between QuickBooks Self-Employed and Turbo Tax is key to the benefit we can deliver our customers."

At the moment, there is a soft connection between the two products, with some Intuit Workforce customers (Uber, Lyft, and TaskRabbit, for example) marketing QuickBooks to their on-demand workers. The difficulty here is that on-demand companies with 1099 contractors are not allowed to offer tax advice to workers, so these companies need to tread carefully. Suggesting a service to their contractors is OK, giving them financial advice is not. And given the high number of lawsuits trying to prove that on-demand workers are actually employees, the on-demand companies are hyper-aware of the risks of doing anything that makes them look more like an employer than they already do.

Either way, this is a huge opportunity for Intuit. The company estimates that there are 38 million to 50 million self-employed workers in the U.S. And the company's estimated worldwide number is about 700 million. The on-demand component of this is small, but rapidly growing (they estimate that it is 3.2 million now and will be 7.6 million in the U.S. by 2020). That's a huge untapped market and one which Intuit will continue to push into aggressively.

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.