Intuit Inc. is a financial management and compliance products & services provider for individuals, small companies, self-employed people, and accounting professionals. 
The innovative idea
Tax filing isn’t exciting, but if you can do it with the help of your smartphone within five minutes, it won’t be much of a pain anymore, won’t it?
All thanks to this duo.
When Carol Howe, Senior Product Manager, and Amir Eftekhari, Group Product Development Manager at Intuit were introduced to each other for the first time, within a few minutes they came up with the innovative idea:
“Why not let people scan or photograph key forms like the W2, and have that data automatically flow into their tax return?”
Amir, the technologist with a couple of decades of engineering expertise, set off to experiment in two key areas: Can we make snapping a picture of that tax form easy, and can we then understand all the form’s data?
This was taking place before optical character recognition of forms on a smartphone became commonplace. At that time, it felt like an impossible task and it was their job to make the impossible possible.
At the same time, Carol, a Product Manager with years of experience on TurboTax, set out to do some early testing.
“We realized people all over the world were still into paper. We started to do low-fidelity prototypes with customers, just sketches at first, to see if customers were open to snapping a picture of forms like W2 to enter the data. It was interesting, they didn’t believe that technology would be able to do this.” – Carol Howe
Amir came up with a technology prototype and everything changed. The technology worked and customers were awe-struck.
“Until they actually saw it working it was interesting … but unbelievable. Holding the real phone, running real code, was completely different for the customers” – Carol Howe
After getting successful feedback from customers, Carol and Amir recognized the customer’s desire to complete the whole tax return on the phone, right away.
“We tested more and more. Our eyes were opened. The customers were clearly thinking of the smartphone as a small computer. They were asking ‘why do I have to go back to my computer? And we saw the same behavior and opinion from other customers when testing subsequent prototypes.” – Carol Howe
However, despite the fact that early testing had been promising, the team faced obstacles to take the technology to large masses.
“People will oppose a big innovation yet they will support incremental innovation. Anything breakthrough or different you come up with and 95% of people will oppose it. Later, when it becomes popular, then they embrace it. But by then it’s just looking incremental.” – Amir Eftekhari
However, the team dealt with the pushback and made the app a reality. The TurboTax Mobile App allowed consumers who were doing basic tax returns to take a picture of their W2, fill out a few form sections, and file the return in under five minutes.
In 2011, at the US launch of the TurboTax mobile app, the app garnered more than 350,000 downloads within the first few weeks. More importantly, in the new social order of product reviews, the app received overwhelmingly positive user reviews.
The mobile tax solution gained a lot of attention within its narrowly drawn sector and was included in TurboTax’s core product line within two years.
Tax filing made hassle-free. That’s the power of an idea. In our blog, we have witnessed dozens of employee ideas that changed the fortunes of their organization. All these cases had one thing in common. The management in the company not only captured these ideas but helped take them right through implementation. That’s idea management done right.
Do you know you too can benefit from your employees’ innovative ideas? How? Firstly, by not missing on them.
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